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  • U.S. Congresswoman Norma Torres at a news conference in Guatemala City, Guatemala August 8, 2019.

    U.S. Congresswoman Norma Torres at a news conference in Guatemala City, Guatemala August 8, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 9 August 2019

As recent history has shown, the state's weak commitment to the defense of human rights makes Guatemala an unsuitable country to accommodate thousands of migrants.

U.S. Congresswoman Norma Torres (D-CA) said Thursday that Guatemala does not have the capacity nor the conditions to become a “Safe Third Country” (STC) because it is not able to accommodate asylum seekers that the United States would send to stay there while they process their immigration requests.

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"I believe that I have been very clear in my opinion about this ... Guatemala is not prepared to receive thousands of people," Torres said during a press conference, accompanied by twelve U.S. congressmen who are visiting El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

Last month, under the threat of economic sanctions, President Jimmy Morales struck a deal with U.S. President Donald Trump to transform Guatemala into an STC.

In addition to the fact that this deal was not previously approved by the Guatemalan congress, such a  transformation has been widely criticized by human rights defenders working who work at a country where civil war crimes (1960 to 1996) still remain unpunished.

Critics of the Morales-Trump agreement also argue that Guatemala does not have economic resources and suffers from high levels of poverty and violence, which makes it unsuitable for receiving asylum seekers than the U.S. does not want them to remain in its territory.

At the press conference, Torres recalled with tears the work of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), a UN-backed human rights organization, that must leave the country on Sep. 3. This will happen because President Morales did not renew its contract claiming that the CICIG had exceeded its functions.

"It's very hard to say goodbye," the U.S. Congresswoman said and asked the people to continue supporting and protecting human rights defenders because "without justice there is no Guatemalan dream in Guatemala."

Created to dismantle the State-related clandestine paramilitary forces, the CICIG maintained issues with the current right-wing government due to investigations involving President Morales and his family.

Torres also said that Guatemala's next president should create an organization similar to CICIG. On next Sunday, Guatemalans will attend the polls to choose between two candidates: the right-wing Alejandro Giammattei and the social democrat Sandra Torres.

The U.S. Congress delegation that traveled to Central America included Nancy Pelosi, Eliot Engel, Nydia Velazquez, Jim McGovern, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Henry Cuellar, Aumua Amata Coleman, Norma Torres, Anthony Brown, Mary Gay Scanlon, Jesus Garcia, Kattie Hill and Lauren Underwood.

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