GUATEMALAN PRESIDENT JIMMY MORALES IS A GREAT FRIEND TO WESTERN DEMOCRACY
The gathering of the United Nations General Assembly, probably the most important official event in global affairs, presents an opportunity for leaders from all over the world to present their countries, and the issues and challenges that they face, to a stage with no equal.
It also offers us, who are engaged in the community, to meet these leaders and get to better know them and their work.
Among the many engagements, I would say that the highlight of the week was the opportunity to meet and discuss with President Jimmy Morales of Guatemala.
Jack Rosen, President of the American Jewish Congress, organized this week a dinner in honor of President Morales at his house in New York.
President Morales was accompanied in this dinner by the First Lady, and a high-level delegation from his country.
Sandra Jovel, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala was with us, as well as Manuel Espina, the Ambassador of Guatemala to the United States. The event was joined also by Tzahi Hanegbi, the Israeli Minister of Regional Cooperation.
Very importantly as well, Mario Bucaro, the Ambassador of Guatemala to Israel was present in the event.
And his presence was significant, since the issue of the Guatemalan embassy in Israel was one of the important topics of the dinner.
This past spring, President Morales made the courageous decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate Guatemala’s embassy to the ancient capital of the Jewish people.
This made Guatemala the second country to do so, after the United States.
Israel and Guatemala have a long history of friendship that dates back to the UN Partition Plan of 1947 and to the founding of the state of Israel.
In fact, Guatemala voted in favor of the Jewish state in 1947, and in 1948 Guatemala was one of the first countries to recognize Israel.
But, as President Morales explained, the Guatemalan people have a deep affection for Israel, that goes beyond the formal excellent relations between the two countries.
Several important issues pertaining to Israel were discussed with President Morales, as well as Israel’s relationship to Latin America.
More and more people in Latin America are visiting Israel, because more and more people are learning about the amazing success story that Israel is.
I have seen firsthand this increase in interest, as more and more mayors from Latin America join the annual Conference of Mayors in Israel that the American Jewish Congress organizes.
It is important to cultivate relationships with countries such as Guatemala that are ready to coordinate with us on these issues that one way or another affect our country and have a ripple effect.
In a dinner that featured not only important Jewish and pro-Israel leaders involved in the community, but also some very successful businessman and entrepreneurs in a vast array of fields, President Morales was genuine in expressing his business-friendly policies and positions.
And this was interesting from a business perspective for all those that keep an eye on investment opportunities in Latin America.
With an open-minded leadership, Guatemala can certainly be an intriguing opportunity for American investors.
Jack is always working hard around the world to build important relationships that are beneficial not only to the American Jewish Congress, but to the larger community as a whole.
And the relationship with President Morales is certainly one of them.
Guatemala is a country battling problems as wide-ranging as drug trafficking, corruption, and general lawlessness.
But thankfully, the man running the government there is fighting to do everything he can to right the wrongs that must be righted.
On the terrorism front, over the past two years Guatemalan intelligence has detained nearly 50 people traveling on false documents on suspicion of being affiliated with ISIS.
Drugs are arguably the nation’s biggest problem, one that can filter into the United States when the cartels get their product out of Guatemala and into our country.
But under President Morales, Guatemala has made major strides in stifling drug trafficking, with cocaine seizures roughly doubling and overall seizures of illegal drugs nearly tripling since he took power.
Central America is a major hub for cocaine traffickers, so the more President Morales and the Guatemalan authorities strangle the boats and planes attempting to move product, the easier and safer things become for our law enforcement and citizens.
As far as corruption goes, President Morales is making tremendous progress there, too.
He has made it one of his central missions to eliminate corruption, and to prove it, used a tax collection mechanism to bring millions of dollars in taxes into the government that had previously been hidden by bad actors.
Violence is on the decline as well, with the murder rate in Guatemala at a near-decade low and gangs on the run from a police force that now has the green light to put a stop to unlawful reigns of terror.
Speaking of gangs, we have heard a lot about the Nicaraguan gang MS-13 causing problems in their home country and illegally coming into the United States to do the same.
Under President Morales, not only are gangs being systematically taken apart, but gang members and others are being made well aware of the dangers and immoral nature of attempting to illegally enter the United States.
Jimmy Morales is a president we can — and should — back strongly, as he has proven time after time that he is both a blessing to his people and a tremendous help to western democracies like Israel and the United States.
I implore President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu to work very closely with Morales, so we can continue to set all of these great countries on the right path forward.