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News > Guatemala

US Security Secretary Meets Guatemalan Presidential Candidates

  • U.S. Homeland Security acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan holds a news conference in Guatemala City, Guatemala August 1, 2019.

    U.S. Homeland Security acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan holds a news conference in Guatemala City, Guatemala August 1, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 1 August 2019
Opinion

The "Safe Third Country" Agreement is the issue that concerns local politicians the most.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan held private meetings on Wednesday with the two candidates who will fight for the presidency of Guatemala in the second round of elections to be held on August 11.

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Behind closed doors, U.S. high-level official received the candidate of the center-right party Vamos, Alejandro Giammattei, who expressed his concern about the "Safe Third Country" (STC) agreement signed by President Jimmy Morales administration in Washington, D.C., on July 26.

"We don't see a roadmap. We asked to be part of the negotiation team," Giammattei said and commented that the U.S. Secretary promised more information as soon as the agreement implementation plan were ready.

Through various protest actions, Guatemalans have expressed their rejection of the secrecy with which the Morales administration has managed so far the real scope of the STC agreement.

On July 29, for instance, Guatemala’s Human Rights Prosecutor Jordan Rodas filed an appeal to the Constitutional Court to curb an agreement that will allow the U.S. to send migrants to this Central American country to wait there until U.S. authorities process their asylum applications.

"That one flag is on the other is very symbolic."

During a press conference, Giammattei, who declined to answer if he would support that agreement if he becomes president, questioned Morales for negotiating a deal under total "secrecy."

"We cannot define a position if we don't know what is really behind it," Giammattei said and added, "we are all in such crossroads."

On Wednesday night, McAleenan met with Sandra Torres, the social-democratic candidate of the National Unity of Hope party, who told the U.S. official that the STC agreement must be approved by the Guatemalan Congress.

"We also talked about improving conditions, here in Guatemala, with foreign investments," she said adding that McAleenan congratulated her country for having social policies that prevent migration.

On Thursday, in a message to the media in which McAleenan did not accept questions, the DHS secretary said that President Donald Trump administration is seeking to talk with the rest of Central American countries to support the STC agreement, which is "a regional responsibility."

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