GUATEMALA CITY – During her first overseas trip as Vice President, Kamala Harris detailed efforts to combat human trafficking and corruption in Guatemala in order to prevent increased migration that has become one of the more politically controversial issues of the Biden administration.
The trip is an early but crucial test for a vice president with clear ambitions for higher office who is currently faced with the complex challenge of breaking a cycle of migration from a corruption-ridden region.
Ms. Harris met with President Alejandro Giammattei on Monday and made her priorities clear.
“Most people don’t want to leave the place where they grew up. Your grandmother. The place where they prayed. The place where their language is spoken is familiar to their culture, ”said Ms. Harris. “And when they leave it usually has two reasons. They either flee from harm or they simply cannot meet their basic needs. “
Ms. Harris was tapped by President Biden to invest in the area to deter those in need of the dangerous journey north. Ms. Harris has already committed to sending $ 310 million to the region, part of a four-year $ 4 billion plan to improve Central America’s economy that is at the heart of the Biden administration’s strategy to deter migration . Last month, Ms. Harris’ team announced engagements from a dozen private companies, including Mastercard and Microsoft, to develop the economy in Central America.
The government will also set up new facilities across Guatemala where people can learn about asylum protection in the Central American region instead of traveling to the US border.
Mr Giammattei said the two governments need to find common ground to work together.
“From now on I offer you the best historical relationship there can be between the United States and Guatemala, where you will find a country that wants to cooperate, a country that wants to combine its efforts,” he said.
However, questions remain as to how Ms. Harris will ensure that US aid reaches those who need it most as it works with a Guatemalan government that continues to target anti-corruption organizations. Foreign Minister Antony J. Blinken has expressed concern to the Guatemalan government about its criticism of a senior prosecutor in the region. Mr Giammattei has that. accused Prosecutor for a Left Agenda.
Ms. Harris has faced political attack from Republicans for her role in working with Central American countries. At a recent press conference, a group of Republicans showed off a milk carton that had been mocked to display a picture of Ms. Harris with the headline “MISSING AT THE BORDER.”
The Biden government expects this year to have the most encounters on the border in two decades.