Viewing cable 04GUATEMALA2868

04GUATEMALA28682004-11-12 18:31:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Guatemala
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A 
¶1. (U) Summary:  On November 15, MINUGUA will hold a closing 
ceremony in the National Palace to commemorate the end of its 
ten years in Guatemala.   Over the last two months, the 
organization has released a final report and held a closing 
conference to evaluate the progress made in implementation of 
the 1996 Peace Accords.  MINUGUA hailed the "drastic 
reduction of the military" as the greatest accomplishment of 
the Berger administration thus far.  During his conference 
speech, MINUGUA Chief of Mission Tom Koenigs cited combating 
impunity, discrimination, and poverty as the greatest 
lingering challenges for the GOG.  While MINUGUA closes up 
shop, the establishment of a new UN office in Guatemala, the 
OHCHR, still remains uncertain.  The interim UN OHCHR (Office 
of the High Commission of Human Rights) office that had 
opened in preparation for an official mission will close 
November 30, to reopen only if and when the GOG and High 
Commissioner can arrive at agreement on the mission of such 
an office.  End Summary. 
MINUGUA's Closing Remarks 
¶2.  (U) On October 27, the Ambassador and DCM attended the 
opening remarks of President Oscar Berger, Tom Koenigs, and 
Rigoberta Menchu at MINUGUA's closing conference, 
"Constructing Peace:  Guatemala from a comparative 
perspective."  According to Koenigs, "eight years after their 
signing, the Peace Accords are alive and relevant.  The most 
transcendental (measure) has been the dramatic reduction of 
the military."  MINUGUA's report also commended President 
Berger for appointing Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Rigoberta 
Menchu and human rights activist Frank LaRue to the Cabinet, 
apologizing on behalf of the state for atrocities committed 
during the civil conflict, and allocating the first funds to 
the National Reparations Program under the direction of 
Rosalina Tuyuc. 
¶3.  (U) However, in health, education, and discrimination 
against indigenous persons, Koenigs noted that the GOG has 
not affected profound changes in the last eight years, and 
that Guatemala still faces among the greatest poverty and 
inequality in Latin America.  MINUGUA expressed grave 
concerns about insecurity and impunity in prosecution of 
crime, as well as continued threats against human rights 
defenders.  Finally, the report remarked that the growing 
tension in agrarian issues, illustrated by over 100 illegal 
occupations of private land by peasants and consequent 
government evictions, occasionally violent, of occupied land, 
will present another continuing challenge for the GOG. 
¶4.  (U) The conference that followed hosted panel discussions 
on topics ranging from the justice sector and public security 
to economic reforms.  Following the conference, UN Under 
Secretary General for Political Affairs, Kieran Pendergast, 
will attend a series of events November 11-16, cumulating in 
a closing ceremony hosted by the GOG and MINUGUA on November 
Fate of UN OHCHR Office Uncertain 
¶5.  (U) The debate on the establishment of a local UN OHCHR 
office in Guatemala continues.  In September, two 
Congressional committees issued contradictory recommendations 
on the ratification of the agreement between the GOG and the 
UN OHCHR (the Human Rights Committee voted in favor of the 
proposal and the Foreign Relations Committee against); the 
Committees presented their decisions to the plenary on 
November 11.  Some Congressional representatives, led by FRG 
Deputy Antonio Arenales Forno (a former Guatemalan UN 
Representative in Geneva and Ambassador to the US, who serves 
on both the HR and FR Committees), have insisted that 
Guatemala should not/not be the first country to host a local 
UN OHCHR office under Article 4 of the General Assembly 
Resolution.  Under this Article, the proposed office would be 
required to submit an annual report about its activities to 
the High Commissioner, who would then distribute it to member 
countries.  congressional deputies in the Foreign Relations 
Committee also object to the requirement for an official 
report.  In consideration of the Foreign Relation Committee's 
qualms, the Executive has proposed changes to the UN OHCHR on 
the language of the agreement. 
¶6.  (SBU) After the Portillo Administration signed an 
agreement with the UN OHCHR to open an office in December 
2003, the High Commissioner sent a Representative to 
Guatemala and opened an interim office with a small staff in 
anticipation of the agreement's ratification (originally 
presented to Congress in March 2004).  On November 10, 
Project Coordinator for the Guatemala UN OHCHR, Birgit 
Gerstenberg, told PolOff that this office would officially 
close November 30.  At the Government's request, the UN OHCHR 
has agreed to open renegotiation of the original agreement. 
Guatemala UN Representative Jorge Skinner-Klee will travel to 
Geneva in the coming weeks to lead discussions. 
¶7.  (SBU) Comment:  What the Executive must do to satisfy 
Congress on the UN OHCHR office is eliminate the official 
report, and Gerstenberg reports that the High Commissioner is 
not willing to take that measure.  Therefore, negotiations 
are likely to stall unless the two sides can find some yet 
unidentified middle ground.