AmericasU.S. VP Harris promises Guatemala’s Giammattei more aid, humane approach to tackling migration

Nandita Bose
3 minute read

Vice President Kamala Harris, after meeting with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei on Monday, said the United States wants to increase aid to the region and manage migration in a secure and humane way as she looks for ways to defuse a migrant crisis at the U.S. border with Mexico.

President Joe Biden, who has moved away from predecessor Donald Trump's hard-line immigration approach, gave Harris the job of leading U.S. efforts with Mexico and Central America's Northern Triangle countries - Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala - to stop migrants from crossing into the United States.

The meeting, which was held virtually, was Harris' second conversation with Guatemala's leader in less than a month - a sign of the best opportunity she has to build a partnershipin the region. She previously spoke with him on March 30th.

Harris has yet to speak with leaders of Honduras and El Salvador.

"We want to work with you... in a way that will bring hope to the people of Guatemala, that there will be an opportunity for them if they stay at home," Harris said, adding that she will visit the region in June.

President Giammattei said Guatemala is looking forward to her visit but wants to reach an agreement on issues before she travels.

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U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris holds a videoconference with Guatemala's President Alejandro Giammattei to discuss solutions to an increase in migration as she looks for ways to defuse a migrant crisis at the U.S. border with Mexico, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 26, 2021. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

"I believe that we should build a roadmap between governments... so that we can reach an agreement... (and) can work on this very hard road that we have ahead of us," he said.

Challenges surfaced during their first call, when Giammattei asked Harris about the possibility of purchasing COVID-19 vaccines, officials told Reuters. The question was not included in the U.S. readout of the call.

On April 5, Guatemala said it was purchasing 16 million Russian Sputnik V vaccines to inoculate about half the country's population.

Harris' office did not comment on the issue, but an administration official said it was not politically tenable to assure vaccine supplies to other countries before inoculating every American.

Other problems have also emerged. Guatemalan lawmakers recently refused to swear in a corruption-fighting judge, Constitutional Court President Gloria Porras, whom U.S. officials had seen as key to the country’s fight against graft.

In addition the meeting on Monday, Harris will also participate in a virtual roundtable with representatives from Guatemalan community based-organizations on Tuesday.

Last week, the Biden administration said it would set aside 6,000 seasonal guest worker visas for people from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. In March, about 85,000 of the 172,000 migrants caught at the border came from the three countries.

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