U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is betting on Guatemala alone to help manage the ongoing migrant surge fueled mainly by Central Americans.
Harris is leaning on Guatemala because the country is “willing to talk about the tough issues, and it’s not Honduras or El Salvador,” Politico reported on Sunday.
The Central American region known as the Northern Triangle, which encompasses Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, is the primary source of the large influx of migrants at the U.S. southern border.
So far, Harris appears more inclined to work with similar-minded civil society leaders in Central America, where the Biden administration has close ties to left-of-center progressive groups than the elected governments.
Echoing his Guatemalan counterpart, Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele, who worked with the previous U.S. administration to limit migration from Central America, indicated that such policies incentivize Central Americans to leave their homeland, drawing the ire of Democrats.
Politico asserted that there are not “a lot of options” for VP Harris to partner with government leaders in the region to stem migration to the United States, adding:
The president of Honduras has been tied to the country’s drug-trafficking industry by U.S. federal prosecutors. El Salvador’s president is an authoritarian, whose allies recently dismissed five Supreme Court justices as well as the attorney general to seize control of the top court.
That’s why Harris is leaning on Guatemala as the best hope for making early progress in her efforts to address the poverty, corruption, violence, and other destabilizing conditions that are driving thousands of people to migrate north and seek refuge in the United States.
For now, the administration is most optimistic about Guatemala as the place to make headway, not because it’s absent of corruption, but simply because it’s willing to talk about the tough issues. And it’s not Honduras or El Salvador.
Harris will take her first international trip as Vice President in early June to meet with the presidents of Guatemala and Mexico to discuss migration issues.
Migrants from El Salvador and Honduras must transit through Guatemala and Mexico to reach the United States.
President Joe Biden has tasked his VP with addressing what his administration considers the “root causes” of migration from Mexico and Central America’s Northern Triangle region, including climate change.
However, Breitbart News has repeatedly reported that Harris has chosen to discuss the situation with the governments of Mexico and Guatemala alone, leaving out El Salvador and Honduras.
The Biden administration, for its part, acknowledges that conditions on the ground aren’t right in Honduras and El Salvador at the moment for the vice president to focus there. A senior administration official said the focus at the senior level is on engagement with Guatemala and Mexico, where they are “building out a very positive agenda of collaboration” with the two countries.
“It is not the right moment, we believe, for [a] very senior-level engagement with El Salvador and Honduras,” a senior administration official told the news outlet. “Lower level engagements are underway,” the official added, and that’s the level that, “we think is appropriate for right now.”
The U.S. special envoy for the Northern Triangle, Ricardo Zuniga, has reportedly led the lower-level engagements.
Citing widespread corruption in the region, Politico reported that the Biden administration is trying to work with the regional governments and civil society leaders in Central America to stem the migration surge.
In his immigration reform bill, Biden proposed appropriating $4 billion to address the root causes of migration from the Northern Triangle.
Officials and lawmakers have reportedly said that the funds to the governments would come along with strict conditions to ensure the money is not misspent.
“Administration officials, lawmakers, and experts point to this effort to build partnerships beyond the governments as a major lesson from the Obama years, when Biden was tapped to lead the same diplomatic efforts that Harris now is,” Politico pointed out.
Harris already met some of those leaders from Guatemala, including some deemed corrupt by their governments.
Last week, Harris met with four “like-minded” women “justice leaders,” including two former Guatemalan chief prosecutors and two top judges,” the Associated (AP) noted.
Harris’s meeting likely made Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei uncomfortable weeks ahead of their in-person meeting, as some of the women whom Harris met live in exile at the moment to stay safe allegedly, AP added.