Speaking at a news conference with Giammattei, Harris delivered a blunt message to anyone thinking of making the dangerous journey north: “Do not come.”
“We had a robust, candid and thorough conversation,” Harris said. “The president and I discussed that fundamentally, most people do not want to leave home, they don’t want to leave the place where the language they know is spoken.”
She said that a task force combining resources from the US Justice, State and Treasury departments would work with local prosecutors to punish corrupt actors in Central America.
The U.S. government has been pressing the “Northern Triangle” – El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – to do more to tackle corruption in order to improve social conditions for its people and make them less eager to emigrate.
But those efforts have been undermined by corruption scandals and resistance to US-backed judges known for their commitment to fighting graft, as well as concerns that the region is drifting towards more authoritarian tendencies.
Harris is due to travel to Mexico after Guatemala for talks with the Mexican government on Tuesday.
Her Guatemala visit was her first overseas trip as vice president, part of her mission of tackling root causes of migration from Central America to the United States.
Disagreement has emerged over the best way to tackle corruption, with the United States giving recognition to anti-graft fighters the conservative government and its allies see as politically biased.
Giammattei said the fight against narco-trafficking needed to be an integral part of tackling corruption.
Meanwhile, Harris confirmed that the US would supply half a million Covid-19 vaccine doses to Guatemala.