Guatemalan Army to Gradually Retreat from Civilian Public Safety Tasks

Guatemalan Army to Gradually Retreat from Civilian Public Safety Tasks

By Dialogo
February 12, 2015









The Guatemalan Army depends on its Chief of Staff, who is responsible for developing and implementing all the policies and guidelines issued by the Ministry of National Defense and the General Commander of the Armed Forces, who is also the president. Major General Carlos Eduardo Estrada Pérez is the Guatemalan Army’s current Chief of Staff, and his role involves creating operational plans and training for Guatemala’s Army. Diálogo

met with Major General Estrada during the XII Caribbean Nation’s Security Conference (CANSEC) 2015 held from January 20-23 in Nassau, Bahamas, where he discussed the main challenges that Guatemala’s Army currently faces.



Diálogo:

We know that drugs are a problem, especially for Central America. How has this problem really affected Guatemala?



Major General Carlos Eduardo Estrada Pérez:

The drug problem has been evolving and changing. They are very skilled in that sense, when we try to do something against the drug traffickers, they sprout in another area under a different mechanism. Guatemala has always been considered a transit area because of its geographical location, a place where the aircraft fuel arrives and where the fuel from vessels also arrives. So by definition, this makes us a transit area. But beyond considering the activities of the security forces successful; we have to understand that Guatemala has become not only a bridge, but also a warehouse. Lately, Guatemala has become a country that produces synthetic drugs. We have been seizing precursor chemicals often; we have been finding and dismantling secret laboratories. This is how we have handled drug trafficking and consequently, how Guatemala has been affected by it. Lastly, though on a smaller scale, but always present, is money laundering. These are the correlative effects of the drug trafficking activity in Guatemala.



Diálogo:

Regarding your comment that Guatemala is a transit country and now also a storage warehouse, do you think that one of the consequences of this is the weapons that arms traffickers leave behind, that then fall in the hands of young Guatemalan gang members?



Maj. Gen. Estrada Pérez:

I don’t think so. In some areas, the drug traffickers take advantage of youths in gangs by distributing these weapons at low prices, and the gangs then become violent in one way or another. There is no direct or definite connection between the actions of gangs and those of drug traffickers.



Diálogo:

What is your opinion on the current war on drugs by the Guatemalan Armed Forces?



Maj. Gen. Estrada Pérez:

The Constitution of Guatemala establishes that the Army is responsible for external and internal security, as derived from the Peace Agreements. So we began by strengthening our National Police Units. Within the Peace Agreements, it was established that the Army would not get involved in what corresponds to internal security, this being a public security matter. Following an increase in common crime, organized crime, and violent activities generated by drug trafficking, however, the security forces, in this case the National Police, has become overwhelmed. But, during the current term of [our] President Otto Perez Molina, the police have recovered, strengthened, and have increased in numbers. We are projecting that by next year, 2016; the Army will gradually retreat from the public safety activities.



Diálogo:

Do you mean that the Guatemalan Army will retreat from undertaking public safety activities by the end of 2016?



Maj. Gen. Estrada Pérez:

Yes. I would also like to add that the Army, as a military force, currently has a small participation in citizen security activities because three public safety squadrons have been created. So, we have public safety squads that are shaped by personnel who have already served in the military and others that have not, but go through a training period. These units are directly involved in supporting the National Police in public security tasks.



Diálogo:

Guatemala has historically participated in the Central American Regional Security Conference [CENTSEC], why are you participating in this year's Caribbean Nation’s Security Conference [CANSEC]?



Maj. Gen. Estrada Pérez:

We are attending on a special invitation from General John Kelly, commander of U.S. Southern Command, who recently visited Guatemala and invited us to attend this conference.It’s important for us to attend this conference where the Caribbean nations are integrating, coordinating, exchanging information, and cooperating. It is something we have had in Central America for many years through the Central American Armed Forces Conference that has been working very well.



Diálogo:

Does that mean that there may be a greater number of exchanges held between Guatemala and other Caribbean countries for information, joint military exercises, etc.?



Maj. Gen. Estrada Pérez:

Possibly, because even though, for example, the Dominican Republic isn’t in Central America, it is also a member of CEFAC. This means that we, the four Central American countries that compose CEFAC [El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua],

have a close relationship with the armed forces of several countries in the region.









