The two sides discussed a number of issues, among them the fight against corruption and the problem of immigration.
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said she had “serious talks” with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei about the need to fight corruption and help curb illegal immigration from Central America to the United States.
In a press conference with Giammattei, Harris said the U.S. task force will work with local prosecutors to bring corrupt individuals in the region to justice.
The Biden administration has identified corruption as a major cause of poverty and violence that has prompted record numbers of Central Americans to leave for the United States.
Ahead of Harris’s visit to Guatemala, her first official trip abroad, there was controversy over the fight against bribery, with anti-corruption fighters, whom Washington supports, criticized by Jammattei.
“We had a serious, frank and thorough conversation,” the U.S. vice president told a news conference after a three-hour meeting with Giammatthei.
“The president and I discussed the importance of fighting corruption and the importance of an independent judiciary,” Kamala Harris said.
Information about the creation of an anti-corruption task force has come before. Kamala Harris provided more details, saying the group would combine the capabilities of the Justice Department, the State Department and the U.S. Treasury Department.
Jammattei defended his own experience in fighting corruption, noting that he had not been accused of wrongdoing and that bribery was not just a problem for politicians. The fight against drug trafficking should be an integral part of the fight against corruption, he said.
On immigration, the Guatemalan president announced the creation of a new processing center for migrants returned from Mexico and the U.S., which could increase capacity. He said the focus of the two countries should be on ensuring prosperity.
He said most Guatemalan migrants leave because of poverty from several rural municipalities. Harris said Guatemalans should not make the perilous journey north.
“Don’t come. The United States will continue to enforce its laws and secure its borders,” she said. If you come to our border, you will be turned back.
Harris will also meet with civil society and business leaders before traveling to Mexico. Priorities include economic development, climate and food insecurity, and women’s issues, according to the White House.
Vice President Harris confirmed that the United States will deliver half a million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Guatemala and provide $26 million to fight the pandemic.