Assessment of Guatemalan Military to Invade Belize


SECRET

PAGE 01 GUATEM 04113 02 OF 04 301619Z
ACTION ARA-10

INFO OCT-01 SS-14 ISO-00 NSC-05 NSCE-00 PM-03 SP-02

IO-06 EUR-08 L-01 INR-05 CIAE-00 ACDA-10 /065 W
——————010177 301722Z /46

R 292325Z JUN 77
FM AMEMBASSY GUATEMALA

TO SECSTATE WASHDC 6581
DIA WASHDC

HQ DA WASHDC//DAMI-FI//
INFO USCINCSO//J-2-IOS//
AMCONSUL BELIZE

AMEMBASSY LONDON
AMEMBASSY MEXICO

AMEMBASSY TEGUCIGALPA
USUN NEW YORK 602

S E C R E T SECTION 2 OF 4 GUATEMALA 4113

LIMDIS

6. BACKGROUND:

SINCE THE FALL OF 1975, WHEN THE GUATEMALAN ARMED FORCES WERE MOVING MILITARY MATERIEL AND EQUIPMENT INTO THE PETEN DEPARTMENT AND GIVING RISE TO FEARS THAT AN INVASION OF BELIZE MIGHT BE CONTEMPLATED, THERE HAS BEEN NO INDICATION OF ANY MOVE TO INVADE. NEVERTHELESS, DURING THE PAST TWO YEARS THE MILITARY HAVE MADE IMPROVEMENTS AND HAVE TRAINED FOR AN INCURSION INTO BELIZE. THE EARTHQUAKE OF 1976 SET GUATEMALA ON A COURSE OF RECONSTRUCTION AND LESSENED TENSIONS IN THE GUATEMALA-BELIZE DISPUTE. ONCE THE RECONSTRUCTION EFFORT WAS WELL UNDER WAY THERE REAPPEARED THE INTEREST IN REGAINING BELIZE WHICH HAS ONCE AGAIN PEAKED IN MILITARY AND POLITICAL CIRCLES.

7. DURING THE PAST TWO YEARS THE GUATEMALANS, REALIZING THE POTENTIAL OF THE BRITISH TO RETALIATE SUCCESSFULLY IN THE EVENT OF AN ALL-OUT WAR, HAVE APPEARED TO BE PREPARING THEIR ARMED FORCES FOR THE CONTINGENCY OF A LIMITED INVASION OF BELIZE.

A. TRAING HAS BEEN QUITE INTENSIVE IN THE RANGER SCHOOL AT LA POLVORA (1701N-8920W) (KAIBIL COURSE) AND THE GRADUATING CLASSES HAVE ENABLED THEM TO BUILD UP MORE THAN A COMPANY OF TANGERS, UTILIZING OTHER GRADUATES AS CADRE IN THE MILITARY ZONES THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY TO START MINI-COURSES IN KAIBIL TRAINING; THE RESULT – A MUCH BETTER TRAINED AND HARDENED ARMY THAN IN 1975.

B. THE PARACHUTE BATTALION LOCATED AT SAN JOSE (1355N-9049W) HAS CONCENTRATED ON TRAINING POINTED TOWARD MASS JUMPS. WHEREAS IN 1975 THEY COULD NOT JUMP A COMPANY-SIZED UNIT DUE TO LACK OF TRAINING AND LOGISTICAL SUPPORT, THE PARACHUTE BATTALION HAS NOW DEVELOPED THE CAPABILITY TO DROP AT LEAST A COMPANY-SIZED UNIT, HAS HAD INTENSIVE PRACTICE IN THE PAST FEW MONTHS IN AIR DROPS, AND POSES A FORMIDABLE FORCE. NEVERTHELESS, THEY STILL HAVE SEVERE LIMITATIONS IN THE AIR DROP OF EQUIPMENT AS WELL AS PROBLEMS WITH THE USE OF THE GALIL RIFLE DURING/AFTER AN AIR DROP.

