Letter Calls on Trump Administration to Put on Hold Transfer of New Equipment until Congress Is Provided with Full Accounting
WASHINGTON—Representatives Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Seth Moulton, Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, today called on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to provide Congress with a detailed public report on the Guatemalan government’s attempt to intimidate U.S. Embassy and United Nations personnel through the misuse of seven military-style J8 jeeps donated by the United States. In a letter to the Secretary, the lawmakers stated that while a full investigation is being carried out by the State Department, transfers or sales of military equipment to the Guatemalan government should be put on hold.
“Using vehicles purchased by the U.S. taxpayer to intimidate our personnel cannot be tolerated. We urge the Trump Administration to not turn a blind eye to this serious abuse,” the Members wrote in their letter.
Full text of the letter follows, and an image of the signed letter can be found here.
Dear Mr. Secretary:
We are extremely disturbed that the Guatemalan government misused military equipment donated by the United States to attempt to intimidate U.S. Embassy and United Nations personnel. Today, we write to request a detailed public report from the State Department on this troubling matter. While a full investigation is being carried out by the Department, we ask that you put on hold any transfers or sales of military equipment to the Guatemalan government. This includes the four Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL)-owned helicopters that are slated to be deployed temporarily to Guatemala. Using vehicles purchased by the U.S. taxpayer to intimidate our personnel cannot be tolerated. We urge the Trump Administration to not turn a blind eye to this serious abuse.
On August 31st, seven military-style J8 jeeps with weapons systems mounted on them passed in front of the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala twice and were observed on the street in front of the United Nations International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). There are also reports that these jeeps passed in front of the office of a non-governmental organization that protects Guatemalan human rights defenders. These U.S.-donated vehicles are intended for counternarcotics purposes and are normally stationed 90 miles outside of Guatemala City.
The end-use agreement between our two countries stipulates that these vehicles are meant for use in tactical counternarcotics operations. Specifically, they are intended to be used in border areas where heavy duty vehicles are needed due to poor road conditions. Our agreement with the Guatemalan government requests that the United States be notified in advance of any intent to use these vehicles for a purpose other than for that which they were donated. As you know, the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala was not notified that the J8 jeeps would be used for an alternate purpose on or before August 31st.
We look forward to receiving a detailed public report from the Department on the Guatemalan government’s misuse of the J8 jeeps. We urge you to put on hold the further transfer of any military equipment to Guatemala, including the four INL helicopters that are currently in the United States for maintenance, until Congress is provided with a full accounting of what occurred on August 31st. Future military equipment sales and transfers should be determined based on the outcome of this investigation.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.
Eliot L. Engel
House Committee on Foreign Affairs
House Armed Services Committee
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