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July 31, 2019 10:04 am

‘Israel’s Enemies Are Guatemala’s Enemies,’ Leading Presidential Candidate Says Ahead of Final Vote

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Guatemalan presidential contender Alejandro Giammattei speaking to the press. Photo: Reuters / Saul Martinez.

As Guatemala heads to the second and deciding round of voting of a tempestuous presidential election campaign in less than two weeks, one of the two remaining candidates emphasized his friendship for Israel in an interview published on Wednesday, declaring, “He who is Israel’s enemy is Guatemala’s enemy.”

Speaking to the Spanish-language bulletin of the Israel Allies Foundation, a Washington, DC-based advocacy group, conservative candidate Alejandro Giammattei pledged that close bilateral relations with Israel would be a top foreign policy priority should he emerge victorious.

As well as keeping Guatemala’s embassy in Israel in Jerusalem, Giammattei said that he would act against Hezbollah — the Iranian regime’s Lebanon-based Shi’a terror proxy which operates an extensive support network throughout Latin America.

The candidate of the center-right VAMOS Party, Giammattei will face off against former First Lady Sandra Torres — who represents the center-left UNE Party — in the final round of voting on Aug. 11.

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In June’s first round, with 19 candidates in the running, Torres came first with 25.3 percent of the ballots, followed by Giammattei with 14 percent. Recent polling, however, has shown Giammattei developing a growing lead over Torres.

Torres has also expressed her support for Israel on the campaign trail, vowing to step up bilateral ties and saying publicly that she remained “in favor of Guatemala’s embassy remaining in Jerusalem.”

Giammattei noted in the interview that he wanted Guatemala to learn from “the great successes that Israel has had, especially in such important issues as food production, in order to make our lands more productive.”

He added: “This cooperation is urgent for our country.”

Asked directly whether Guatemala would maintain its embassy in Jerusalem should he form a government, Giammattei answered: “With regard to the embassy in Jerusalem, there we leave it, by faith and conviction, and there it will stay.”

Guatemala moved its embassy to the Israeli capital in May 2018, two days after the US opened its new embassy there following President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s capital in Dec. 2017.

Asked whether he would “follow in the footsteps of [Argentine President Mauricio] Macri and also designate Hezbollah as a terrorist group,” Giammattei replied in the affirmative.

“The designation of Hezbollah as a terrorist group, under Guatemalan law, does not depend solely on the President, but has to be ratified by the Congress of the Republic, but I am willing to do it,” he said. “He who is Israel’s enemy is Guatemala’s enemy.”

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