Guatemala Pledges 50% Military Reduction

March 26, 2004

GUATEMALA CITY (AFP) – Guatemalan President Oscar Berger announced last Sunday his intention to cut in half the number of military personnel in the country and reduce military spending by 30%.

However, he did not announce the date by which he hoped to accomplish the goal.

“We are going to reduce the army to 14,000 elements and end up at a budget of 600 million quetzals ($75 million),” Berger announced during a trip through the country.

“We are reducing everything, because we don’t have money and because we have to be very precise with what there is to spend. There’s a technical analysis of the reduction that they’re going to give in the army, we are working to investigate, but it could be that 14,000 elements remain,” Berger said.

GUATEMALA currently spends some $118.7 million dollars a year on its military, which according to experts has about 28,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen.

Since he took office Jan. 14, Berger has on various occasions alluded to his disposition to reduce the military, but this is the first time he has mentioned statistics associated with the process.

He had mentioned it last Friday when questioned by reporters about his plans for subsidizing public transportation.

Armed forces in Guatemala have already been reduced as a result of the Peace Accords of 1996, which brought 36 years of armed conflicts to an end and called for the forces to drop from 55,000 personnel to 33,000 by the year 2000.

At the end of October 2003, former President Alfonso Portillo eliminated more than 2,000 military positions through a voluntary demobilization program.

Portillo also dissolved the Major Presidential State, which had some 800 personnel, 500 employed for security and 300 for “operational purposes.”

Berger said the country does not have enough money to cover the severance pay for those military personnel who will be released, but said he would solicit the financial support of the international community.

 

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