Guatemala President confirms date for embassy move

PNN / Bethlehem

The Guatamelan President, Jimmy Morales, has announced the time frame for the move of the Guatemalan embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference.

Morales said that the move will take place on the 15 May, two days after the slated date for the move of the U.S embassy, announced earlier this month.

The move will take place on the same day as the ‘Nakba Day,’ an annual commemoration of the displacement and loss that befell the Palestinian people after the State of Israel declared independence in 1948.

The move will also take place just days before the Israeli Independence Day celebrations on May 18, which President Morales highlighted.

‘In May of this year, we will celebrate Israel’s 70th anniversary, and under my instructions, two days after the United States moves its embassy, Guatemala will return and permanently move its embassy to Jerusalem,’ Morales said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu toko to Twitter on Monday thank President Morales, calling him a ‘true friend of Israel.’

The decision to move the Guatemalan embassy was announced shortly after the United States, ahead of the UN General Assembly session that met to condemn the decision made by U.S President Donald Trump.

128 countries backed the non-binding resolution to condemn the move, while 35 abstained and nine voted against the resolution.

Guatemala was one of the few countries that voted against the resolution, alongside the United States, Israel and Guatemala’s regional neighbour of Honduras.

Ahead of the General Assembly session, President Donald Trump and US Representative to the UN, Nikki Haley, said they would be ‘taking names’ of those who voted against the resolution.

The warning was made against the backdrop of grander overtures made by the President in regard to foreign investment spending, signalling a wish to clamp down on foreign aid as well as financial support for the UN.

President Trump has since announced the withholding of over $60 million in financial aid to the UNRWA agency which has operated as a crucial lifeline to Palestinian refugees for decades.

Guatemala is largely dependent on US foreign aid.

The World Bank ranks Guatemala as one of the strongest performing countries in the region but is none the less plagued with significant economic issues, namely a staggering wealth inequality.

According to the World Bank, unemployment reached a height of 59% in 2014, of which 52% belong to the countries indigenous population.

Guatemala was settled by the Spanish in the 1500s and declared its independence in the 1800s.

The country is also rapped with crime and gang violence which is a common issue in the region with high levels of drug production and transportation into the United States.

‘High levels of crime and violence represent staggering economic costs for the country,’ says the World Bank.

Guatemala ranks 11th in terms of US foreign aid.

Furthermore, it receives roughly $8 billion in personal remittances from Guatemalans living in the United States annually, according to Al Jazeera.

These remittances account for nearly three quarters of the annual Guatemalan budget.

President Morales is by no means the first Guatemalan president to voice support for the Israel.

Former Guatemalan President, Ramiro de Leon Carpio, who was in office from 1993-1996, was staunchly pro-Israel and had attempted to move the embassy to Jerusalem during his tenure.

He was forced to recall the decision at the behest of Muslim-majority countries who threatened to withhold purchases of Guatemala’s principal export, cardamom.