Guatemala and El Salvador have agreed on closer military cooperation, including a plan to provide counterinsurgency training in exchange for arms and ammunition, according to reliable sources in both countries.
The sources said that after months of informal exchanges between the two armies, Gen. Oscar Humberto Mejia Victores finally agreed to Guatemalan participation a few days after the military coup that brought him to power on Aug. 8.
Under the outlines of the accord, Guatemalan counterinsurgency experts will run training courses for members of El Salvador's 24,000-strong US-backed army at bases in Guatemala. One base earmarked for such training is near Jutiapa, 24 miles north of the Salvadorean border, the sources said.
In return, El Salvador would provide Guatemala with light weapons and ammunition from its US-supplied arsenal, according to Western diplomatic sources. They gave no details of the type or quantity of arms.
In San Salvador, a high-ranking government official confirmed the agreement. He said earlier attempts to arrange for Guatemalan military assistance had been vetoed by Mejia Victores' predecessor, Gen. Efrain Rios Montt. The official, who declined to be named, said General Rios Montt considered the Salvadorean Army an undisciplined force. According to the official, there was limited military cooperation between the two countries in the past, but only on the level of local commanders in bases near the border.
Political analysts see the proposed training-for-arms program against the background of signals that the coup in Guatemala could lead to the formation of an ''iron triangle'' of pro-American states north of left-wing Nicaragua - Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.