Guatemalan President-Elect Says Country Can’t Uphold Migration Deal With U.S.

Alejandro Giammattei

Speaking to Reuters shortly before being declared victor, the conservative Mr Giammattei said he wanted to see what could be done to improve the deal that outgoing president Jimmy Morales agreed to stem US-bound migration from Central America.

Speaking a few hours before being declared the victor, the 63-year-old Giammattei said he wanted to see what could be done to improve the deal that outgoing President Jimmy Morales struck with his American counterpart Donald Trump, Reuters said.

About 250,000 people from Guatemala were apprehended at the border since October, according to to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

More of the same means more of the economic collapse that preceded Giammattei and sent a record number of Guatemalans heading north, seeking a better life in the United States.

Until courts prevented some of the more popular candidates from running in this year's race, he also appeared to be a long-shot candidate in a tumultuous campaign season.

It is unclear how much Giammattei will be able to do to change the deal, which would require Hondurans and Salvadorans to apply for asylum in Guatemala rather than in the United States.

There are reports the deal may involve financial help for more migrant facilities in Guatemala, and United States personnel to help train people in dealing with what would be an enormous and impossible surge in asylum applications.

Yet neither Giammattei, who is due to take office in January, nor the center-left rival he defeated in Sunday's presidential election, showed any desire to stop that expulsion, despite polls suggesting that the CICIG is widely respected by ordinary Guatemalans.

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

The safe third country agreement is deeply unpopular in Guatemala. Giammattei, who took Monday off after his landslide victory, inherits a country also struggling with a 60% poverty rate and one of the highest murder rates in the Western Hemisphere. During his campaign he said that the death penalty should be reinstated and members of gangs should be treated as terrorists. Adding to his challenges, Fitch Ratings said the divided political landscape will make it harder for the president to reverse declining tax collection that the agency cited in April when it revised Guatemala's sovereign outlook to negative.

"We could create a enormous 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.

Both Giammattei and his presidential rival had at times been on the wrong end of investigations by the CICIG - as had Morales, who accused it of abusing its power in Guatemala before terminating its mandate, effective September 3.

"The CICIG was very successful in putting people in jail, as in the case of La Linea", Giammattei said, referring to the name given to the customs racket the CICIG helped bust in 2015 to impeach then-President Otto Perez, who is now in prison. "Anti-corruption is not a priority for this (US) administration".



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