(This October 15 story corrects to show that Claver-Carone works for the National Security Council of the White House, not the State Department, at paragraph 4)
By Daniel Trotta
(Reuters) – A senior White House official warned Guatemala on Tuesday that it had to reach an agreement with the United States on the acceptance of asylum seekers from other countries. in order to benefit from a regional economic development plan.
Guatemala's elected president, Alejandro Giammattei, has been reluctant to accept "safe third country" status with the United States, even though the government of outgoing President Jimmy Morales reached such an agreement in July.
The administration of US President Donald Trump has sought help from Mexico and Central America to curb a record rise in immigration, a central political goal of Trump's re-election campaign in 2020.
Guatemala must subscribe to a safe third country agreement it hopes to benefit from the economic development plan for Mexico and Central America, known as America Crece, said Mauricio Claver -Carone, Trump's special assistant and director of Western Hemisphere affairs at the White House. National Security Council.
"Of course, these agreements are a condition for participating in the economic growth plan," Claver-Carone said in a State Department video in which he responded to journalists' written questions.
"If, for whatever reason, President Giammattei decides not to participate in these agreements, he will lose a great opportunity for economic development for Guatemala," he said.
Claver-Carone revealed little details about the America Crece plan (El Greder) for El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, stating that the US economic commitment would be announced early next year .
In recent months, the United States has threatened tariffs or economic sanctions to pressure their southern neighbors to do more to combat immigration. Giammattei, who takes office in January, said that Guatemala would first need to be certified as a safe third country by an international body. Giammattei also said that both chambers of the Guatemalan Congress should ratify any agreement.
By accepting agreements with safe third countries, Central American governments could help Trump enforce a new US rule banning asylum to immigrants, unless they submit a prior application in a country that they went through.
The United States has at least concluded preliminary agreements with Honduras and El Salvador. The increase in immigration over the past two years comes largely from these two countries, as well as from Guatemala, each impoverished and experiencing one of the highest murder rates in the world. world.
US officials have spoken to Giammattei about this, Claver-Carone said, calling the president elected "a person endowed with great leadership."
Report by Daniel Trotta in New York; Edited by Frank Jack Daniel and Cynthia Osterman