GUATEMALA CITY – A diplomat who has led 26 peacekeeping missions worldwide says that if elected as Guatemala’s next president he will draw on his United Nations experience to keep the Central American nation from becoming a failed state.
Edmond Mulet, who is among the leaders in the polls ahead of the June 16 balloting, acknowledged in an interview with EFE that the job of Guatemalan head of state would be a different challenge, but he said the lessons he learned from UN missions around the world would help with aspects such as the “insecurity issue.”
“The fact of managing, of leading military and police contingents, the security operations that were carried out in Haiti and other countries around the world, are experiences that can be applied to Guatemala,” Mulet said.
Speaking at a Guatemala City office adorned with two international recognitions, one from Hillary Clinton for his work in Haiti and Spain’s Order of Isabella the Catholic, conferred on him in 2011 by then-King Juan Carlos I, Mulet discussed his plans for governing Guatemala.
A former speaker of that country’s unicameral legislature who was born in Guatemala City in 1951, he is seeking his country’s highest office as candidate of the Humanist Party of Guatemala, a centrist political grouping that Mulet says offers a “third way” distinct from “that Manichaeism (duality) that has destroyed us” and polarized and radicalized the citizenry.
Mulet, who finds the situation in Guatemala to be nearly identical to what he faced as head of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), a country that had fallen under the control of gangs and armed groups, said the Guatemalan government “has every right to use all resources at its disposal” to protect citizens’ lives.
In that regard, he said Guatemala was facing a “critical moment” in terms of public safety and that as president he would study the possibility of bringing back the death penalty to counter gangs and organized crime groups.
“The situation is already unsustainable, and I think there are some egregious crimes that are really terrible where the death penalty could be applied not only as a punishment but to make an example (of the perpetrator),” Mulet said.
He added, however, that Congress would have to vote to reinstate capital punishment.
Mulet also is proposing re-deploying army soldiers for law-enforcement duties on a temporary basis as a means of boosting public safety, a crime-fighting tactic that had been used prior to March 2018.
He said a role for the army is necessary in some crime hotspots while efforts are carried out to fortify the National Civil Police, which has “gone astray” in recent months.
“That dissuasive presence is very important. It also sends a message to criminals, who understand that their activities are being monitored,” said Mulet, who served as UN assistant secretary general for peacekeeping operations from 2007 to 2010 and again from 2011 through 2015.
The presidential candidate said the government “is in all its rights to use force in a rational manner to defend” those who are vulnerable to aggression.
He said that neither the death penalty nor the use of the army for law-enforcement duties run counter to humanist principles and human rights, although he added that he does not support the practice of indigenous forms of justice in Guatemala.
“Unity must be preserved within the Guatemala state,” with the criminal code applied equally to all citizens, according to Mulet, who said that some physical punishments employed in indigenous communities violate human rights.
Mulet also said he opposes same-sex marriage and abortion, although he added that the country should look at allowing women to undergo that procedure in the case of rape. At present, abortion is only permissible if the pregnant woman’s life is in grave danger.
In the realm of international politics, the candidate said he would continue the outgoing administration’s support for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as that nation’s legitimate president.
Guaido, who proclaimed himself interim president in January, has the backing of the United States, most of the major European nations and dozens of other countries.
Mulet said that under its leftist head of state Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela has devolved from the wealthiest country in South America to one suffering “terrible human degradation.”
Maduro, who maintains the backing of the army, is still recognized as Venezuela’s president by scores of countries, including China, Russia and India.