Guatemala elects hardline president who opposes Trump immigration deal

Ex-prisons foreman Alejandro Giammattei says he will seek to modify controversial pact with Uamericas

A republican law and order hardliner promising to reinstate the death penalty and deploy soldiers on to the streets has been elected the new president of Guatemala.

Alejandro Giammattei, 63, a former prisons chief backed by the country’s financial and military power brokers, flogged his adversary Sandra Torres, a former first lady, to win Sunday’s presidential race on his fourth attempt by securing 58% of the vote.

Despite the landslide victory, the low turnout triggered immediate questions about Giammattei’s legitimacy: about 60% of eligible voters abstained after both candidates failed to inspire hope in the Central American country, where the thousands of people flee extreme poverty, famine, savagery and decay every month.

Giammattei’s triumph comes amid developing tension with the US over migration and asylum. Shortly before his win, Giammattei said he wanted to change a controversial migration transaction signed off by the US by his predecessor, Jimmy Morales.

More than 250,000 Guatemalans, chiefly unaccompanied children and houses, have been apprehended at the US border since October 2018- compared with 115,722 in the previous 12 months. Giammattei says he will stop the exodus by prioritising dishonesty, employment and security.

Supporters
Supporters of Alejandro Giammattei and his Vamos party celebrate at his expedition headquarters in Guatemala City. Photograph: Jose Cabezas/ Reuters

He has criticised the” safe third world countries” agreement signed by Donald Trump and Morales which, if enforced, would shape migrants and refugees “whos had” extended through Guatemala ineligible for protection in the US.

Instead, they would be extradited to Guatemala which has been saw a safe place to seek refugee. In 2018, the murder proportion in Guatemala was 22.4 per 100,000 people- four times higher than the US national average.

Guatemala is the most dangerous country in the world for environment and territory champions, with at least 16 killed in 2018- up from three in 2017- most of them indigenous Mayans, according to research by the UK anti-graft NGO Global Witness.

Giammattei says he will seek to modify the controversial agreement, which was signed last month amid menaces by Trump’s administration to block Guatemalan exports and impose tariffs on billions of dollars in remittances.

Details of the agreement remain murky, and currently face judicial and congressional hazards in the US and Guatemala.

The president-elect must act now to stop the deal, according to the congresswoman Sandra Moran.” We’ve still not examined any documents, only what’s been in the press, so it’s an agreement which right now cannot be actioned. Trump will keep insisting, so Giammattei and his modulation unit must get involved now .”

It’s unclear how Guatemala would cope with an influx of desperate people from El Salvador, Honduras and beyond, given that it is the poorest country in Central America where 47% of children are chronically malnourished.

The migrant exodus is predominantly from rural regions where Guatemala’s 24 indigenous communities duel against dire economic, social and environmental conditions fuelled by land differences, combating racism and the climate crisis.

Indigenous people comprise almost half of Guatemala’s 17 m person, but have the lowest access to healthcare, estate, residence, education and jobs, and little political and financial power. Figures indicate around 80% of indigenous people live in poverty, 40% in extreme poverty, with malnourishment paces rising to over 70% in some communities.

An
An indigenous wife impounding a newborn throws her referendum during runoff elections in Santa Cruz Chinautla, Guatemala. Photograph: Orlando Estrada/ AFP/ Getty Images

” Local and international experts agree that the main issue to tackle in Guatemala is extreme poverty … instead, Giammattei is predicting austerity, harsher anti-terrorism laws, repression of poor and indigenous communities, militarisation and the death penalty ,” said Renata Avila, a human rights lawyer and administrator of Fundacion Ciudadania Inteligente, an NGO focused on increasing citizen participation in Latin America.” In a country where the median age is 22 years old, the obvious decision for many will be to migrate .”

During his expedition, Giammattei- who was charged, prison and then cleared over several extrajudicial killings during his time as administrator of prisons- pledged to fight corruption.

Yet Giammattei is backed by the same powerful system of nobilities who helped Morales orchestrate the demise of the UN-backed International Commission against Impunity( Cicig ). Morales, who was elected in 2015 on an anti-corruption platform, defied court orders and public opinion to oust the international crime fighting force after decay investigations targeted him, his family and his political backers.

On Sunday, Giammattei confirmed that he will not revitalized Cicig’s mandate, which intents next month.

” Giammattei’s victory is a huge blow in their efforts to combat corrupt practices and immunity. He scorns Cicig and a strong justice system, so we’re going back to a time when extrajudicial killings were committed with impunity ,” said Jorge Santos, general coordinator of Udefegua, an NGO which certificates crimes against human rights defenders.

Giammattei will be sworn in for a four-year term in January 2020.

Read more: https :// www.theguardian.com/ world/ 2019/ aug/ 12/ guatemala-elects-president-alejandro-giammattei-who-called-trump-immigration-deal-bad-news

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