Government keeping an eye on activities in Guatemala

By
Updated: September 3, 2015

Guatemalan president Otto Perez Molina resigned after an arrest warrant was issued. Perez Molina was being investigated over allegations of illicit association and receiving bribe money related to a customs fraud ring known as “La Linea”. He denies the allegations. On Tuesday, the Guatemalan Congress stripped him of his immunity from prosecution. Perez Molina has stated that he decided to step down in order to confront the proceedings against him. Perez Molina’s resignation comes just days before Sunday’s presidential election, in which he was barred from contesting under constitutional rules. Prime Minister Dean Barrow shared how Guatemala’s political atmosphere may have an effect on the Belize Guatemala relations in regards to the territorial dispute.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

It’s worrying from the point of view from the last question that you asked. Instability in Guatemala given our particular circumstances, given the difficulties we have just experienced with respect certainly to the Sarstoon incident, instability is extremely concerning. I hope that because the military to military relationship is not just good but is based on structures and operating protocols as well as the interpersonal relations between our general and his opposite number. I hope that in these circumstances professionalism will prevail but it has to be worrying if there is some sort of vacuum at the top. Presumably the Guatemalan Vice President who I gather is a good man and true will be able to exercise the duties of the presidency in a manner that will see all official done in Guatemala accepting of his authority so I am hoping that it won’t ultimately in any practical way affect the situation with us that it has that potential in my view is undoubted.”

In a message broadcast on Guatemalan national TV and radio last month, the then-President denied the charges and suggested he’s the target of a plot by his political enemies aided by foreign interests. Barrow told the media that he is sad to see Perez Molina go.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

Well let me say with respect to Molina, I was very pleased with the way he behaved toward Belize during his tenure because we all know his history that he was Chief of Staff or certainly extremely high in the Guatemalan military. I had feared that as President he would have been belligerent, I was absolutely pleased that that was not the case both in terms of the interpersonal relations between us and in terms of the institutional arrangements. He was a gentleman, he was restrained, he was responsible, he appeared to be not one dimensional, he struck me and he said it as somebody who absolutely recognized and welcomed the separate reality of Belize while of course still insisting that they had their claims and their point of view. So from that point of view quite frankly I am sorry to see him go.”

The front-runner in Guatemala’s presidential campaign is Manuel Baldizon. Baldizon is leading the opinion polls in the run-up to a first round of voting due on Sunday. Barrow told the media that he has met with Baldizon before he became the front-runner.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

All I can say is that Baldison who is still the front runner came to Belize and met with me before he was the front runner, he had already declared but at the time I didn’t get the impression that people thought to highly of his chances. We had a long chat, we had a long exchange at the Coney Drive office and he certainly made it absolutely plain that if were to become President of Guatemala we could expect a strengthening of cooperation between the two countries, we could expect a profile that would see his administration absolutely respecting the separate reality of Belize so without expressing any preference for any of the candidates I merely point this out because it does appear that Baldison is likely to become the next president. Of course if that happens once the man assumes the reigns of office things can change.”

Vice-President Alejandro Maldonado is expected to govern until the new president is sworn in on 14 January.