Guatemala City: US Vice President Kamala Harris said she had held “robust” talks with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei on the need to fight corruption and deter undocumented immigration from Central America to the United States.
Speaking at a news conference with Giammattei, Harris delivered a blunt message to anyone thinking of making the dangerous journey north: “Do not come.”
“We had a robust, candid, and thorough conversation,” Harris said. “The president and I discussed that fundamentally, most people do not want to leave home, they don’t want to leave the place where the language they know is spoken.”
She said that a task force combining resources from the Justice, State, and Treasury departments would work with local prosecutors to punish corrupt actors in Central America.
The US government has been pressing the “Northern Triangle” – El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – to do more to tackle corruption to improve social conditions for its people and make them less eager to emigrate.
But those efforts have been undermined by corruption scandals and resistance to US-backed judges known for their commitment to fighting graft, as well as concerns that the region is drifting towards more authoritarian tendencies.
The Biden administration also unveiled details of another task force of prosecutors to combat human smuggling in Central America and Mexico.
US Attorney General Merrick B Garland said the Joint Task Force Alpha would marshal Justice Department and Homeland Security resources against “the most prolific and dangerous” human smuggling and trafficking groups in the region, according to a statement.
Harris’ Guatemala visit was her first overseas trip as vice president, part of her mission of tackling root causes of migration from Central America to the United States. (The Hindu)