Guatemalan presidential candidates and the state prosecutor want to know where funds came from, and why the government isn't spending on social programs.
Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales signed off on the purchase of two reconnaissance aircraft for US$28 million Wednesday during an official visit to Argentina where the planes were bought from.
The deal has created controversy in Guatemala after several politicians, including the two presidential candidates who will compete in the August run-off, criticized Morales for the acquisition.
"We will be investigating if there was any criminal action or an illegal decision by (President Morales)," in the purchase, said Sandra Torres, former first lady and presidential candidate. Torres called the transaction “harmful" and an unnecessary expense for Guatemala "when there are no medicines in hospitals and 50 percent of children are undernourished and hungry.”
Alejandro Giammattei, of the Vamos party now running solely against Ralda, published a letter to President Morales demanding, "due transparency in this dubious commercial transaction."
"Guatemalans are unsure of what went on during the trip," said the presidential candidate.
"I respectfully require you to report on the alleged negotiation that exists in regard to the acquisition of aircraft and to ensure due transparency in this dubious commercial transaction," Giammattei wrote.
A group of people threw paper airplanes at the Presidential Palace to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the purchase of two planes and a ship made by President Jimmy Morales.
Guatemala’s Minister of Defense Luis Ralda released a social media video regarding the plane purchase, saying the two Pampa III aircrafts bought from the Argentinian government will be used to fight “drug trafficking,” given the army’s inability to currently find planes related to the crime.
"We have practically run out of aircraft to intercept drug trafficking aircraft. That’s why (traffickers) choose Guatemalan territory" for their operations, the official said.
"The systems acquired will allow Guatemala to protect its airspace, ensure its sovereignty and deal with transnational threats, such as drug trafficking," Ralda said in Twitter video on the defense’s account.
Throwing defense spending at anti-drug trade efforts in Latin American has been shown to be a waste of funds time and again. Precise numbers spent by the Guatemalan government on its anti-narcotics initiatives are difficult to come by. However, it is known that between 2008 and 2011 alone, the United States spent US$97 million on gear and training for anti-narc security forces in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, says Wired. Despite the spending, drug trafficking and violence in the region have risen exponentially. The same can be said for the US$9 billion the U.S. funneled toward Plan Colombia.
Guatemala's state prosecutor Jordan Rodas criticized the government for buying the planes, stating Morales is prioritizing defense spending over much-needed social programs.
"Instead of allocating public funds for this type of acquisition, the government of Guatemala should think about social investment, in areas such as nutrition and infrastructure in health and education, and thus guarantee the fundamental rights to all people," stated Rodas.
After the official sale was made in Buenos Aires July 3 between Morales and Argentine President Mauricio Macri, the presidents held a meeting at the presidential palace, where they discussed bilateral agreements. According to Guatemalan media, the aircraft manufactured in Argentina will be delivered "in the coming months."
For his part, Macri celebrated the Pampa III sale calling it a "milestone" over Twitter because it was the first time the nation's air force had built and exported its own aircraft.