Guatemalan President-elect Alejandro Giammattei has demanded respect from his US counterpart Donald Trump over Central America’s migration crisis.
In an interview with AFP on Tuesday, Giammattei said he would not seek confrontation with the US President.
“All diplomacy comes down to reciprocity,” said Giammattei, a 63-year-old conservative who defeated former first lady Sandra Torres in Sunday’s run-off vote.
“If he respects me, I respect him, if he treats me well, I treat him well, if he treats me badly, I treat him badly,” said Giammattei in the interview late Monday.
Giammattei said he views “with concern” a controversial migration pact agreed by his predecessor Jimmy Morales, that would allow Washington to send most Honduran and Salvadoran asylum seekers who passed through Guatemala back to the poor, crime-ridden country.
The deal has been strongly criticized in Guatemala, not least by NGOs who say the country does not even have the resources to look after its own population.
But the president-elect has so far avoided taking a strong position on the US deal, which he said would have to be submitted to Guatemalan lawmakers for approval.
Central America’s migration problem is not new, he said, but “it was magnified because it’s become a theme of the political campaign in the United States.”
“I understand President Trump’s position,” in the perspective of the campaign, said Giammattei.
“He wants to assert his image as the man who keeps his promises. That’s good. I understand him. I understand President Trump.”
Giammattei, a doctor, takes over from the corruption-tainted Morales in January at the start of a four-year term.
He has pledged to attack the grinding poverty that affects some 60 per cent of Guatemala’s 17.7 population, as well as a murder rate of 4,500 per year, key drivers of illegal migration to the United States.
“People leave because they don’t have housing, because of the low levels of health and education,” he said.