US Vice President Kamala Harris is on a three-day trip to Central America, with the aim of stemming the flow of migrants to the United States.
United States Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday kicked off a three-day diplomatic trip to the Northern Triangle, focused on stemming migration to the United States.
At a joint press conference with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, Harris said it was important to discourage people from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras – the three countries where the majority of migrants come from – to get to the US border.
âThe United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our borders,â Harris said. âIf you come to our border, you will be turned away. “
âDon’t come, don’t come,â she said.
The administration of US President Joe Biden, which took office in January, is under pressure to stem a wave of arrivals of Central American migrants fleeing poverty and corruption.
Harris also announced new measures to combat human trafficking, smuggling and corruption in Guatemala.
âThe president and I have agreed to continue our work to manage migration at the northern and southern borders of Guatemala,â she said.
âWe also discussed the illicit drugs being smuggled and the human beings being trafficked across these borders, compromising the security of Guatemala and the American people.
She said the United States would help create a smuggling and human trafficking task force as well as an anti-corruption task force, tasked with supporting and training local prosecutors to create an independent judiciary. which would entrench our corruption networks in the country.
Non-governmental organizations put widespread corruption in Guatemala at the top of their concerns ahead of Harris’ visit. Last month, two lawyers who openly criticize Giammattei’s administration were arrested on what they say are trumped-up charges aimed at silencing them.
When asked by a reporter on Monday whether Giammattei would be a reliable partner for the United States in fighting corruption, the president denied accusations his government was involved.
âHow many cases of corruption have I been charged with? I can give you the answer: zero, âsaid Giammattei.
William Lawrence, professor of international relations at the American University in Washington, said the United States hoped to find ways to stem migration in the short term and address the structural problems that drove people to seek to migrate to United States.
âYou have to deal with both the border issues – where there has been some improvement despite the wave – and the systemic issues that send so many migrants to the border,â Lawrence told Al Jazeera TV.
In an effort to tackle the “root causes” of migration, the Biden administration has pledged a $ 4 billion plan to boost development in the region and $ 310 million in humanitarian assistance.
Manuel Rapalo of Al Jazeera, in a report by Tecun Uman on Guatemala’s border with Mexico, said that US aid and funding for programs in the region and Guatemala in particular, are not new. And making significant progress on corruption is going to be the responsibility of the nation.
“Ultimately, it is the government of Guatemala that foreign aid is not lost to corruption,” Rapalo said, adding that without making structural changes “no amount of foreign aid is lost. will prevent people from fleeing north. “
Harris is due to meet with civil society leaders and entrepreneurs in Guatemala, then fly to Mexico where she will meet President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Tuesday.
Harris also announced that the United States will provide half a million doses of COVID-19 to Guatemala.
Shortly before meeting, Giammattei Harris said his trip to the country showed the Biden administration’s emphasis on re-establishing ties with allies around the world and was “a reflection of the priority that President Biden granted to this region “.
âIt’s in our collective interest to work together,â said Harris.