The Highlands Committee of Small Farmers (CCDA) protesting at the American Embassy in Guatemala during Vice President Kamala Harris’s visit. Their signs read “Kamala They are lying to you! There is corruption, political prisoners, malnutrition, hate crimes, femicide, child exploitation, unemployment, and poverty, Guatemala is a narco-state. This is why there is migration.” (Photo credit: CCDA, CCDA)
Kamala Harris Visits Guatemala
Earlier this month, Kamala Harris visited Guatemala, marking her first official foreign visit as the Vice President of the United States. Her trip was intended to address the root causes of out-migration identified by the Biden administration: physical and economic security and corruption in Guatemala. During the one-day visit, a number of initiatives were promoted, including the creation of a U.S.-led anti-corruption task force to train Guatemalan law enforcement and prosecutors, an initiative supporting young, Indigenous women entrepreneurs, and $4 billion of humanitarian relief for Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
Although her visit was framed as a diplomatic mission to collaboratively construct a future for Guatemala where citizens can “find hope at home”, Harris did not mince words and directly addressed Guatemalans by saying, “I want to be clear to folks in the region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border. Do not come. Do not come… I believe if you come to our border, you will be turned back.” Harris’ visit and her message around migration was met with extreme criticism in Guatemala and around the world. Many public figures and politicians pointed out that Harris’ message undermines the right to seek asylum under American law, while The Highlands Committee of Small Farmers (CCDA) protested outside the American Embassy in Guatemala City with signs reading “Kamala: They are lying to you!”. Community organizations highlighted the U.S.’ role in destabilizing Guatemala: from orchestrating the 1954 coup that ousted democratically-elected leftist president Jacobo Arbenz, to the current neoliberal arrangements that directly exacerbate migration, poverty, violence and corruption.
Graph showing the rising rate of confirmed COVID cases (red) and positivity rate (blue) in Guatemala (Photo credit: Laboratorio de Datos Guatemala)
While the Atlantic bubble is reforming in the Maritime region, cases in Guatemala have not slowed after the third wave in April. With the positivity rate climbing above 20%, the testing rate and availability of tests is falling. Throughout the pandemic, Guatemalan health professionals caring for COVID patients have not been paid adequately. Their efforts to care for patients is being further challenged by the fact that hospitals are remaining at, or above capacity and hospitals are suffering from shortages of medications which are vital for the treatment of severe COVID patients. Vaccination is proceeding slowly, partly because of an unsteady supply of vaccines and partly because of insufficient staff, infrastructure, and cohesive communications to disseminate information about the vaccine.
Assuming a steady supply of vaccines, at the current pace of vaccination, it would take 8 years to completely vaccinate everyone. However, it has been difficult to acquire enough doses. As of June 16th, 5.45% of the population had been vaccinated with their first dose.
On June 1st, the government opened vaccination to individuals who were 50+. This progression occurred before the older age groups reached a level of 50% vaccination, stagnating below 25%. While Giammattei blamed the population for not receiving their vaccinations, these numbers suggest a different story: that the lack of an outreach and communications plan for older, or rural populations has posed significant barriers to vaccination and collective healing