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“I believe, if you come to our border, you will be turned back.”
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris in Guatemala on Monday said she had “robust” talks with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei on the need to fight corruption and deter undocumented immigration to the United States form the Central American nation, where she had one resounding message for those considering making the dangerous journey:
“Do not come. Do not come.”
The vice president, in her first foreign trip, said improving living conditions for Guatemalans at home, fighting corruption, narcotrafficking and smuggling, and encouraging private investment in Guatemala were key to stemming the flow of migrants to the U.S. border.
"The president and I discussed that fundamentally, most people do not want to leave home, they don't want to leave the place where the language they know is spoken."
Harris said a task force combining resources from the Justice, State and Treasury Departments would work with local prosecutors to punish corrupt actors in Central America.
The U.S. government has been pressing the "Northern Triangle" - El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras - to do more to tackle corruption in order to improve social conditions for its people and make them less eager to emigrate.
But those efforts have been undermined by corruption scandals and resistance to U.S.-backed judges known for their commitment to fighting graft, as well as concerns that the region is drifting towards more authoritarian tendencies.
Asked by a reported how he’d reply to critics who accuse his own government of corruption, President Giammattei had this to say:
“I would like to turn this question back to you. How many cases of corruption have I been accused of? I can give you the answer to that. Zero!"
Harris is due to travel to Mexico after Guatemala for talks with the Mexican government on Tuesday.