Remarks With Guatemalan President Otto Fernando Perez Molina

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Antigua, Guatemala
June 4, 2013

PRESIDENT MOLINA: (Via interpreter.) Thank you so much. I want to say hello to the members of the media and thank them for being here today. We’re going to begin a bilateral meeting now with Secretary of State John Kerry, and I want to take this opportunity to give him a very warm welcome to Guatemala. It’s a pleasure for us to have him here with us, not only in Guatemala, but at this General Assembly of the Organization of American States.

We’re going to begin our bilateral meeting now, which we’ll be discussing issues of interest to both the United States and Guatemala. First of all will be the issue of migration reform taking place in the United States. As Guatemalans, we respect the process that is currently underway in the Congress and the Senate of the United States. But we have great expectations here in Guatemala and in the region and we hope that it will come to a felicitous end. I’m sure that it would, in that case, help thousands of Guatemalans and other Latin Americans who are currently living in the United States. This is going to be a very important issue for us, of course.

And also we’re going to talk about the situation of Guatemalans in the United States. This is an issue of concern for us and it’s also very much on the agenda of national security, one of the issues that’s going to be dealt with at the General Assembly. Our representatives, of course, are working towards peace on that agenda. This is a very important part of our discussions and we’re talking about peace worldwide.

We’ll also be discussing issues of security. That’s part of our main agenda. Fighting drug trafficking, that’s the main thrust of this General Assembly. In our dialogue, we’ll also be talking about the joint efforts that the United States already has underway with Guatemala. There are a number of maneuvers. One is taking place at the border with Mexico, a very important one where a large amount of drugs has been seized. And we will be continuing our joint efforts and will be seeking out other ways in which we can work together.

All of this is part of the bilateral agenda that we are going to be discussing today. And I want to once again welcome the Secretary of State for being here.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Thank you very much. Muchas gracias. Estoy encantando de estar aqui en Guatemala y (inaudible) con el Presidente Perez Molina. Gracias.

I want to begin, if I may, by expressing the condolences of all Americans for the loss of life of nine Guatemalans in Oklahoma City in the tornado last month. We know that that is a deep pain for the families, and I bring you the President’s condolences and the condolences of the American people.

I appreciate this welcome very much and I am very grateful for the opportunity to visit with you. We do have a great deal to talk about. Let me begin by congratulating you, Mr. President, on the enormous progress that you have made with respect to your justice system, the strengthening of your justice system, the independence of that system. And obviously, we are appreciative for your reciprocal law enforcement initiatives that benefit both of us we believe.

I also would express our appreciation for the way in which you have led your internal – your security efforts and particularly citizen protection efforts. These are critical to the standards of any country, and I know you have been particularly willing to step up and be accountable and to lead on those issues. So I thank you for that.

Maybe we should do the – in between. Do you want to translate and then I’ll finish?

And Mr. President, we salute the work you’ve done to bring the efforts of your Ministry of Government and your Public Ministry together to be more effective. And also your efforts obviously in terms of counternarcotics – this is an area that I actually have spent a fair amount of time in my life being involved on. I used to be a prosecutor in one of the largest counties in America. I started a drug task force. And as a senator, I was responsible for the Narcotics Terrorism Subcommittee that did a lot of work on General Noriega, narcotics, and we’ve been at this for quite some time.

So I look forward to a good discussion while we’re here, and I think it’s a very relevant and important one. I also want to thank you for your leadership with respect to the professionalization of police, which is very important, and also your efforts to make sure that we live up to the standards of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala. Needless to say, that is so important to Guatemala’s standing on a global basis and we appreciate your efforts.

Finally, let me say no one wants a relationship defined by law enforcement and security and by counternarcotics efforts. And the President made this very clear in San Jose when he met recently and the OAS has discussed this recently. We want economics and your people to define our relationship. We applaud your efforts on malnutrition, which we join into with our Feed the Future initiative.

So we have a great deal to talk about, about strengthening this relationship and building the future for both of our people. And I thank you for your welcome and the opportunity to be here.

PRESIDENT MOLINA: Gracias. Thank you.


PRN: 2013/T08-02