Guatemala City, Jun 7 (EFE).- US Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday held a series of meetings in Guatemala seeking solutions to irregular migration, which has been on the rise in recent months, in an effort to mitigate the “impact” that this illegal people flow has on the United States.
Harris said at a press conference in Guatemala City that the US government will implement several measures with the aim of reducing irregular migration from Guatemala, including creating a transnational entity that will fight against corruption and fostering investment by private US firms in the poorest areas of the Central American country.
“Do not come. Do not come,” said the US vice president during the press conference at the National Palace of Culture, the seat of the Guatemalan government, attempting to discourage migrants from illegally trying to travel to the US.
“The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border,” she said, adding “If you come to our border, you will be turned back. So let’s discourage our friends or neighbors or family members from embarking on what is otherwise an extremely dangerous journey.”
Harris arrived in Guatemala on Sunday night and on Monday morning she met with President Alejandro Giammattei to discuss various issues but focusing on irregular migration.
In the afternoon, the US VP met with about 20 members of civil society at a private university before she is scheduled to depart for Mexico on Monday evening.
Among the members of civil society with whom Harris met were indigenous leader and 1992 Nobel Prizewinner Rigoberta Menchu, former Guatemalan Vice President Eduardo Stein (who served in that capacity from 2004-2008) and human rights activist Helen Mack.
Harris’s three-day trip to Guatemala and Mexico, her first foreign excursion since she took office on Jan. 20, has as its main objective seeking solutions to irregular migration.
She said that we live in an interconnected and interdependent world and what happens abroad impacts US security and prosperity, adding that this is the reason why she is in Guatemala at this time.
Harris, in the presence of Giammattei, said that poverty is what is driving thousands of Guatemalans to leave their country each year and seek better living conditions in the US.
The US vice president said that the majority of people who emigrate don’t want to leave their homeland, and thus Washington will seek solutions for the Guatemalan people, including having US firms invest in the poorest parts of the Central American nation.
Specifically, Giammattei and Harris said that US investment will be made mainly in the western part of the country in the provinces bordering on Mexico where the highest poverty indices are being registered.
According to official figures, 59 percent of the 16.3 million Guatemalans live below the poverty line and one out of every two children suffers from malnutrition.
The other solution to illegal migration being proposed by Harris is the creation of a regional anti-corruption entity under the auspices of the US State Department.
Giammattei, meanwhile, denied participating in corruption in Guatemala, when asked about the matter by a reporter during the press conference, saying “I would like to turn this question back to you of how many cases of corruption have I been accused? I can give you the answer to that, zero.”
The Guatemalan leader is not currently facing any corruption accusations, but more than a dozen of his closest officials are being investigated for corruption, including his former private secretary Giorgio Bruni.
“There are many reasons why this is one of our highest priorities, which I think the people of Guatemala know well and the people of the United States understand well,” Harris said during the news conference, adding “If we are to be effective … (and) true to our principles, we must root out corruption wherever it exists, and that is one of our highest priorities for that reason.”
Harris said that she had had a very frank conversation with Giammattei, going on to reiterate the importance of an independent judiciary in Guatemala and a civil society that has a voice.
According to government figures, in the US there are more than three million Guatemalans, the majority of them here illegally, and each year at least 300,000 people try to get into the US without the proper documents seeking a better life.