FIFTY-EIGHT SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE UNITED NATIONS
Mr. Alfonso Portillo Cabrera
Your Excellency Mr. Julian R. Hunte, President of this Assembly,
Your Excellency Mr. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations,
I come before this parliament
of humankind to present, for the last time, a report as a Head of State
who believes in interdependence and for whom sovereignty is not a closed
door separating nations, but, rather, an open window affording a glimpse
into the identity of each one of them, furthering the', respectful interchange
of experiences and the quest for comprehension and solidarity among
My attendance here reflects
Guatemala's commitment to the United Nations, whose presence in Guatemala
has been crucial to the implementation of the Peace Agreements concluded
in 1996. It also allows -me to participate in the debate on the main
items that make-up the international agenda and, incidentally, once
again express our solidarity with this great city of New York in its
mourning of the tragic events of two years ago.
I wish to reiterate most
strongly our repudiation of the treacherous attack perpetrated on the
United Nations office in Baghdad just a few weeks ago. We regret, in
particular, the loss of valuable officials of the institution, including
the lamented Sergio Vieira de Mello.
I wish to express our gratitude to Mr. Jan Kavan, of the Czech Republic, for his excellent leadership during the last session. I would also like to congratulate Mr. Julian Hunte for having taken over the presidency of this session. It is gratifying for us to see a distinguished representative of our own region occupying this important post and we have no doubt that his background and experience will enable him to conduct our work in a fully successful manner.
As has been the case with
other sister countries of Latin America, the closing period of the twentieth
century has been a dramatic time for Guatemala, one marked by the need
to deal with a complex agenda, involving various challenges, such as
the country's insertion into the globalization process, the construction
of peace with justice and the consolidation of a democracy that is compatible
with good governance.
Within this context, we have,
in the course of these last four years, sought to advance in the process
of opening up Guatemala to the world and inserting her in the technological,
financial and cultural currents of globalization. We have furthered
the democratization of structures and institutions, practices and values
that are capable of combining liberty and authority, effectiveness and
equity. And we have promoted peace based on justice and respect for
Guatemala is a country characterized
by the continued existence of historical tasks that are unfulfilled
or permanently postponed. When, in January 2000,1 took over the presidency,
I resolved to address some of these pending issues in -a thoroughgoing
way. The State was hostage to powerful economic interests; we have carried
forward a process of liberation. No longer are there tax exemptions
favoring individuals. Trade policy is no longer manipulated in such
a way as to harm the production of peasants. Economic policy has taken
on meaning as an instrument of social development. Local monopolies
now have to contend with competition, following a century when captive
markets were the rule.
The Peace Accords provided
Guatemala with a program for democratization. They constitute a proposal
for a profound renewal of the modes of coexistence among Guatemalans,
with an eye to the Twenty-First Century. But they have also confronted
us with the need to fulfill, simultaneously, tasks that pertain to different
historical processes and that other societies have carried out by stages.
I can affirm with satisfaction
that we have made headway in various substantive areas; I admit, however,
that in others our efforts have fallen short of our goals or were not
tackled with the necessary resolve. Against the opposition of powerful
interests we undertook a determined endeavor to raise the tax burden.
We reached a historical level in the collection of taxes, but without
attaining the goal that had been set. In order to modernize the banking
sector we carried out the most significant financial reform undertaken
since 1945. This effort also aimed at reducing speculative risks and
recovering the function of intermediation that should be the hallmark
of the system.
We modernized the labor code,
which since 1944 had suffered a series of retrenchments. We consistently
raised the minimum wage, at a pace that, in real terms, has no precedent.
On the average, workers in the countryside now earn 50% more than they
did four years ago.
But much remains to be done.
The economic environment is unfavorable to us. The factors that traditionally
stimulate growth and employment have weakened. And the transformations
required in the process of production, while progressing, are doing
so at a slow pace. We have thus made all-out efforts to achieve economic
stabilization and have undertaken emergency measures, such as the provision
of productive inputs to peasants in order to maintain their capacity
The issue of transformations
in the productive process is so sensitive that it contributed, in the
century that just ended, to a civil war that raged on for almost 40
years. This is why, in recognition of the urgency of the situation,
I promoted reconciliation mechanisms in which all sectors participate,
for the purpose of defining the fundamental policies of the nation.
They include those pertaining to economic and rural development.
The populace has, in that
period, gained important means of participation. We have carried out
an extremely significant reform of the State through decentralization,
the strengthening of the local development councils and the granting
of greater powers to local governments. The indigenous peoples are recognized
as such and participate in the definition of a new institutional geography
that has their cultures as its basis. Women have also gained public
means of participation and are articulating novel forms of organization.
