Assessment of Guatemalan Military to Invade Belize


                   Date: 1977 June 29, 00:00 (Wednesday)
Original Classification: SECRET
  Handling Restrictions: LIMDIS – Limited Distribution Only
          Office Action: ACTION ARA – Bureau of Inter-American Affairs
                   From: Guatemala Guatemala
                     To: Secretary of State

1. SUMMARY:

MISSION DOES NOT BELIEVE GUATEMALAN ATTACK ON BELIZE IS IMMINENT. WE BELIEVE SIGNALS THAT MIGHT BE READ ASPREPARATION FOR ATTACK ARE INSTEAD A CALCULATED ATTEMPT BY GOG TO INFLUENCE BRITISH POLICY AND THE JULY TALKS.

HOWEVER, SHOULD GOG DECIDE THAT NEGOTIATED SETTLEMENT IS IMPOSSIBLE AND MILITARY ACTION ONLY WAY TO FORCE SETTLEMENT, GUATEMALAN ARMED FORCES COULD MOUNT ON SHORT NOTICE EITHER A CONVENTIONAL ATTACK, PROBABLY AIMED AT CAPTURE OF TOWN OF PUNTA GORDA, OR A QUIET INFILTRATION OF RANGER UNITS.

OBJECTIVE WOULD BE EFFECTIVE CONTROL OF AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE OF AREA SOUTH OF MONKEY RIVER AND, EXCEPT FOR POSSIBILITY OF A FEINT, MISSION BELIEVES ACTION NORTH OF THAT LINE IS UNLIKELY. GOG IS AWARE THAT OAS, UN, AND USG WOULD SEEK TO END HOSTILITIES IMMEDIATELY, BUT IT WOULD HOPE – A LA ISRAEL AND TURKEY – TO PRESENT THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY WITH A FAIT ACCOMPLI FROM WHICH IT COULD NOT EASILY BE DISLODGED.

END SUMMARY

2. MISSION HAS RECEIVED NO INDICATION OF GUATEMALAN MILITARY ACTION AGAINST BELIZE PRIOR TO NEXT MEETING OF GUATEMALAN, BRITISH, AND BELIZEAN NEGOTIATORS SCHEDULED FOR JULY 6-7 IN WASHINGTON. THE SIGNS WE HAVE SEEN WHICH MIGHT BE READ AS PREPARATION FOR EARLY MILITARY ACTION-

THE TRAINING OF RESERVES, THE CURRENT MANEUVERS, THE INCREASINGLY BELICOSE NATURE OF GOG STATEMENTS – ARE, IN THE MISSION VIEW, PART OF A CALCULATED ATTEMPT BY THE GOG TO INFLUENCE BRITISH POLICY – TO PREVENT A BREAKOFF OF TALKS AND ANY MOVE TOWARD GRANTING INDEPENDENCE TO BELIZE. THE GREATEST GUATEMALAN FEAR IS AN ABRUPT MOVE TOWARD INDEPENDENCE WHICH WOULD CATCH THEM UNAWARES.

PUBLIC REPORTS ON THE RECENT COMMONWEALTH MEETING AND THE PRIVATE ACQUISITION BY THE GOG OF ACCURATE INFORMATION ON BRITISH PLANS FOR STARTING THE INDEPENDENCE PROCESS HAVE GREATLY INCREASED THAT FEAR.

3. EVEN IF THE WASHINGTON TALKS BREAK OFF WITHOUT PROGRESS TOWARD SETTLEMENT, IMMEDIATE GUATEMALAN MILITARY ACTION IS UNLIKELY. DECISION TO COMMIT GUATEMALAN FORCES TO BATTLE FOR FIRST TIME THIS CENTURY IS NOT ONE PRESIDENT LAUGERUD WOULD TAKE WITHOUT CAREFUL CONSIDERATION OF ALTERNATIVES AND CONSULTATION WITH HIS MILITARY AND CIVILIAN ADVISERS. AT LEAST SOME OF LAUGERUD’S ADVISERS ARE LIKELY TO URGE THAT GUATEMALA TAKE NO ACTION UNTIL UK EITHER ANNOUNCES THE BEGINNING OF INDEPENDENCE PROCESS FOR BELIZE, OR SUPPORTS A CALL FOR IMMEDIATE INDEPENDENCE BY THIS YEAR’S UNGA. SHOULD UK FAIL TO TAKE EITHER STEP THERE WOULD BE NO NEED FOR GUATEMALAN ACTION.

4. HOWEFER, THERE WILL ALSO BE ADVISERS WHO WILL ARGUE THE ADVANTAGES OF A SURPRISE ATTACK, AND IF LAUGERUD IS CONVINCED THAT THERE IS NO PROSPECT FOR FURTHER NEGOTIATION AND THAT THE ONLY WAY TO FORCE BRITAIN BACK TO THE NEGOTIATING TABLE IS MILITARY ACTION, HE COULD AUTHORIZE AN INVASION OF BELIZE. WE BELIEVE LAUGERUD WOULD ANTICIPATE THAT THE USG MIGHT LEARN OF SUCH A DECISION, AND IT IS EVEN POSSIBLE THAT HE MIGHT ENSURE THAT WE LEARN OF IT IN ORDER TO SEEK TO EXTRACT A COMMITMENT FOR AN INCREASED US MEDIATING OR INTERMEDIARY ROLE IN RETURE FOR ANY GUATEMALAN COMMITMENT NOT TO INVADE.

5. THE PURPOSE OF THIS MESSGAE, HOWEVER, IS TO ASSUME THE GOG MIGHT PROCEED WITH MILITARY ACTION AGAINST BELIZE, DESPITE US OPPOSITION, AND TO GIVE A COORDINATED MISSION ASSESSMENT OF THE GUATEMALAN ARMED FORCES’ CAPABILITY TO CARRY OUT SUCH AN ORDER AND OUR ESTIMATE OF THE PROBABLE FORM AND LOCATION OF THE ATTACK.


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