Vice President Kamala Harris faces a major test of her diplomatic skills on Monday when she meets Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei as part of her efforts to tackle the root causes of migration to the United States of the region.
The meeting comes as the Biden administration is expected to announce new anti-trafficking and smuggling measures, and also hopes to implement new anti-corruption measures on Monday, according to a senior administration official who said. is expressed on condition of anonymity to preview ads before they have been made public. Harris is visiting Guatemala and Mexico as part of her role in dealing diplomatically with irregular migration to the United States, and she will meet with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Tuesday.
With Giammattei, Harris should discuss everything from vaccine sharing to the economic development of Guatemala. But the country’s widespread corruption will weigh on their conversations, even as Harris seeks new deals with Giammattei to help stem the peak in migration.
Non-governmental organizations put widespread corruption in Guatemala at the top of their concerns ahead of Harris’ visit. Last month, two lawyers who openly criticize Giammattei’s administration were arrested on what they say are trumped-up charges aimed at silencing them.
Selection of judges for Constitutional Court of Guatemala, his highest, was mired in influence peddling and corruption allegations. Giammattei chose his chief of staff to fill one of the five vacant posts. When Gloria Porras, a respected force against corruption, was elected for a second term, Giammattei’s party-controlled congress refused to sit on it.
“Corruption really undermines the wealth of any country, and in Central America it is on a scale where it makes up a significant percentage of the region’s GDP,” said special correspondent Ricardo Zúñiga. “We see corruption as one of the most important root causes to address. “
In addition to meeting Giammattei on Monday morning, Harris will participate in a panel discussion with Guatemalan community and civil society leaders, and she will meet young innovators and entrepreneurs, including a number of women entrepreneurs.
In addressing the root causes of migration, Harris has defined an approach centered on creating better opportunities and living conditions in the region through humanitarian and economic assistance. She focused many of her public events and listening sessions leading up to this visit on working with civil society organizations and international businesses, which her staff say is recognition that the improvement work of the situation in the region cannot be accomplished by its governments alone.
Harris has announced plans to send $ 310 million to help refugees and tackle food shortages, and she recently obtained commitments a dozen companies and organizations to invest in the countries of the North Triangle to promote economic opportunities and professional training.
Washington gained goodwill through its vaccine diplomacy last week. Giammattei and López Obrador both received calls from Harris on Thursday telling them the United States would send 500,000 doses and 1 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, respectively.
But Harris collaborators say corruption will continue to be at the center of his bilateral meetings with Giammattei and López Obrador.
While in Latin America, Harris will also have to navigate immigration policy. Republicans in Congress have criticized both President Joe Biden and Harris for deciding not to visit the US-Mexico border, and claim the administration is ignoring what they say is a crisis there. April was the second busiest month on record for unaccompanied children encountered at the border, after the historic peak in March. The total number of Border Patrol encounters in April increased 3% from March, marking the highest level since April 2000.
The Conservatives will be watching Harris closely for any missteps, hoping to embroil him in further controversy over an issue they see as a political winner.
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