US embassy cable - 03GUATEMALA143

AMBASSADOR DISCUSSES COUNTER-NARCOTICS CERTIFICATION AND CAFTA WITH CONGRESSWOMAN ZURY RIOS

Identifier: 03GUATEMALA143
Wikileaks: View 03GUATEMALA143 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Guatemala
Created: 2003-01-17 16:50:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PREL PGOV PINR SNAR ETRD CASC KIPR GT
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 GUATEMALA 000143 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/17/2013 
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, PINR, SNAR, ETRD, CASC, KIPR, GT 
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR DISCUSSES COUNTER-NARCOTICS 
CERTIFICATION AND CAFTA WITH CONGRESSWOMAN ZURY RIOS 
 
Classified By: PolCouns David Lindwall for reason 1.5 (d). 
 
1. (C) Summary: On January 16, the Ambassador and FRG 
legislator Zury Rios discussed possible counter-narcotics 
decertification and the importance of securing more effective 
GOG cooperation in the war on drugs before a free trade 
agreement is ready to be approved by Congress.  Rios said 
that the FRG strongly supports CAFTA, but said that the lack 
of counter-narcotics cooperation was the fault of the 
Executive.  She lamented that the timing of decertification 
will be used by the FRG's opponents to their advantage in the 
upcoming election.  Rios offered to seek the repeal of a 
recently approved copyright law which represents a major 
setback for IPR protection, and welcomed a continuing 
dialogue with the Ambassador on issues affecting the 
bilateral relationship. End summary. 
 
2. (C).  The Ambassador, DCM and PolCouns had breakfast with 
Zury Rios on January 16 to discuss the full range of 
bilateral issues.  Rios is the Second Vice President of 
Congress and is the daughter of President of Congress and 
former military ruler Efrain Rios Montt. 
 
Diminished Counter-Narcotics Cooperation 
---------------------------------------- 
3. (C) The Ambassador told Rios that GOG counter-narcotics 
cooperation in 2002 had fallen sharply from previous years, 
and that as a result there is a near certainty that, in the 
annual exercise mandated by U.S. law, Guatemala will be 
decertified as a cooperating partner in the war against 
drugs.  He noted that recent achievements increase the 
possibility that Guatemala will be extended a vital national 
interests waiver, thus avoiding any sanctions, but that it 
will be important to get cooperation back on track in order 
for Guatemala to be re-certified at the semi-annual review in 
six months. 
 
4. (C) Rios responded with thinly veiled pique that "the 
United States is the superpower, and it has to do what it has 
to do."  She argued that the timing of decertification was 
"unfortunate" as it would be seen as a message from the USG 
during the elections.  She said that the media (which is 
largely anti-Portillo) and the opposition parties would use 
it against the FRG in the upcoming national election, and 
lamented that this action had not been taken by the USG in 
2002 so that it could have been cleared up before the 
election season.  She then switched tracks, and said that the 
Guatemalan Executive had brought decertification upon itself, 
it was solely to blame for the GOG's poor performance in 
2002, and she hoped that decertification would get its 
attention and make it take serious remedial actions.  Rios 
commented that on January 14, Congress (which is dominated by 
the FRG) had voted unanimously for a resolution calling on 
President Portillo to fire Minister of Government Reyes 
Calderon (who has ultimate responsibility for all law 
enforcement -- including counter-narcotics).  While 
Congress's censure of Reyes Calderon was based on his 
inability to control spiraling violent crime, Rios was 
implying that Portillo's choices of ineffective ministers has 
exposed the FRG to damaging criticism on the public security 
front in the upcoming elections, and they would not defend 
Portillo from our criticism of his poor performance on drugs. 
 
Free Trade with Central America and the New IPR Law 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
5. (C) In response to the Ambassador's question about the 
FRG's view of free trade negotiations between Central America 
and the US, Rios said that the leaders of the ruling party 
are unequivocal supporters of CAFTA.  She stressed that 
successful CAFTA negotiations are a high priority for the 
FRG.  The Ambassador said that there are many opponents of 
free trade in the United States, and that it is important 
that before any agreement is ready to go to the U.S. 
Congress, other bilateral issues of interest to American 
constituencies be successfully addressed, including 
counter-drug cooperation, justice in the case of murdered 
Amcits, a cessation to threats against human rights activists 
and protection of intellectual property rights, among others. 
 
6. (C) The Ambassador told Rios that the USG was concerned 
over new harmful IPR legislation passed in December, 2002 by 
the Guatemalan Congress.  This law was not vetoed by the 
President and will become law once published by Congress. 
Rios commented that she had not voted for the law (note: 
which was proposed by an opposition congressman, but 
supported by the majority of FRG legislators), and was 
unfamiliar with what could be done to correct it at this late 
stage.  She promised to look into it, and later called back 
to say the FRG would seek the law's repeal as soon as it is 
published. 
 
Investigating the Clandestine Forces 
------------------------------------ 
7. (C) The Ambassador told Rios that he would attend that 
same afternoon a press conference held by Human Rights 
Ombudsman Sergio Morales (septel) in which Morales would call 
for the creation of an international investigatory commission 
tasked with uncovering the activities of "clandestine 
forces."  These clandestine groups are believed to be 
responsible for the rash of threats and attacks against human 
rights workers in the past five years.  The Ambassador asked 
Rios if the FRG supported Morales's proposal, saying this 
would be a chance for the party to get on the side of the 
angels.  Rios responded that she was unfamiliar with the 
proposal, but that the FRG had supported Morales election as 
Human Rights Ombudsman and they were generally supportive of 
his work.  She said the FRG would review the proposal 
carefully.. 
 
Elections and Reform of the Electoral Code 
------------------------------------------ 
8. (C) Rios said the FRG has not yet decided who will be 
their standard bearer in the upcoming presidential election. 
She added that the FRG is making one more attempt to pass the 
electoral reform law (which has been in debate for almost two 
years), and that the FRG had agreed to drop some of the more 
controversial articles in order to secure opposition support. 
 She said that the law contains a provision which will delay 
enactment of the law until after the 2003 elections so no one 
could claim that it was being passed in order to improve the 
FRG's chances in the upcoming election.  Rios commented that 
the most important reform contained in the law is a provision 
to move voting booths out into rural locations with more than 
500 voters, greatly increasing access to voting for 
Guatemala's rural poor.  (Note:  This provision was one of 
the most controversial, as it was seen by the opposition as 
favoring the FRG, whose base is largely in rural areas. end 
note). 
 
Comment 
------- 
9. (C) The meeting was cordial, and Rios clearly wants a good 
working relationship with the USG, stressing the importance 
of CAFTA and offering to be helpful on addressing our IPR 
concerns.  While she knows that we are uncomfortable with her 
father's presidential ambitions (which she skillfully dodged 
in our conversation), she recognizes that there are too many 
shared interests for the FRG not to remain fully engaged with 
us. 
Hamilton 

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