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Guatemala’s New Conservative President Has Been Sworn In And His Policies Could Have Serious Implications

As of Tuesday, Guatemala has a new president. His name is Alejandro Giammattei and he has a pretty different view on politics and policies from his predecessor. In fact, his right-wing views could have far-reaching geo-political implications far beyond the borders of Guatemala.

On Tuesday, Guatemala swore in a new president who has promised to put an end to the violence and poverty that have plagued the country.

Credit: Roberto Villasenor / Getty

Guatemala’s new president, Alejandro Giammattei, was inaugurated amid tensions in the country regarding the outgoing president, Jimmy Morales, along with uncertainty over the ‘Safe Third Country’ deal signed with the United States.

The new president is a doctor and former prison system director from the right-wing Vamos political party. He begins his four-year term setting out to reform the nation into a safe and economically stable country to counter balance the outflow of Guatemalans fleeing to the United States.

At his inauguration, Giammattei said, “This is the moment to rescue Guatemala from the absurd. It is the moment to combat corruption and malnutrition. We will govern with decency, with honorability, and with ethical values.”

During his hours-long speech, the new president also reiterated several key campaign promises that helped him win the election. His promised presidential anti-corruption commission would be established at the outset of his presidency and his administration would soon present several legislative proposals, including reforms to designate street gangs as “terrorist” groups.

President Giammattei takes over the presidency as the tumultuous presidency of his predecessor comes to a shaker end. Former President Jimmy Morales is leaving office in what many say is shame. The former president kicked out a popular UN-backed anti-corruption commission after he and his party were accused of illegal campaign financing. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Giammattei has made serious promises to the Guatemalan people.

Shortly after his election victory, Giammattei Made sweeping promises of a new Guatemala – one that he would build with new, conservative, right-wing policies. He mentioned a vision of a peaceful nation full of promise and progress. He vowed to end malnutrition and violence while putting an end to ‘disgusting’ corruption.

While the former president ousted a U.N.-backed International Anti-Corruption Commission, Giammattei has talked about creating something similar at the national level. However, according to a civil society activist, Manfredo Marroquin, there isn’t much hope for real change under the new administration.

What Giammattei is making a priority is to stimulate business and investment in Guatemala. He says that will trickle down and put an end to cost of migration. But many say his proposals may benefit only a small sector of Guatemalan society.

Relations with the U.S. could also become more complicated.

Credit: Carolyn Kaster / WhiteHouse.gov

Giammattei still hasn’t stated his official position on the controversial deal signed with the US that allows the United States to send asylum seekeers to Guatemala. The deal was signed between the Trump Administration and the former president, Jimmy Morales. The ‘Safe Third Country’ agreement basically allows the US to send asylum seekers from third countries to Guatemala, in effect forcing them to request asylum there or return to their home country.

The deal has been widely criticised in Central America and the US. Guatemala is now the top country of origin for migrants and asylum seekers apprehended at the US southern border. Tens of thousands flee violence, poverty and persecution in Guatemala every year.

“If they send us to Guatemala, they are sending us back to potential death,” Edwin*, a 37-year-old Honduran asylum seeker currently in Mexico with his family after fleeing extortion and death threats last year told Al Jazeera.

Despite all the controversy, the incoming president still hasn’t shared his views on the asylum deal. At first, it appeared that he was considering reforms to the deal or may even scrap it entirely. But during the transition period after the election, he called on former president Morales to share the agreement and documents with him so he could form a response

On Monday, a day before he took office, Giammattei said he still had not been given the documents. As soon as his team received and analysed them, he would announce his position, he added.

Meanwhile, his predecessor wasn’t having the greatest day no longer as President.

Protesters surrounded outgoing Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales late on Tuesday, throwing eggs at him and his vice president as they sought to take up new posts that bring immunity from prosecution, just hours after leaving office. 

Protesters yelling “Murderer” jostled Morales’ police detail and let off a loud firework as he tried to reach a hotel that is the temporary headquarters of Central America’s regional parliament, a Reuters witness said. Moments later he was stuck by a plastic object and the eggs.

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