C. THE GUATEMALA AIR FORCE (GAF) HAS INCREASED ITS INVASION CAPABILITY ALMOST TWO-FOLD SINCE 1975. ITS AIR DROP CAPABILITY HAS BEEN INCREASED BY ALMOST 100 PER CENT FY THE ADDITIONAL PURCHASE OF THREE C-47’S AND TEN ARAVAS, ALL TRANSPORT AIRCRAFT. THEROETICALLY, IF ALL TRANSPORT AIRCRAFT WERE USED SIMULTANEOUSLY, TWO COMPANIES OF AIRBORNE TROOPS COULD BE DROPPED AT POINTS THROUGHOUT BELIZE. SOME OF THE TRANSPORT AIRCRAFT, SUCH AS THE ARAVAS, COULD THEN BE USED FOR MEDICAL EVACUATION AND/OR FOLLOW-UP DELIVERIES OF HEAVY EQUIPMENT.

D. THE GUATEMALAN NAVY HAS ADDED FIVE PATROL BOATS DURING THE PAST YEAR TO THEIR INVENTORY AND HAVE HAD EXTENSIVE TRAINING IN LANDING EXERCISES INVOLVING THE USE OF MARINES.

E. THE MILITARY RESERVES, AN ILL-TRAINED AND NOT OFTER USED GROUP IN GUATEMALA, HAVE BEEN CALLED UP FOR LIMITED TRAINING IN ALL OF THE MILITARY ZONES. THE FORCE ITSELF WOULD NOT BE EFFECTIVE IN BATTLE BUT THE SINGIFICANT FACTOR IS THAT THEY COULD PERFORM THE NORMAL “HOUSEKEEPING” FUNCTIONS OF THE REGULAR ARMY IF THE REGULARS WERE NEEDED IN THE AREA ADJACENT TO BELIZE OR IN AN ACTUAL INVASION.

F. THE ARMY HAS OBTAINED 15,000 GALIL RIFLES FROM ISRAEL. THIS IS SINGIFICANT IN THAT THE RESERVES CAN BE OUTFITTED WITH THE M-1 RIFLE WHICH HAS BEEN USED BY THE REGULARS.

G. THE PROPAGANDA WITHIN THE ARMED FORCES THAT BELIZE IS TO BE RETAKEN HAS BEEN KEPT AT A HIGH PITCH. THE GENERAL STAFF IS A PRIME MOVER FOR SOME FORM OF MILITARY ACTION.

8. CONSIDERING THE FOREGOING PREPARATIONS OF THE ARMED FORCES WE MAY MAKE THE FOLLOWING ASSUMPTIONS CONCERNING WHAT THE GUATEMALAN “GAME PLAN” FOR AN ALL-OUT ATTACK MIGHT BE LIKE:

A. MILITARY OBJECTIVE IS PUNTA GORDA (1660N-8848W) AND THE LAND AREA SOUTH OF MONKEY RIVER. CUT HIGHWAY FROM PUNTA GORDA TO NORTH. ISOLATE OR WIPE OUT BRITISH OUTPOSES, SUCH AS THAT NEAR SAN ANTONIO (1616N-8902W).

B. GUATEMALAN MILITARY WOULD MAKE ASSAULT WITH A COMBINED LAND/SEA/AIRDROP FORCE. LAND FORCE WOULD BE LARGELY FOR INFILTRATION OF SOUTHERN BELIZE WITH PERHAPS A FEINT IN THE NORTH ALONG THE BELMOPAN-BELIZE CITY HIGHWAY. AIRDROP WOULD BE LARGELY IN THE SOUTH WITH PUNTA GORDA A PRIME TARGET. ACQUISITION OF AN AIRSTRIP(S) WOULD BE IMPORTANT FOR SUBSEQUENT ARAVA/HELICOPTER LANDINGS. AIR STRIKES BY A-37 AIRCRAFT WOULD PROBABLY BE MADE, POSSIBLY EVEN AGAINST BELIZE AIRPORT. NAVY WOULD LAND TROOPS ALONG SOUTHERN COAST OF BELIZE.

