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Guatemalan Military Works with Defense Ministry, National Civil Police to Safeguard National Elections

Guatemalan Military Works with Defense Ministry, National Civil Police to Safeguard National Elections

By Dialogo
October 23, 2015

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Guatemala's Ministry of National Defense and Armed Forces are working with the National Civil Police (PNC) to provide security for the second round of the country's presidential elections, scheduled for October 25.

Security forces are coordinating their efforts to protect election workers and voters from individual delinquents and organized crime groups who might target them for robbery or theft. The Guatemalan Military's land forces, which include more than 19,000 personnel available for deployment, have the primary responsibility of providing security for the upcoming election, according to Infantry Brigadier General DEM Hugo Rodríguez, chief of the National Defense Ministry’s press department.

“Their mission is to install checkpoints, ensure the safety of the principal means of communication, and secure critical infrastructure and other areas of strategic value in their jurisdiction,” Brig. Gen. Rodriguez said. “This is especially crucial to those 11 municipalities where elections will be repeated.”

The Military is also taking charge of security for “vital supply lines, such as those supplying electricity and water, and places of strategic value, such as principal and alternate highways and roads that lead to voting centers." He added that bridges, ports, coastal areas, and waterways also have strategic value and will be protected by the Military.

Ongoing security efforts

For months, the Ministry of National Defense, the Military, and the PNC have been working together to ensure the electoral process is secure - including on September 6, when the three entities provided security for the general election. Then, voters elected the representatives of the Central American Parliament (Parlacen), 158 representatives to the National Congress of the Republic for the 2016-2020 term, and mayors in 338 municipalities, but no presidential candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote required by law to win.

Consequently, Sandra Torres of the National Unity of Hope (UNE) party and Jimmy Morales from the National Convergence Front (FCN-Nación) party –
the candidates with the highest percentage of first-round votes –
will square off on October 25, with the winner scheduled to be inaugurated on January 14, 2016.

Security plan

The PNC’s security plan, developed with the Military’s support, consists of three phases:

The pre-electoral phase, which began in September, focuses on preventing those assisting in the elections from consuming alcohol after September 24, pursuant to Guatemalan electoral law;

The electoral phase, which will be carried out in voting centers beginning at 3 a.m. on election day, October 25, calls for an increased number of security personnel, including Troops, at polling places, including in the 11 municipalities that will have mayoral elections, according to PNC Director Nery Ramos;

The closure of voting centers and the counting, storage, and transmission of ballots, which will be secured and stored by authorities. During the first round of elections, the PNC provided security personnel at more than 17,000 voting centers around the country, according to former PNC Director René Vásquez Cerón.

Security forces were deployed to town halls, Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) facilities, and vehicles that transport electoral supplies.

Guarding against criminal activity

“We do not downplay (the threat) of common delinquents or organized crime,” said Vásquez Cerón, who in September presented the security plan for the first round of elections. “It is because of this that we greatly appreciate the collaboration with the Military and see them as a friendly force.”

“For the second round (of elections), we hope to implement similar measures to those implemented during the first round. We are going to ensure that electoral boxes reach their destination without any inconvenience,” TSE Electoral Director Gloria López said.

The security plan calls for an increased number of Military personnel in 11 municipalities, with additional Troops stationed in the areas where criminal activity was reported during the first round last September.

The 11 municipalities are: Morazán in the department of El Progreso; Pueblo Nuevo Viñas in Santa Rosa; Santa Clara La Laguna and Santa Catarina Palopó in Sololá; San Francisco Zapotitlán, San José El Ídolo and San Antonio Suchitepéquez in Suchitepéquez; Malacatán in San Marcos; Joyabaj in Quiché; Santa Catarina Mita and Conguaco in Jutiapa.