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The U.S. government must urgently prioritize the fight against corruption and assume the consequences

Originally published in El Periodico on September 4, 2021

One of the objectives of Joe Biden’s administration is to reduce migration and try to stop the unstoppable waves of migrants leaving Guatemala and other Central American countries on a daily basis. In the case of Guatemala, to achieve this, the U.S. government must urgently prioritize the fight against government corruption that is bleeding the country dry. Corruption has taken hold in the heart of the government itself.

Guatemala is led by a most incompetent character, Alejandro Giammattei, who is a heartless, malicious, repressive loudmouth, and above all corrupt, and who has handed over the country’s institutions to national and international thieves. Mafia-like actors that now live, act, and plunder with despotic impunity because they are protected by operating within the system they have created. 

Considering this national dysfunction, trying  to limit migration, especially that of unaccompanied minors fleeing Guatemala, turns out to be complex and almost unachievable. The idea remains a construct of the discursive utopia of government bureaucrats.  Given this day to day reality, it is neither actually nor economically feasible to provide an immediate solution to the systemic, interwoven causes that have left only one way out – for people to migrate to the north.  

On the other hand, reaching the objective to limit migration turns out to be a winding and fraught road, because U.S. government officials have decided to continue negotiating with the Giammattei government, who represents those actors responsible for the economic, political and health chaos Guatemala is mired in.

This decision is hard to understand at this historical moment since the Biden administration, like none other,  has the support of a multitude of public and private institutions, universities, think tanks, churches,  and foundations, among others, that work in the U.S. and across Central America. They are not only reporting on the current situation, but also proposing feasible alternatives to the current human displacement, which is expelling communities from the Central American and Caribbean region at an unprecedented rate. 

So President Biden and his cabinet know, based on all of the information generated by the multiple institutions that support them, that Guatemalan migration, which is mostly indigenous, cannot be stopped unless the U.S. government decides to confront those who sustain the systems and cycles of inequity in Guatemala. 

If the Biden administration fails to do so and continues to sit down and negotiate with the corrupt themselves, then the U.S. government should not criminalize nor penalize people who seek ways to flee their tormentors.

Image: L to r: María Cedillo, Maya Ixil human rights defender and Irma Alicia Velásquez Nimatuj, Maya K’iche author. Photo: Skylight

Irma A. Velásquez Nimatuj

Irma A. Velásquez Nimatuj is a Maya-K’iche’n anthropologist and journalist, currently a visiting professor at Stanford University. Irma Alicia is the lead protagonist in Skylight's documentary film "500 YEARS" and serves on Skylight's Board of Directors.

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