Guatemalan president: 'I don't believe the US is an ally to Guatemala'

Guatemalan president: 'I don't believe the US is an ally to Guatemala'
© Bonnie Cash

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said Thursday that the United States does not respect the Central American country.

Speaking via Zoom with Jason Marczak, director of the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center, Giammattei was sharply critical of the United States for withholding aid from Guatemala during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Guatemala is an ally of the United States, but I don’t believe the U.S. is an ally to Guatemala, because they don’t treat us like one,” said Giammattei.

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“We’ve seen how they’ve assisted other countries with ventilators, and we haven’t even gotten a dime from them — not even one single mask from the United States. We don’t feel appreciated.”

Although Guatemala has not officially received aid from the United States, the country has received at least 119 deportees who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Deportation flights — based on a bilateral agreement signed by Giammattei's predecessor — were controversial before the pandemic.

Guatemala has on several occasions ordered the flights halted due to coronavirus fears, only to have the flights reinstated with assurances from U.S. officials.

Giammattei, who assumed office in January, campaigned partly on rescinding the deportation agreement, modeled after the "safe third country" agreement in place between the United States and Canada.

Guatemala was one of the first countries in the hemisphere to enact social distancing measures, but Giammattei said his government was aware that even those measures would have limited effectiveness, given the state of the country's health care system.

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Fears of importing infection through deportation flights have grown in Guatemala, to the point where people have ostracized newly arrived migrants as potential carriers of the coronavirus, reported Voice of America.

Giammattei hinted at negligence by U.S. officials by not effectively filtering infected migrants from deportation flights.

"We understand the United States wants to deport people, but what we don’t understand is that they send the flights all contaminated," said Giammattei.