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News > Guatemala

Morales Wants Guatemala to be 'Safe Third Country'

  • President Jimmy Morales during a meeting of the Central American Integration System in Guatemala City, Guatemala June 5, 2019.

    President Jimmy Morales during a meeting of the Central American Integration System in Guatemala City, Guatemala June 5, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 24 July 2019

The Guatemalan president wants the Constitutional Court to reverse a decision that prohibits the government from negotiating a Washington-designed agreement without the Congress knowing it previously.

In order to comply with the demands of President Donald Trump, Guatemala's President Jimmy Morales Wednesday filed an appeal request at the Constitutional Court (CC) to reverse a provisional injunction that prohibits him from negotiating with the United States to turn his Central American nation into a “safe third country” for migrants.


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"The negotiations to implement a U.S.-Guatemala joint plan to urgently address irregular migration were being consolidated in compliance with our legislation and always ensuring the defense of our sovereignty," Morales said in a message to the nation in which he criticized harshly the decision of the Guatemalan constitutional judges.

Besides paving the way for unprecedented U.S. economic sanctions, the decision of the Constitutional Court to curb the Washington deal undermines "the constitution and the presidential mandate and puts the bilateral relationship with the United States at risk," the Guatemalan president argued.

Last week, Morales was expected to sign an agreement in Washington that would have made his country act as an asylum buffer zone to reduce migratory flows to the United States.

On July 14, however, his country's Constitutional Court granted a provisional relief to three citizen requests who rejected the agreement to make Guatemala a "safe third country," that is, a territory to which the United States could send migrants while they wait for U.S. authorities to process their asylum applications.

"The Constitutional Court ordered the provisional relief requested by the petitioners," the CC secretary Martin Guzman said on July 15, explaining that the constitution prevents the Guatemalan president from signing such agreements prior to Congressional approval and knowledge.

In response to the decision of the Guatemalan judicial authorities, the U.S. president threatened a ban, tariffs and remittance fees against the Central American country.

"Guatemala ... has decided to break the deal they had with us on signing a necessary Safe Third Agreement. We were ready to go," Trump tweeted on Tuesday.

The U.S. wants Guatemala or Mexico to take in asylum seekers who would otherwise apply in at the U.S. territory. The Trump administration proposal, however, has been widely criticized for endangering vulnerable migrants.

Guatemala, which is one of the poorest Latin American nations with high rates of violence, is itself one of the main sources of thousands of migrants who are seeking to go to the U.S. to escape violence and better their lives. 

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