Guatemala's new civilian president Vinicio Cerezo said today that he has formally requested a part of $10 million in credits for military equipment authorized by the U.S. Congress last year.
The president's request, if approved by Congress, will end a longstanding suspension of U.S. military aid to Guatemala for equipment. Training of Guatemalan officers in the United States resumed in 1984, but all other military aid has been suspended since 1977 because Guatemala refused to accept Carter administration human rights requirements.
Cerezo, Guatemala's first civilian president since 1970, has promised to end human rights abuses, usually blamed on some groups in the police and military. One of the few bargaining chips he has with the still-powerful military is the ability to request or withhold badly needed U.S. aid, observers in Washington and Guatemala have said.
In an informal interview outside his office, the president said that in a letter sent recently to President Reagan he had requested "less than $1 million." Congress has authorized $10 million for fiscal years 1986 and 1987 in military training and credits for buying equipment for civic action projects.
"I asked for truck repair parts, medicine for our soldiers and for helicopter parts. All of it is of a nonlethal nature," Cerezo said.
He said he would ask for the rest "as it becomes necessary."
Cerezo said the aid was not needed because of "urgent military problems" but because of supply shortages.
"The planes are nearly unable to be used and we have almost no functioning helicopters," he said.
A foreign observer here said an improved helicopter fleet is needed to transfer supplies to soldiers and carry out the wounded from battles against leftist guerrillas in the northern part of the country.
"What we ask for is for things of a humanitarian character," Cerezo said.
During a trip to Washington in December, Cerezo said he wanted economic aid but had not yet decided whether to request military aid.
Under current legislation, the Reagan administration has to certify to Congress that Cerezo's government has demonstrated control over military and security forces and shown progress toward a better human rights record before military aid can be provided to Guatemala.
"My personal opinion is that the general Congress will be supportive because they are sympathetic to the efforts Cerezo has been making," said a congressional source interviewed by telephone.