C. MILITARY FORCES WOULD MAKE AND COMPLET MAJORIT OF THEIR MOVES WITHIN 72 HOURS.

9. IN THE EVENT A LIMITED ATTACK WERE ORDERED INSTEAD OF ALL-OUT HOSTILITIES WE WOULD ASSUME THERE WOULD PROBABLY BE MINOR INFILTRATION ALONG THE SOUTHWESTERN BORDER OF BELIZE WITH AN OBJECTIVE OF HARASSMENT AND LIMITED SATISFACTION OF POLITICAL/MILITARY PRESSURE WITHIN GUATEMALA. THE ARMY IS ESPECIALLY WELL-TRAINED FOR THIS TYPE OF OFFENSIVE AND MIGHT INFLUENCE THE GOG TO SUCH AN ATTACK SINCE AN ALL-OUT ATTACK IS VIEWED BY MANY GUATEMALANS AS SUICIDAL DUE TO BRITISH CAPABILITY FOR REPRISAL (E.G. HARRIER AIRCRAFT).

10. LAND CAPABILITY:

A. TWO MILITARY ZONES/BASES FORM A BOUNDARY AROUND BELIZE AT POPTUN (1621N-8926W) AND PUERTO BARRIOS (1543N-8836W). SANTO TOMAS DE CASTILLA (1542N-8837W) AS WELL AS THE TWO OTHER ZONE HEADQUARTERS COULD PROVIDE STAGING AREAS FOR THE MAJORITY OF ANY LAND MOVES AGAINST BELIZE. THE UNIT AT POPTUN HAS BEEN AUGMENTED TO FOUR COMPANIES, ONE OF WHICH IS A RANGER CO. THIS GIVES A COAPABILTY OF ABOUT 600 MEN FOR AN ADVANCE INTO BELIZE FROM POPTUN. PUERTO BARRIOS HAS THREE COMPANIES WHICH WOULD PROVIDE ABOUT 500 MEN. POPTUN IS SUPPORTED BY A 75 MM PACK HOWITZER AND A 4.2″ MORTAR BATTERY; PUERTO BARRIOS BY A 75 MM PACK HOWITZER BATTERY. FROM 8 TO 10 ARMORED CARS (M113’S) ARE IN THE POPTUN MIL ZONE. THE MARINE FORCE AT SANTO TOMAS DE CASTILLA NUMBERS BOUT 150 MEN. IF WE INCLUDE TROOPS FROM WITHIN A REASONABLE DISTANCE OF BELIZE, AS IN THE ZONES/BASES AT COBAN (1528N-9022W) (ABOUT 500 MEN) AND ZACAPA (1458N-8932W) (ABOUT 500 MEN), WE HAVE A THEORETICAL INVASION FORCE BY LAND/SEA/AIR OFO ABOUT 2500 MEN INCLUDING SUPPORT UNITS (E.G. ARTILLERY AND 4.2″ MORTARS), WHICH COULD BE FORMED RAPIDLY FOR A SURPRISE ATTACK. THIS FORCE EXLCUDES TROOPS FROM THE CAPITAL OR OUTLYING AREAS WHICH COULD AUGMENT THIS FIGURE DURING EXTENDED HOSTILITIES.

11. AIR DROP CAPABILITY:

THE PARACHUTE BATTALION HAS THREE COMPANIES OF AIRBORNE INFANTRY. AVAILABLE AIRCRAFT COULD LIFT TWO OF THE COMPANIES AT ONE TIME, OR ABOUT 400 MEN, PRESUMABLY TO SOUTHERN BELIZE, ALTHOUGH BELIZE CITY OR BELMOPAN COULD BE SECONDARY TARGETS. THREE LIFTS COULD PROBABLY BE MADE IN ONE DAY IF ATTACK UTILIZED FEWER NUMBERS OF AIRCRAFT AT ONE TIME. IF PUERTO BARRIOS OR POPTUN WERE USED AS STAGING AREAS, AIRLIFT, TO INCLUDE USE OF UH-1’S (6NOW; 9 IN NEAR FUTURE), COULD BE DONE IN ABOUT THREE HOURS. THERE IS NO HEAVY EQUIPMENT DROP CAPABILITY. ARAVAS COULD LAND SMALL VEHICLES. HELICOPTERS WOULD PROBABLY BE USED FOR EQUIPMENT RESUPPLY.

