US looks to work with new Guatemala president on migration


WASHINGTON, Aug 13, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – The United States on Monday
congratulated Alejandro Giammattei on winning Guatemala’s presidential
election and pledged to work with him on halting migration from the Central
American country.

Giammattei, a conservative, defeated former first lady Sandra Torres in a
run-off Sunday, garnering more than 58 percent of the vote.

“The United States shares a deep, historic relationship with Guatemala and
looks forward to continuing our close partnership on a number of areas of
mutual national interest, including addressing the underlying conditions
driving irregular migration,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a

Giammattei will take over in January from corruption-tainted President
Jimmy Morales, who congratulated his successor after the vote and promised a
“transparent and orderly” transition.

He will be under immense pressure from the US to implement a controversial
migration pact that would allow Washington to send most Honduran and
Salvadoran asylum seekers who passed through Guatemala back to the poor,
crime-ridden country.

Giammattei has avoided taking a strong position on the US deal, which has
been the subject of criticism in Guatemala.

A poll commissioned by the Prensa Libre newspaper found that 82 percent of
those surveyed opposed it.

But US President Donald Trump had threatened Guatemala with a travel ban,
tariffs and a tax on remittances if it did not yield.

More than 250,000 Guatemalans were detained between October 2018 and July
this year for trying to enter the US illegally, the American embassy said.

Almost 60 percent of Guatemala’s 17.7 million citizens live in poverty,
and the country has one of the highest murder rates in the world.

A 63-year-old doctor, Giammattei has vowed to fight criminals and drug
traffickers with “testosterone” and restore the death penalty.