In Mexico, Guatemala president urges trade to slow migration

Trade

Guatemala’s President Alejandro Giammattei shakes hands with Mexican Senate President Monica Fernandez Balboa after addressing the senate members in Mexico City, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Guatemala’s new president urged Mexico on Thursday to boost commercial ties between the neighboring nations, arguing that creating more work opportunities is crucial for reducing migration northward toward the United States.

Speaking at the Senate in Mexico City, Alejandro Giammattei said Mexico accounts for just 4% of his country’s international commerce and there is room aplenty for that to grow.

He also lobbied for encouraging tourism to Mayan archaeological sites in both nations and displayed agreement with his Mexican counterpart, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, on the need to work together to develop the region of their shared border and build what Giammattei called “walls of prosperity” to reduce pressure driving migration.

“Our citizens are not deterred by (physical) walls, by laws, by fear,” he told senators during his first visit to Mexico. “The only thing that stops them is security, dignified work and a promising future.”

Giammattei took office Jan. 14.

Guatemala’s President Alejandro Giammattei, center, is applauded by members of Mexico’s Senate after speaking during a senate session in Mexico City, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

His predecessor, Jimmy Morales, struck an agreement with Washington last July to accept asylum-seekers sent there by the United States.

The deal went into effect in November, when Giammattei was still president-elect, and as of Feb. 4 the United States has sent 414 Hondurans and Salvadorans to Guatemala. The vast majority of those then returned to their own countries rather than try for asylum in Guatemala.

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The mission of BorderReport.com is to provide real-time delivery of the untold local stories about people living, working and migrating along the U.S. border with Mexico. The information is gathered by experienced and trusted Nexstar Media Group journalists hired specifically to cover the border.