12. NAVAL CAPABILITY:

THE TWELVE PATROL BOATS AND THE 56-FOOT LANDING CRAFT AT SANTO TOMAS DE CASTILLA COULD TRANSPORT ABOUT 600 TROOPS. THEY WOULD BE LIMITED BY WATER DEPTHS, BUT THE TWO 36-FOOTERS CAN GO RIGHT UP TO SHORE. CRAFT ARE NOT EFFECTIVELY ARMED AS YET, BUT PLANS FOR EFFECTIVE USE OF LIGHT CANNOS MAY MATERIALIZE IN THE NEAR FUTURE. IN THE MEANTIME MACHINE GUNS AND 75 MM RECOILESS RIFLES OFFER THE FIREPOWER. THE THREAT IS NOT IN FIREPOWER BUT IN TROOP LANDING CAPABILITY. ON BRITISH FRIGATE COULD PROBABLY KNOCK OUT THE GUATEMALAN NAVY.

13. AIR CAPABILITY:

THERE ARE ELEVEN (11) A-37’S WHICH ARE ASSIGNED TO THE GUATEMALAN LA AURORA (MILITARY BASE) AIRPORT DIRECTLY ACROSS THE RUNWAY FROM THE INTERNATIONAL TERMINAL (1438N-9021W) WHICH COULD BE USED FOR TACTICAL AIR SUPPLORT. MAIN USE WOULD BE AIR TO GROUND STRIKED UTILIZING 500-LB BOMBS.

14. LOGISTICS:

THE SIZE OF AN ATTACK FORCE WOULD BE LIMITED BY LOGISTICAL CAPABILITY. GASOLINE RESERVES IN MILITARY ZONES HAVE BEEN BUILT UP CONSIDERABLY SINCE 1975. TROOPS, IN GENERAL, WOULD CARRY A THREE-DAY SUPPLY OF RATIONS AND BAXIC AMMUNITION LOAD. RESUPPLY OF RATIONS BY AIR WOULD BE NO LARGE PROBLEM. GROUND SUPPLY WOULD BE PRACTICALLY NIL BECAUSE OF LACK OF ROADS INTO BELIZE. SUPPLY BY SEA WOULD BE DANGEROUS AND IMPRACTICAL.

15. ROUTES OF APPROACH:

ALTHOUGH AN ATTACK COULD BE MADE ON BELIZE FROM THE NORTH OR CENTRAL PORTIONS OF WESTERN BORDER THE LACK OF ADEQUATE ROADS/TRAILS WOULD MAKE THE MOVE SLOW, LACK SURPRISE, AND HAVE NO USEFUL OBJECTIVE. AN ATTACK FROM THE SOUTHERN OR SOUTHWESTERN PORTION OF THE BORADER WOULD BE MORE LOGICAL, ESPECIALLY SINCE TROOPS FROM THE POPTUN GARRISON HAVE BEEN WORKING/SCOUTING IN THIS AREA FOR SEVERAL YEARS.

16. COMMUNICATION/CONTROL:

A. ONE OF THE GREATEST SHORTCOMINGS OF THE GUATEMALAN MILITARY IS LACK OF AN EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM. AIR TO AIR CONTROL IS BAD — LIMITED FREQUENCIES AND LACK OF KNOWLEDGE BY PILOTS IN RADIO COMMUNICATION. AIR TO GROUND COMMUNICATIONS IS ALMOST NON-EXISTENT. BAD WEATHER CONDITIONS WOULD SET BACK AN AIR FORCE WHICH KNOWS LITTLE OF OR REFUSES TO USE INSTRUMENTS.

