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Guatemala's president-elect: Migrant deal with U.S. won't work

President-elect Alejandro Giammattei speaks during a interview with AFP in Guatemala City on August 12, 2019.
Guatemala's President-elect Alejandro Giammattei during an interview in Guatemala City on Monday. Photo: Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images

The current Guatemalan government's "safe third country" asylum agreement with the Trump administration won't work because Guatemala doesn't have the resources, President-elect Alejandro Giammattei told AP in an interview published Wednesday.

"In order to be a safe country, one has to be certified as such by an international body, and I do not think Guatemala fulfills the requirements to be a third safe country. That definition doesn’t fit us."
— Guatemala's President-elect Alejandro Giammattei to AP

The state of play: Giammattei pointed out to AP that the deal would have to be ratified by Congress in both countries to come into effect.

The big picture: Outgoing President Jimmy Morales signed the deal after President Trump threatened tariffs and remittance taxes. It is aimed at reducing the number of asylum-seekers arriving at the southern border, but it's been widely criticized in Guatemala.

  • In his interview with AP, Giammattei pledged to recognize the importance of Guatemalan migrants living in the U.S. by creating a Washington-based Cabinet-level position on migrant affairs. He said U.S.-based migrants were supporting Guatemala with the remittance money they sent back to relatives in the country.
"I do not think physical walls, or walls of weapons, can stop migration. I think what can stop migration are walls of opportunities."

What's next? Giammattei is due to take office on Jan. 14. He told AP that annexes to the immigration deal were being negotiated with the U.S. and that he would ask Morales to include transition team members in the talks.

Go deeper: Guatemalan election could upend Trump’s migration deal