Migrants: Kamala Harris wants to bring message of “hope” to Mexico and Guatemala

Kamala Harris arrived in Guatemala on Sunday, before heading to Mexico, a first international trip for the American vice-president who says she wants to “give hope” to a region where the majority of migrants arriving at the border come from. southern United States.

Charged by Joe Biden in March with the sensitive issue of illegal immigration, the former presidential candidate has so far remained in the background on this thorny issue, and more generally discreet since his arrival at the White House on January 20.

She now wants to develop a comprehensive strategy to tackle the causes of the influx of thousands of migrants which complicates the start of the Democratic president’s mandate.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, June 2, 2021 in San José, Costa Rica (POOL / AFP / Archives – EVELYN HOCKSTEIN)

A “difficult” task, according to Michael Shifter, president of the think tank Inter-American Dialogue.

“We have to give people a feeling of hope, that the aid is arriving, that if they stay (in their countries of origin), it will improve”, insists the ex-senator from California.

– “Very frank conversations” –

After a technical problem that forced her plane to turn around just after takeoff, the vice-president finally landed at the air base south of Guatemala, where she was greeted by the Guatemalan foreign minister. Pedro Brolo, before a meeting scheduled for Monday with President Alejandro Giammattei.

Demonstrators protest against the visit of US Vice President Kamala Harris to Guatemala on June 6, 2021 (AFP - Johan ORDONEZ)
Demonstrators protest against the visit of US Vice President Kamala Harris to Guatemala on June 6, 2021 (AFP – Johan ORDONEZ)

Outside the base, around thirty people, mostly former right-wing soldiers, sympathizers of former President Donald Trump, demonstrated against this visit with cries of “Kamala, outside” or “Kamala, get involved. of your business “.

On Tuesday, the Vice-President will be in Mexico to meet with President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

She will also meet with representatives of civil society, and union and employer leaders, says her team.

Kamala Harris said she wanted to have “very frank and honest conversations” about “the need” to tackle corruption, crime and violence in Guatemala, especially when these evils target “some of the most vulnerable populations”.

She “says what she thinks, which is good. She is frank,” admitted the Guatemalan president on CBS, in an interview broadcast on Sunday.

Arrests at the border between Mexico and the United States (AFP / Archives -)
Arrests at the border between Mexico and the United States (AFP / Archives -)

For the Mexican Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marcelo Ebrard, it will mainly be a question of finding agreements “to accelerate the growth of investments and social welfare in southern Mexico, as well as in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. , so that emigration is only an option and not an obligation because of poverty and insecurity “.

The number of undocumented migrants arrested at the border between Mexico and the United States reached in April its highest level in 15 years.

Among these more than 178,600 migrants, including minors who arrived alone, 82% came from Mexico and the “northern triangle” of Central America – Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

– Vaccines –

The millions of doses of anti-Covid vaccines promised by Washington to Latin America should also be mentioned.

Children of migrants from Honduras and El Salvador (d), on a stopover at Houston airport, March 30, 2021, a few days after crossing the Rio Grande (AFP - Ed JONES)
Children of migrants from Honduras and El Salvador (d), on a stopover at Houston airport, March 30, 2021, a few days after crossing the Rio Grande (AFP – Ed JONES)

Kamala Harris warned the Guatemalan and Mexican heads of state directly by telephone on Thursday, just before Joe Biden announced that a first tranche of six million doses would be distributed in Latin America and the Caribbean through the Covax mechanism, and that another six million would be delivered directly by Washington to partner countries such as Mexico, Canada or Egypt.

“A real commitment” on the quantity of vaccines to be sent to the countries of the northern triangle “would be a very positive result” of the trip of Mrs. Harris, judge Rebecca Bill Chavez, expert in the questions of security and democracy.

The vice-president’s tour is part of Joe Biden’s promise to adopt a more “humane” migration policy after the harsh approach of his predecessor Donald Trump.

But the challenges facing Kamala Harris seem more complex than those faced by the Democratic president when he was in charge of the same file, as Barack Obama’s number two (2009-2017).

A group of migrants near the border between Mexico and the United States, May 16, 2021 in Del Rio, Texas (AFP / Archives - Sergio FLORES)
A group of migrants near the border between Mexico and the United States, May 16, 2021 in Del Rio, Texas (AFP / Archives – Sergio FLORES)

“Conditions have deteriorated considerably since 2014,” confirms Michael Shifter, according to whom the pandemic has greatly aggravated the economic situation and the violence. The task of the former prosecutor therefore promises to be “much more difficult”, with “much more problematic partners”.

Several politicians in the “northern triangle” were named in May by the Biden administration as “corrupt officials”.

And Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez has been implicated in a New York court in connection with his brother’s conviction for cocaine trafficking in the United States.

The Republican opposition, she accuses Joe Biden of being responsible for a “border catastrophe”, affirming that he has created a real breath of fresh air by relaxing the migration policies of his predecessor.


Source: Challenges en temps réel : accueil by www.challenges.fr.

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