Vice President Kamala Harris is due to depart for Guatemala on Sunday, intending to meet with President Alejandro Giammattei amid growing concerns over the migrant crisis on the southern border of the United States.
Harris is the go-to person to deal with the migrant crisis, but she has yet to hold a press conference or visit the border with Mexico – some 75 days after President Biden asked her for the role.
This week, she will travel to Mexico and Guatemala, but she could face a tense meeting with the Guatemalan president.
Giammattei has had a tumultuous career in politics: he was director of the Guatemalan prison system from 2006, but several conflicts and accusations that he orchestrated executions of prisoners led to his own brief incarceration in 2010, Reuters reported.
He has already served three terms at the top, failing in 2007, 2011 and 2015, according to The Global Americans, before finally winning in 2019. He took office on January 14, 2020.
Guatemala faced a political crisis in November 2020 when Giammattei presented a budget that favored privately funded infrastructure improvements rather than addressing pressing national issues, such as poverty and child care. The protests led to the burning of Congress and the resignation of Giammattei.
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Giammattei has been vocal in his support for the US approach to migration in recent months, but he has also made a number of critical statements, signaling a complicated relationship to come between nations.
The main complaint from Giammattei has been the “confusing” messages from the Biden administration on immigration, which the Guatemalan president accuses of fueling the crisis at the border.
“I think during the first few weeks of the Biden administration the messages were muddled,” Giammattei told MSNBC on April 13. “These were messages of compassion that were understood by the people of our country, especially the coyotes, to say to families, ‘We’ will take the children. “
“And the kids can go, and once the kids get there, they’ll call their parents.”
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Giammattei said he saw coyotes – the smugglers who transport migrants to the United States for a fee – perform “horrific acts” and criticized the United States for not responding properly to the influx of migrants, according to the New York Post.
Ahead of Harris’ visit this week, Giammattei criticized Special Prosecutor Against Impunity Juan Francisco Sandoval for “left politicizing” the fight against corruption in his country – an approach the United States has taken. sustained, according to Reuters.
“Everyone has the right to their own ideology,” Giammattei said. “The problem is when you transfer this ideology to your actions, and worse when you are in charge of justice.”
Giammattei accused Sandoval of administering justice selectively according to his agenda. However, US Ambassador to Guatemala William Popp said last week that Washington was trying to “firmly” support Sandoval.
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Harris has spoken to Giammattei by phone and virtually over the past few months, with Harris pledging an additional $ 310 million for humanitarian aid and food insecurity in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
In response, Guatemala agreed to strengthen border security, Politico reported.
Giammattei also plans to open “migrant resource centers” to provide education and assistance in following legal migration routes. The first center will appear in Guatemala City and should be operational by the time Harris lands in Guatemala.
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These more positive steps come against a move by Giammattei to have seemingly “pre-emptive” talks with Harris after he said Thursday that Guatemala would receive half a million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from the United States, seizing the promise of Biden to share some 80 million doses with struggling countries around the world, USA Today reported.
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