GUATEMALAN GOVERNMENT REQUEST FOR PRE-ELECTION ASSISTANCE

Created: 9/30/1985

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MEMORANDUM FOR: The Assistant to the President for National

Security Affairs Assistant Secretary of State for

Inter-American Affairs Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for

Inter-American Affairs

SUBJECT: Guatemalan Government Request for Pre-Election Assistance

Our Station in Guatemala City has set forth its views on the seriousness of the situation in Guatemala and on prospects for instability prior to elections. The following was coordinator! with the Arbassftnor and the Deputy Chief ot Mission mnd represents the views of the Mission in general.

Without doubt, the insurgency, andesser but growing extent the International narcotics trade, erious long term threat to the stability of Guatemala. They do not, however,ajor threat to the electoral process. At present the insurgency does not have the means to disrupt the process significantly even if an all-out effort were made to do so.

There is good evidence that the insurgents are going to make an effort to disrupt the elections in those areas in which they have the force and influence to do so. In our view,hey cannot seriously affect the outcome in the countryside. The government has good control of all the major population centers and larger villages. Although the guerrillas may be able to prevent some voters from coming to the polls, we expectelatively insignificant number of voters to be involved. The guerrillas are also engagedropaganda campaign to describe the electionsarce and to encourage voters to nullify ballotsign of protest. This campaign mayair number of null votes, as it did in last July's Constituent Assembly elections, but in our opinion it will not seriously affect the overall process or outcome. The majority of Guatemalans seem to want to vote, and all signs arearge electoral turnout will materialize.

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In our opinion the danger of urban unrest, and its possible effect on the electoral process, Is much greater than any danger presently represented by the insurgency. We have just goneeriod in which the government was under great stress, and the economic situation continues to deteriorate. Gas rationing beginseptember, and thereossibility that the situation could get out of hand before the election. Despite the problems, however, we continue to feel that the present government will stick it out and Ahat the high command is still determined to hold elections no matter what problems and difficulties must be fended off- The government also seems to have the support of the vast majority of Army officers. Another strong point in the government's favor is that, despite widespread dissatisfaction with the present situation in almost all elements of local society, the majority of Guatemalans really do not want the electoral process to collapse. They realize that if it does the consequences for the country would be enormous. Accordingly, we expect that this awareness would act as an inhibiting factor in terms of urban violence and unrest in the coming weeks.

Transportat ion for rural voters isble to seme extent and many rural Guatemalans are used to walking long distances ine. Voting stations will be set up in all major and most minor population centers, and this will allow the vast majority of the people who are interested in voting to do so. The rest of the population consists of campesinos who are either too isolated, ignorant, or indifferent to vote in any case, and in our view this group is not statistically important in terms of the electoral process. We saw many examples in last July's Constituent Assembly elections of Indians and other campesinos walking ten or fifteen miles to vote, and we expect that they will do so again in this election. Many rural Guatemalans are used to walking long distances, and the walk to the polls in and of itself will not unduly deter them from voting. Transportation In the cities could be somethingroblem if gas rationing is still in effect at the time of the election. We assume that the government will devise some way of providing sufficient gasoline for public transport vehicles on election day, but even so, there will be some shortages and glitches as was the case last July.

6* Police and security forces haveimited rapid reaction capability due to lack of vehicles- They also have deficiencies in terms of communications equipment. Riot police in the capital, as the Mission has reported before, have severe shortages of protective gear, gas masks, tear gas, and so on. Despite these problems, our estimate is that the security forces can cope with the situation unless unrest in the capital gets completely out of hand.

7* Many of the items requested by the Guatemalan government are extremely important to the countorinsurgency campaign and the longer term stability of the country. However, even in the very unlikely event that any large quantity of the items on the list could arrive before the elections, we do not feel that most of the items would be of significant value to the government in meeting the challenge of the coming weeks. Accordingly, we would recommend that the bulk of this list right better be considered partost-electoral support package for the new president, ratherre-electoral measure. One problem we are sure to face here after the elections is that, rightly or wrongly, most Guatemalans are expecting elections to bringenewal. military aid, and probably accelerated economic aid as well- Failure to make some symbolic gesture in this regard would have very negative effects here and would make many military officers feel that perhaps the elections were not worth it after all. Guatemalan officers saw the imnediate and significant military aid, undoubtedly planned months in advance by the Soviets, which began arriving in Nicaragua on the night of Ortega's election. At that time General Lobos -half-jokingly mused that perhaps Guatemala had the wrong ally. Once the elections are held, and we do not deliver any increase in aid, Guatemalan officers will undoubtedly contrast this situation quite unfavorably with the Soviet Union's very visible, immediate, and dramatic support for

8. Between now and election time, Guatemala's immediate need is much more for economic assistance than for he1icopters and patrol boats. Fuel is very scarceritical time in the agricultural year, and the Guatemalans literally do not know how they are going to pay for their next tanker load. Some of this is obviously their own fault, but if something is not done soon to help them pay their

petroleum bjll and guarantee orderly arrivals of petroleum shipments until the turnover of power, our interests here will be in serious and continuing jeopardy. In our view, the best and perhaps least complicated thing that. Government could do for Guatemala right now would be to provide immediate cash assistance to help the Guatemalans, work out the petroleum problem. With that settled, the Guatemalans could probably handle the rest themselves.

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