Guatemala president-elect says agreement with United States not sustainable

Guatemala president-elect says agreement with United States not sustainable

RIGHT-WING candidate Alejandro Giammattei was elected as President of Guatemala today after promising to scrap the country's migrant deal with the US.

Guatemala's new president will also have to face the challenge posed with the "Safe-Third Country" immigration agreement recently signed between the current Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales and the US President Donald Trump.

Asked about Giammattei's comments, U.S. Border Patrol chief Carla Provost said in an interview with Fox News channel, "It certainly is a concern".

"The problem is that as there's no work in Guatemala, many people want to migrate and it's sad what's happening to our Guatemalan brothers who die or are killed", Emilio Canel, a 26-year-old farmer in Sumpango, told AFP. Giammattei will be under vast pressure from the United States to implement a controversial migration pact that would allow Washington to send most Honduran and Salvadoran asylum seekers who passed through Guatemala back to the poor, crime-stricken country.

Giammattei, a conservative, defeated former first lady Sandra Torres in a run-off Sunday, garnering more than 58 per cent of the vote.

The signal sent by the USA now is not "there is a new system for the huddled masses", but "The United States is not open for you at all".

The victor of Guatemala's presidential election, Alejandro Giammattei, talks during an interview with Reuters in Guatemala City, Guatemala, August 11, 2019.

Critics of the deal say Guatemala - which struggles with poverty and violence - is woefully unequipped to handle the tens of thousands of migrants the policy would redirect to the country.

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The agreement designates Guatemala as a "safe third country", enabling Washington to turn away asylum seekers who did not seek refuge there when passing through Guatemala.

A poll commissioned by the Prensa Libre newspaper found that 82 per cent of those surveyed opposed it.

As part of his plan to keep would-be migrants at home, Giammattei proposes massive investment to promote rural development and agribusiness, and improve infrastructure on both sides of the border with Mexico, by creating an "investment bank" under the aegis of the Organization of American States (OAS). His wishes to reintroduce the death penalty and emphasize "family values", which would target LGBT+ rights and women's reproduction rights according to Jorge Santos, director of an NGO human rights group known as Udefegua.

"We could create a very big pole of development that could benefit both countries", he said, adding that he would plead his case in Mexico City as well as in Washington during the transition period.

"The mandate has been terminated; the United Nations accepted that", he said.

"(This) is a huge loss for Guatemala", said Adam Isacson, an expert on defense and border security at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a think tank.

But the Trump administration was unlikely to do much to complement such efforts, Beltran added.

"If he respects me, I respect him, if he treats me well, I treat him well, if he treats me badly, I treat him badly", said Giammattei in the interview late Monday. "Anti-corruption is not a priority for this (US) administration".

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