Guatemala’s government in waiting recognises US immigration-related security concerns, and will look to “strengthen [its] government institutions” after taking power to stem the immigration crisis, President-elect Alejandro Giammattei has said.
“Of course Guatemala poses a threat to US security. A country where corruption provoked by drug-trafficking has penetrated state institutions and, for example, where a person can get a fake passport, poses a threat to the security of any country; such a country can be used by terrorists; it can be used by anyone,” Giammattei candidly admitted to Sputnik.
“We must strengthen our institutions,” the politician added.
On the campaign trail, Giammattei, who is set to assume office on January 14, 2020, proposed a series of tough measures, including the use of the military for policing duties, bringing back the death penalty, and a promise to “crush violent gangs” and drug cartels while fighting poverty.
Guatemala found itself at the heart of US concerns about migrants at its southern border, with an estimated three percent of the country's entire population leaving for the US since late last year, fleeing gang violence, drug cartels, and extreme poverty. Over 250,000 Guatemalan nationals are believed to have been stopped at the US border since October 2018, up from over 115,000 in the previous year.
Although he has echoed many of US President Donald Trump’s concerns regarding the flow of immigrants from Central America, Giammattei has also voiced opposition to a safe country deal signed by his predecessor, Jimmy Morales.
Trump and Morales had agreed to a so-called “safe third country” compact in July which would effectively turns Guatemala into a buffer zone by forcing migrants heading north to apply for asylum in Guatemala instead. However, Giammattei has argued that the agreement has to be ratified by lawmakers from both countries first.
“This immigration agreement says that people from El Salvador and Honduras will be sent to Guatemala if their asylum applications are rejected in the United States. If they want to stay in Guatemala, their applications will be considered here; if not, we’ll have to send these people back to El Salvador or Honduras,” the politician explained.
Earlier, Giammattei suggested his country, which faces a myriad of problems of its own, does not fulfill the requirements necessary to be considered “a safe third country” even for many of its own people, let alone for other would-be migrants from the region.