© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Guatemalan presidential candidate Bernardo Arevalo of the Semira party speaks to supporters at a closing campaign rally ahead of Sunday’s presidential runoff, in the central plaza in Guatemala City, Guatemala, Aug. 16, 2023. speak. Reuters/
By Cassandra Garrison and Sofia Menchu
GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) – Bernardo Arevalo, who won Guatemala’s presidential runoff by a landslide on Sunday, said he wanted to work with the United States to expand a temporary work program for migrants while increasing support for the country’s poorest. Regional investments to reduce outbound traffic.
The 64-year-old center-left anti-corruption fighter told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday that the United States and Guatemala must sit down “to find ways to influence our common phenomenon”.
“We want to have a very serious discussion about a significant expansion of the temporary work program,” Arevalo said from his home in Guatemala City.
“Managed in a way that expands access to (poor) areas, they can be an additional measure to reduce the pressure on people to leave.”
In recent years, more migrants have traveled from Guatemala to the U.S. border than from any other “Northern Triangle” country. In 2022, more than 233,000 Guatemalans will arrive at the U.S. border, accounting for approximately 8.4 percent of arrivals.
Arevalo, a former diplomat and son of a former president, quickly rose from relative obscurity to win the presidency as support for his anti-establishment, reformist ideas surged.
Arevalo said he sees his mission as having three pillars: addressing a culture of mistrust; creating more economic opportunity; and expanding access to health care and education.
He said his administration would focus on expanding development to address malnutrition and unemployment in Guatemala’s Dry Corridor, an area that straddles Central America and is particularly vulnerable to climate change and drought.
Many analysts believe Arevalo’s victory could be a defining moment for Guatemala, with voters rejecting a strong status quo beset by widespread allegations of corruption.
Arevalo said fighting corruption and restoring confidence in democracy would be his administration’s top priorities, and he would pursue a diplomatic agenda that supported those goals.
China and Taiwan
Guatemala, the most populous country in Central America, has maintained official relations with Taiwan for decades. Arevalo wants to maintain those ties, but he also wants to improve relations with China.
Given China’s position that countries it has relations with sever ties with Taipei, this would be an act of foreign policy gymnastics.
“We believe that good relations with the Republic of China and Taiwan are entirely feasible,” Arevalo said.
Arevalo added that Guatemala’s private sector is interested in expanding ties with China, which sees the Central American country as its main trading partner in the region.
A day after Guatemala’s presidential runoff, the six-nation Central American parliament known as “Pallasson” voted to expel Taiwan after more than two decades as a permanent observer and replace it with China, whose growing economic influence in Latin America forces to increasingly marginalize Taipei.
Guatemala is the only Parlacen member state that still recognizes Taiwan.
On the eve of Sunday’s election, Arevalo and his Semira party were briefly suspended at the request of a prominent prosecutor before Guatemala’s supreme court overturned the ban, as they faced legal challenges over alleged registration violations.
International experts speculate that the attorney general may continue to launch legal challenges that threaten the transition of power.
But after receiving more than 58 percent of the vote in the runoff, Arevalo said he was confident he would take office on January 14 as planned.
“The fact that the people of Guatemala spoke, and they spoke very clearly and forcefully, will weigh heavily on those who are still trying to undermine this election,” he said.
However, he said he was realistic about what could be achieved in four years’ time.
“We don’t believe that the people of Guatemala are waiting (waiting for us) to arrive with a magic wand at this moment,” he said.
“They want to see … the authorities finally commit to developing and serving the people, and that’s what we’re going to do.”