Exclusive: Guatemala Election Winner Hopes to Change Trump Migrant Deal

Jose Cabezas/Reuters

The winner of Guatemala’s presidential election, Alejandro Giammattei, said on Sunday he hoped he could make changes to a controversial migration deal the Central American country signed with the Trump administration last month.

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

Giammattei will not take office until January, by which time Guatemala may be under severe pressure from the deal that effectively turns the country into a buffer zone, by forcing migrants to seek refuge there rather than in the United States.

“I hope that during this transition the doors will open to get more information so we can see what, from a diplomatic point of view, we can do to remove from this deal the things that are not right for us, or how we can come to an agreement with the United States,” Giammattei, 63, said in the interview.

Threatened with economic sanctions if he said no, Morales reached an accord in late July to make Guatemala a so-called safe third country for migrants, despite the endemic poverty and violence plaguing the Central American nation.

“It’s not right for the country,” Giammattei said of the deal. “If we don’t have the capacity to look after our own people, imagine what it will be like for foreigners.”

The agreement is also highly unpopular in Guatemala.

A poll published this week by Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre showed more than eight out of 10 respondents rejected the idea of the country accepting foreign migrants seeking asylum.

Giammattei noted that since a U.S. judge had already suspended a separate safe third country accord, there was a chance that the deal with Guatemala could change.

“We’ll have to see what happens in the United States with the federal judge’s decision. The most likely outcome is that the United States will have to modify … the deal,” he said, also noting Guatemala’s Congress would need to be consulted.

In July, a U.S. federal judge in California blocked a Trump administration rule that would bar asylum applications at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Prior to the accord president Morales signed, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court said Congress, which is in recess, needed to be consulted on any safe third country deal.

But when Trump threatened to impose tariffs on Guatemalan exports, and to levy charges on billions of dollars in remittances sent home by Guatemalans living in the United States if he failed to sign the migration deal, Morales relented.

Three million Guatemalans live and work in the United States, which is also the country’s main trading partner.

Giammattei also said he doubted that migrants would be willing to comply with the deal.

“They are looking for asylum in the United States,” he said. “I don’t think there are a lot of people from El Salvador and Honduras who want to seek asylum in Guatemala, especially if they are fleeing poverty.”

To address the migration problem, Giammattei has pledged to build a “wall of investment” along Guatemala’s impoverished border region with Mexico as a means of promoting economic development and encouraging people to stay at home.

Giammattei, a veteran bureaucrat, had lost his three previous bids for the presidency.

But he defeated his center-left rival, former first lady Sandra Torres, by a landslide, winning more than 58% of the vote, preliminary results showed.

(Reporting by Sofia Menchu and Diego Oré; Writing by Stefanie Eschenbacher and Delphine Schrank; Editing by Dave Graham and Stephen Coates)

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“If we don’t have the capacity to look after our own people, imagine what it will be like for foreigners.” Who said this? Besides the newly elected President of Guatemala? Every American with half a brain.

Bonnie Keever

But it is ok for your people to come to our country illegally fix your country the us is not responsible for other countries

General Confusion

“US policy might play a large hand in the overall problem but by no means is it responsible for the base evil (greed and lust for power) that is at the root.” Morte206

There you go again losing credit.

And which country has the GREATEST greed and the GREATEST lust for power in the region? None other than US.

MariaRose Randazzo

Guatemala needs to create a viable economy without needing foreign aid to do it, that is where the problem lies. There is no reason that there are so needy people in those countries unless nothing is being done to develop the country to support itself. And I don’t mean developing drug cartels who trade people as a commodity.


Great leader. Not.

Outside of crippling your economy you might consider turning back the refugees or making them leave. Is it more important to take care of your own people (you know, the ones who elected you) or a bunch of uninvited strangers?


GC: an interesting article indeed and i do thank you for the link.
I suppose n some level it comes down to personal responsibility. Did the US exploit native political scum bags? Yes. Did they make them scum bags in the first place? Probably not.

US policy might play a large hand in the overall problem but by no means is it responsible for the base evil (greed and lust for power) that is at the root.
A base evil every society has must combat for itself not punt on to others.


Was that because Nancy Pelosi just went down there and tried to undo Trumps deal? The Democrats desperately want these migrants, who have little or no education, to come into the US because they will be dependent on the government to survive and therefor Democrats,


All politicians make promises while running but most do not not come to fruition because of opposition.





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