US Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday said the US hopes to work with Guatemala to address the causes of illegal migration by bringing “a sense of hope” to a country plagued by poverty and violence.
Vice President Harris, on her first trip abroad since taking office, met President Alejandro Giammattei in Guatemala City. She said reducing undocumented migration from Central to North America was a priority for the Biden administration. “Most people do not want to leave the place where they grew up”, loved ones and people with whom they share a language and culture, Harris said. But they often did so “either because they are fleeing some harm or because they simply cannot satisfy their basic needs by staying at home”, she said.
The Biden administration has identified corruption as an underlying cause of the poverty and violence driving record numbers of Central Americans to go to the United States. In the build up to Harris’ visit to Guatemala, her first official overseas trip, differences of opinion emerged about the fight against graft, with corruption fighters feted by Washington being criticized by Giammattei. “We had a robust, candid and thorough conversation,” Harris said at the news conference after a three-hour meeting with Giammattei, who said they had discussed U.S. concerns about developments in Guatemala.
“The president and I discussed the importance of anti-corruption and the importance of an independent judiciary,” Harris said. Washington has criticized the removal of a senior judge from Guatemala’s top court, in what Giammattei has argued was a legitimate process. Giammattei defended his own record in fighting corruption, saying he had not been accused of wrongdoing and saying graft was not only a problem faced by politicians. The fight against drug trafficking needed to be an integral part of tackling corruption, he said.
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