Guatemala Calls on U.S. to Unblock Funds to Curb Illegal Immigration

(Bloomberg) -- Guatemala is calling on Washington to free up billions of dollars in funding pledged in aid to curb illegal immigration to the U.S.

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales said Friday his nation hasn’t yet received “a penny” of $2.6 billion the U.S. pledged for Alliance for Prosperity program, intended to boost development and cut crime in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, and thereby reduce the number of people fleeing northward. The U.S. is putting onerous conditions on disbursing the funds, he said.

"Not even Switzerland could comply with conditions they have given us" for releasing the funds, Morales said during an interview in Washington.

Guatemala itself has invested $2 billion under the program, he said. Morales said the country could use the money to invest in infrastructure and create jobs for thousands of potential migrants. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol says it detained nearly 43,000 family units from Guatemala at the southwest border in fiscal year 2018, up from 24,657 the previous year.

Morales is a close political ally of President Donald Trump’s administration, and even followed Washington’s lead in moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Despite this, he said tariffs imposed by the Trump administration are harming Guatemala’s small steel industry and his government will lobby to for concessions, similar to those granted to Argentina. The U.S. is Guatemala’s biggest export market.

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