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Remarks by the Vice President Prior to a Meeting with President Bernardo Arévalo of Guatemala

March 25, 2024

VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Good afternoon. President Arévalo, welcome to Washington D.C. It is good to see you after we have talked on the phone. But it was my pleasure to congratulate you by telephone on your election in September -- when we spoke in September.

And now, of course, it is my great pleasure and honor to welcome you to the White House.

During your campaign, you vowed to combat corruption, you pledged to build a coalition to represent all Guatemalans and include members of the Indigenous community in the democratic process, and you committed to expand access to healthcare and education, to combat the climate crisis, and to grow your economy. And it was clear that the people of Guatemala voted resoundingly in your election and for your message of reform.

Your election has brought a sense of optimism to the people of America and around the world. And despite the challenges that have been posed to Guatemala's democratic process, the United States was proud to stand with you, Mr. President, following a free and fair election and throughout your transition. And the will of the people of Guatemala, by our observation, has triumphed.

For the past three years, I have led our administration's efforts to address the root causes of migration from northern Central America and to create what we have named the "Root Causes Strategy."

That strategy rests on five pillars. One, to invest in economic development in the region. Two, to combat corruption and promote good governance. Three, to respect human rights and labor rights. In addition, to reduce violence. And finally, to address gender-based violence.

This work is improving lives and livelihoods in the region and addressing the factors that drive people to migrate to the United States.

Mr. President, I believe your presidency offers an important opportunity for us to strengthen U.S.-Guatemalan relations and to make further progress on each of the five pillars I have outlined.

In particular, Mr. President, I commend you for your steadfast commitment to combat corruption. Corruption, of course, erodes trust in democracy and prevents governments from responding to the needs of their people. Corruption is also an impediment to U.S. investment and threatens economic growth as American business leaders need stability, predictability, and rule of law to make their investments in countries like Guatemala worthwhile. And corruption, of course, empowers criminal organizations and perpetuates violence. All factors that drive people to leave their home country.

Mr. President, as you hold corrupt actors accountable and promote good governance, we support you.

Your leadership can help rebuild Guatemalans people's trust in their institutions and give them a sense of hope and opportunity.

Our work under the Root Causes Strategy represents long-term development efforts. The problems, of course, did not occur overnight, and the solutions will not be achieved overnight. Yet we have seen short-term progress in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.

Thus far, the Root Causes Strategy has helped as many as 63,000 farmers increase their production and income, has reached nearly 3 million youth through primary and secondary education. We have trained more than 18,000 police officers and nearly 27,000 people to strengthen judicial systems. And we have supported thousands of labor and human rights activists throughout the region.

When I first started my work on root causes, I recognized that we needed to involve the private sector in order to have a lasting impact on irregular migration. A critical component of our strategy has been to increase private-sector investment in the region to help create jobs and expand economic opportunity.

I believe that public-private partnerships are essential to combine the resources, the experience, and the expertise of the private sector with the reach and the capacity that only governments can provide. And growth and opportunity will far exceed what either the public or private sector can do independently.

To that end, we have established Central America Forward, an innovative public-private partnership that over the past three years has been fueled by CEOs and philanthropic leaders around the world. I am pleased to announce that as of today, this partnership has generated more than $5.2 billion in private-sector commitments, with more than 50 companies representing financial services, textiles, apparel, agriculture, technology, and telecommunications.

Central America Forward has thus far created 70,000 new jobs throughout the region, provided skills training for more than 1 million people, brought more than 2.5 million people into the formal financial economy, and connected more than 4.5 million people to the Internet.

Today's announcement of more than $1 billion in new investments includes energy transmission projects to connect people to the grid, an initiative to transport crops from small farms to new and larger markets, construction of a new industrial park, and digital financial inclusion, and workforce development programs.

Our partnership has also created what we have named "In Her Hands," which is an initiative to advance economic security for women.

We have launched the Good Governance, Good Jobs Declaration, which includes a corporate pledge on the rule of law to support labor rights, combat corruption, and increase transparency.

We have sent a team to Honduras to explore development of infrastructure projects and to expand an economic corridor. And we started Central America Service Corps, which will provide vulnerable youth with training and opportunities for paid community service projects.

In conclusion, President Arévalo, I am pleased that you will join in convening a meeting that we will host later today with leaders from the private sector and civil society to continue this important work.

And I look forward to a productive visit today and to a productive partnership, which, of course, relies on the importance and the mutual and, I believe, shared priority of transparency and candor to achieve our mutual interest to the benefit of all of our people.

I thank you, Mr. President. Thank you.

PRESIDENT ARÉVALO: Thank you very much, Madam Vice President. Thank you very much for the invitation. It is an honor to be here today.

And thank you very much for your leadership in helping us develop this new moment of promising new partnership between Guatemala and the United States.


PRESIDENT ARÉVALO: I view this as a historic moment in relations between our two countries, which share basic values and common interests and confront many joint challenges. Your ongoing work, which you have described in terms of the initiatives that you have been leading for the Central American region for several years now, are welcomed by all of us who want to strengthen the ties between Guatemala and increase prosperity in our region in general.

I also want, on behalf of all Guatemalans, to express my deep appreciation for the support that the United States provided to our country during our difficult trans- -- electoral process and presidential transition. The actions of the United States and the international community in support of democracy and -- and rule of law were critical to ensuring that the popular will of the Guatemalan people prevails.

This meeting today reflects what we believe will be continuing strong support from the United States for our efforts to consolidate democracy, strengthen public institutions, and fight corruption, and promote economic prosperity and sustainable development that benefits all Guatemalans.

We recognize that, just like the majority of Guatemalans, our supporters in the United States and in the international community have great expectations for what can be achieved in Guatemala in the next few years.

My government is committed to doing everything it can to meet those expectations and to deliver results in the short, medium, and long term.

And we also recognize that many of the problems we face are structural and longstanding and cannot be solved in a short period of time, nor without support and cooperation from the United States and other key international partners.

So, as I said, this is a truly historic moment that offers great promise for strengthening our collaboration and advancing together as strategic partners on the basis of shared values and common interests.

We will maintain our commitment as governments to foster engagement across sectors to build a new, democratic, and most -- more prosperous Guatemala that offers opportunities for all to live and to thrive.

Thank you very much, madam.

VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Welcome again. Welcome. (Applause.)



Kamala Harris, Remarks by the Vice President Prior to a Meeting with President Bernardo Arévalo of Guatemala Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/370994

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