B. EFFECTIVE CONTROL OF A MAJOR OPERATION OF THIS KIND IS BEYOND THE CAPABILITY OF THE GENERAL STAFF. NOBODY IS EXPERIENCED IN COORDINATING A COMBINED ARMS ATTACK. THE PRESIDENT AND THE OPERATIONS AND TRAINING PERSONNEL, WITH THEIR U.S. TRAINING, COULD PROBABLY SET UP A GOOD ATTACK PLAN, BUT ONCE IT GOT STARTED THE LACK OF COORDINATION AND EXPERIENCE AMONG THE COMMANDERS AND STAFF WOULD CERTAINLY SET BACK ANY EXTENDED OPERATION.

17. CONCLUSION:

THE GUATEMALAN ARMED FORCES CAN ASSAULT PUNTA GORDA ON SHORT NOTICE (3 HOURS BY SEA) PROBABLY ARRIVING IN 72 HOURS BY LAND. THE COMBINED AIR/GROUND/NAVAL FORCE WOULD TOTAL 2500 EFFECTIVES UTILIZING FORCES FROM MEARBY MILITARY ZONES. THE MAIN ATTACK WOULD BE FROM THE SOUTH AND SOUTHWEST. A FEINT MIGHT BE MADE TO THE NORTH UTILIZING ARTILLERY AND ARMORED CARS. ANYTHING SHORT OF AN ALL-OUT ATTACK WOULD PROBABLY BE LIMITED GROUND INFILTRATION INTO THE SOUTHER PART OF BELIZE.

18. POLITICAL CONSEQUENCES OF ATTACK:

EXTERNAL. WE BELIEVE GUATEMALAN PLANNING STRESSES THE IMPORTANCE OF QUICK MOVEMENT TOWARD THE OBJECTIVE NOT ONLY BECAUSE OF THE OBVIOUS SUPERIORITY OF BRITISH FORCES, ONCE BROUGHT FULLY TO BEAR, BUT ALSO BECAUSE GOG IS AWARE THAT THE OAS AND/OR THE UN, AND SPECIFICALLY THE USG, WOULD SEEK AN IMMEDIATE END TO HOSTILITIES AN A WITHDRAWAL OF INVADING FORCES. IF THE GOG SHOULD NEVERTHELESS INVADE, IT WOULD BE IN THE HOPE THAT IT COULD ESTABLISH ITSELF FIRMLY IN AT LEAST A SMALL AREA OF SOUTHERN BELIZE BEFORE THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY COULD REACT. ONCE ESTABLISHED, GUATEMALA WOULD HOPE THE PRECEDENTS OF ISRAEL AND TURKISH OCCUPIED TERRITORIES WOULD APPLY, AND THAT THE CESSATION OF HOSTILITIES WOULD LEAVE IT IN DE FACTO POSSESSION OF WHAT IT HAD UNSUCCESSFULLY SOUGHT AT THE NEGOTIATING TABLE.

19. INTERNAL CONSEQUENCES.

THERE WOULD BE NO PUBLICLY EXPRESSED OPPOSITION TO THE INVASION IN GUATEMALA DURING OR IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE ATTACK. SHOULD ANY PART OF BELIZE REMAIN UNDER GUATEMALAN CONTROL AFTER CEASE-FIRE, THE ATTACK WOULD BE HAILED AS A MAJOR VICTORY AND ALL OF THOSE INVOLVED, FROM LAUGERUD ON DOWN WOULD BE TREATED AS HEROES. SHOULD THE GUATEMALAN FORCES BE UNABLE TO RETAIN ANY TERRITORY, AS A RESULT OF MILITARY DISASTER OR RETREAT, THE CONSEQUENCES WOULD BE MOST SERIOUS FOR THE STABILITY OF LAUGERUD’S GOVERNMENT AND THE INSTITUTIONAL STABILITY OF THE GUATEMALAN ARMY. THAT FACT IS THE MOST POWERFUL MODERATING FORCE ON THE GOG.

BOSTER


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