All these efforts aim to
renew the social fabric that the war had torn asunder. Reconciliation
is a task of basic importance. And if it is to be fulfilled, the government
must promote a favorable climate. This is why I assumed international
responsibilities to counter violations of human rights and we have undertaken
the national program for reparations, which includes compensation for
the families of over 200,000 victims, mostly indigenous. We also trust
that the High Commissioner for Human Rights will establish an Office
There is, however, a hard
core of impunity that is difficult to vanquish. Judicial organs still
reveal weaknesses. This is indeed what led me to seek the creation of
an extraordinary and temporary instrument that couldreinforce the capacity
of local institutions. I requested the United Nations to provide support
for the establishment, without delay, of a commission for the investigation
of illegal bodies and clandestine security apparatuses. The reason for
this is that several repressive groups that are carryovers from the
past, and are now in league with organized crime, threaten and intimidate
humanitarian activists, judges and journalists.
To recover democracy in all
its dimensions, civilian power must be strengthened. Our efforts to
that end are clear: we have created the civil intelligence agency of
the State,and the civil body responsible for the security of the President.
We now have a defense policy, one that is in keeping with the principles
(1 -democratic security, which is the product of open debate by the
members of society. We have designed laws to guarantee free access to
information, the declassification of secret State archives. and the
establishment of civilian controls over security functions, such as
the Advisory Council for Security. These are well-advanced processes
that should be fully implemented during the next Administration.
Promoting a culture. of peace
has not been easy. In our society traumas of war are still holding back
the possibilities of trust and, by defending their privileges, powerful
economic and military groups have led to political polarization. But
harm to human life has lessened and the democratization process proceeds
In the 114 days that remain
of my administration, I will fulfill two other basic commitments. One
of them is to ensure that Guatemalans will participate in a free and
transparent electoral process, one that is closely observed by the international
community and in which all political forces, without exception, participate.
Another undertaking I shall address is that of carrying out an orderly transition, one that safeguards the reforms initiated within the framework of the Peace Accords. For this purpose I have, with the assistance of my government team, generated a minimum transition agenda, which includes the continuity of programs and policies, as well as the strengthening of the institutions of the peace process.
I would now like to comment,
briefly, on some of the issues that will engage us during this session,
and, in particular, that of responding to the challenge the Secretary-General
has put before us this morning, namely how to rethink the United Nations
in these times of fundamental changes.
- As I already said, we fully support the United Nations as the highest exponent of multilateralism. And we firmly back the stewardship of our Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan.
- We concur fully with him
in that the need to adapt the Organization to the exigencies of globalization
brooks no delay. We shall also support the efforts being made to improve
the managerial capacities of the Secretariat and further the reform
of intergovernmental fora.
- We must, accordingly, in
no way delay our efforts to make the Security Council more representative
and its procedures more transparent. We feel, furthermore, that it is
necessary to strengthen the General Assembly itself, as well as the
Economic and Social Council in order that these three principal organs
of our Organization mutually support one another.
- We reiterate our opposition
to all forms of terrorism and support the collective action of the international
community in combating this scourge.
- We agree on the need to
strengthen our collective capacity to prevent and resolve conflicts.
- We believe that the United
Nations should continue to give priority to the imperative of development.
The United Nations should, together with the multilateral financial
organizations, address the task of ensuring that the benefits of globalization
are widely distributed among the inhabitants of the planet. We stress
the singular importance of the Monterrey Consensus and the Johannesburg
Plan of Action.
- We express our disappointment
for the lack of progress in the recent Cancun Meeting of Ministers of
Trade. As part of the G-21, we commit ourselves to work in a constructive
manner to bridge positions of all parties, in order to count with an
international trade regime that is open, transparent and with greater
opportunities for developing countries.
- We also wish to highlight
the need to give greater importance in the international agenda to the
situation of immigrants and the plight of undocumented migrants, which
constitute a vulnerable group from the vantage point of their protection
and human rights.
- I would also make a special
reference to the topic of Children, and the obligation of States to
guarantee their rights and their protection. We have a case in point
which seeks, in the framework of the Convention on the Rights of the
Child, to re-establish the links between three Guatemalan children and
their mother, Gabriela Arias.
- We support all efforts
to put an end to the tragic spiral of violence afflicting the Middle
East and to achieve a just and lasting peace in this long-suffering
- We associate ourselves
with the endeavors seeking to recover peace and security in order to
restore law and order in Iraq and reinstate the sovereignty of that
State. We share the view that the United Nations should play a significant
role in the fulfillment of those tasks.
- We back the heartfelt aspiration
of the 23 million citizens of the Republic of China in Taiwan to be
represented in international organizations, such as the United Nations.
- We are making every effort
to strengthen the bonds of friendship and neighborliness between my
country and Belize, without prejudice to the search for ways to resolve,
in a peaceful, honorable, equitable and permanent manner, our territorial
dispute. We fully intend to continue seeking a negotiated solution to
that dispute within the framework of the Organization of American States.
- We reiterate our profound vocation and support for Central American integration, as well as our strong ties to all Latin America and the Caribbean.
We live in exceptional times that affect each and every one of our countries, as well as the United Nations as a whole. Critical junctures open up opportunities for examination and change. May God grant us the wisdom to recognize those. opportunities, so that we may truly be able to overcome the obstacles that have prevented humankind from reaching the horizon of solidarity and shared well-being.