Guatemala will not move its embassy from Jerusalem, the Central American state’s new president, Alejandro Giammattei, said on Tuesday, the day of his inauguration.
Giammattei told Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis, who represented Israel at the inauguration ceremony, that he will leave the embassy where it is, and that Guatemala will declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization.
Guatemala opened its embassy in Jerusalem two days after the US did in May 2018. The move was made under former president Jimmy Morales, and it was previously unclear whether Giammattei would move it back to Tel Aviv.
Akunis thanked Giammattei, saying: “You are expressing the deep, years-long friendship between our two countries.
“Jerusalem is the heart of the Jewish people for 3,000 years,” he added.
As for declaring Hezbollah a terrorist organization, Akunis said it is an Iranian proxy that seeks to destroy Israel.
“Thank you for your courageous decision,” Akunis said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had tried to cancel Akunis’s trip to Guatemala, because he needs as much support as possible if there is a vote in the Knesset on his immunity request, Yediot Aharonot reported. However, Akunis convinced him that the trip was important, and that he would make it as short as possible.
The inauguration of 63-year-old Giammattei, a former surgeon who uses crutches because of multiple sclerosis, was overshadowed by delays and protests against outgoing officials seeking immunity from prosecution, a reminder of the country’s deep-seated political corruption.
Giammattei’s strategy to uproot corruption from political life will be closely watched after his predecessor, fellow conservative Jimmy Morales, chased out a UN-backed anti-corruption body investigating him and his family. Morales had immunity as president. He has been investigated for campaign finance violations, an accusation he denies.
Hours after his term ended, Morales was roughly treated by protesters and hit by eggs and a plastic projectile as he tried to take up a seat in a regional parliament that would offer him some protection from prosecution.
Reuters contributed to this report.