The Guatemalan Army depends on its Chief of Staff, who is responsible for developing and implementing all the policies and guidelines issued by the Ministry of National Defense and the General Commander of the Armed Forces, who is also the president. Major General Carlos Eduardo Estrada Pérez is the Guatemalan Army’s current Chief of Staff, and his role involves creating operational plans and training for Guatemala’s Army. Diálogo

met with Major General Estrada during the XII Caribbean Nation’s Security Conference (CANSEC) 2015 held from January 20-23 in Nassau, Bahamas, where he discussed the main challenges that Guatemala’s Army currently faces.



Diálogo:

We know that drugs are a problem, especially for Central America. How has this problem really affected Guatemala?



Major General Carlos Eduardo Estrada Pérez:

The drug problem has been evolving and changing. They are very skilled in that sense, when we try to do something against the drug traffickers, they sprout in another area under a different mechanism. Guatemala has always been considered a transit area because of its geographical location, a place where the aircraft fuel arrives and where the fuel from vessels also arrives. So by definition, this makes us a transit area. But beyond considering the activities of the security forces successful; we have to understand that Guatemala has become not only a bridge, but also a warehouse. Lately, Guatemala has become a country that produces synthetic drugs. We have been seizing precursor chemicals often; we have been finding and dismantling secret laboratories. This is how we have handled drug trafficking and consequently, how Guatemala has been affected by it. Lastly, though on a smaller scale, but always present, is money laundering. These are the correlative effects of the drug trafficking activity in Guatemala.



Diálogo:

Regarding your comment that Guatemala is a transit country and now also a storage warehouse, do you think that one of the consequences of this is the weapons that arms traffickers leave behind, that then fall in the hands of young Guatemalan gang members?



Maj. Gen. Estrada Pérez:

I don’t think so. In some areas, the drug traffickers take advantage of youths in gangs by distributing these weapons at low prices, and the gangs then become violent in one way or another. There is no direct or definite connection between the actions of gangs and those of drug traffickers.



Diálogo:

What is your opinion on the current war on drugs by the Guatemalan Armed Forces?



Maj. Gen. Estrada Pérez:

The Constitution of Guatemala establishes that the Army is responsible for external and internal security, as derived from the Peace Agreements. So we began by strengthening our National Police Units. Within the Peace Agreements, it was established that the Army would not get involved in what corresponds to internal security, this being a public security matter. Following an increase in common crime, organized crime, and violent activities generated by drug trafficking, however, the security forces, in this case the National Police, has become overwhelmed. But, during the current term of [our] President Otto Perez Molina, the police have recovered, strengthened, and have increased in numbers. We are projecting that by next year, 2016; the Army will gradually retreat from the public safety activities.



Diálogo:

Do you mean that the Guatemalan Army will retreat from undertaking public safety activities by the end of 2016?



Maj. Gen. Estrada Pérez:

Yes. I would also like to add that the Army, as a military force, currently has a small participation in citizen security activities because three public safety squadrons have been created. So, we have public safety squads that are shaped by personnel who have already served in the military and others that have not, but go through a training period. These units are directly involved in supporting the National Police in public security tasks.



Diálogo:

Guatemala has historically participated in the Central American Regional Security Conference [CENTSEC], why are you participating in this year's Caribbean Nation’s Security Conference [CANSEC]?



Maj. Gen. Estrada Pérez:

We are attending on a special invitation from General John Kelly, commander of U.S. Southern Command, who recently visited Guatemala and invited us to attend this conference.It’s important for us to attend this conference where the Caribbean nations are integrating, coordinating, exchanging information, and cooperating. It is something we have had in Central America for many years through the Central American Armed Forces Conference that has been working very well.



Diálogo:

Does that mean that there may be a greater number of exchanges held between Guatemala and other Caribbean countries for information, joint military exercises, etc.?



Maj. Gen. Estrada Pérez:

Possibly, because even though, for example, the Dominican Republic isn’t in Central America, it is also a member of CEFAC. This means that we, the four Central American countries that compose CEFAC [El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua],

have a close relationship with the armed forces of several countries in the region.

How and why can this be??? In order for crime to increase, if they take away citizen security, what kind of security will we have left??? The police??? Corrupt accomplices of organized crime.. No thank you. A country without an army is like a mutilated human body with both arms cut off, why do we have to do what the foreign countries want in Guatemala when Guatemala is ours.
Share