Harris takes on graft in Guatemala and tells migrants ‘do not come’
Jun 08 2021
Harris, during a television interview from Guatemala that aired Tuesday, brushed off criticism about not having visited the U.S. -Mexico border as vice president, telling NBC's Lester Holt that she hasn't been to Europe yet, either.
Harris's national security adviser, Ambassador Nancy McEldowny, told CNN that Harris chose Guatemala as the destination for her first foreign trip as a sign that Central America is among her top agenda items.
She rejected Republican criticism of the fact that neither she nor Biden had visited the USA southern border, saying she had come to Central America to discuss matters in a "way that is significant and has real results" rather than making "grand gestures".
Harris also said a US anti-corruption task force would work with local prosecutors to punish corrupt actors in the region.
Harris discussed sharing COVID-19 vaccines with Guatemala during the meeting, she said.
Speaking in Guatemala City, Harris said her trip and President Joe Biden's first trip overseas later this week are reflections of their administration's intention to rebuild relationships with allies.
Giammattei defended his own record in fighting malfeasance, saying he had not been accused of wrongdoing and saying graft was not only a problem faced by politicians. "What fight against corruption is she talking about?"
Most Guatemalan migrants leave because of poverty, he said, and come from a few rural municipalities.
Holt noted that Republicans have repeatedly criticized Harris for not visiting the border herself and that even a Democratic congressman has suggested she would benefit from an on-the-ground perspective.
"There is not going to be a quick fix", she said.
"I care about this and I care about what's happening at the border". There are legal methods by which migration can and should occur. She said the United States has contributed to regime change and destabilization in Latin America for decades.
More recently, the U.S. -financed, U.N. Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala helped bring down democratically elected conservative President Otto Perez Molina, a former general, who resigned after massive protests triggered by an investigation into corruption in his government.
Harris talked about the creation of a task force to crack down on smuggling and human trafficking, and said, "The underlying reason for so much of what we are seeing in terms of this level and type of corruption is about profit".
The group will complement the efforts to build cases against corrupt actors in the region, the statement said.
She is also schedueld to engage in events with Guatemalan community leaders and entrepreneurs. The White House announced a $7.5 million commitment through USAID to support entrepreneurs in Guatemala, as well as millions more in investments in affordable housing, agri-businesses and loans to small businesses.