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COVID-19

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Guatemala president fumes over infected deportees from US

UPDATED: Thu., May 21, 2020

A medical worker from the Ministry of Health wearing a protective suit takes a sample to test for COVID-19 from a butcher at La Terminal market in Guatemala City, Thursday, May 21, 2020. Guatemala’s president questioned his country’s relationship with the United States, revealing frustration over the U.S. continuing to send deportees infected with COVID-19 to a country struggling to manage the crisis. (Moises Castillo / AP)
A medical worker from the Ministry of Health wearing a protective suit takes a sample to test for COVID-19 from a butcher at La Terminal market in Guatemala City, Thursday, May 21, 2020. Guatemala’s president questioned his country’s relationship with the United States, revealing frustration over the U.S. continuing to send deportees infected with COVID-19 to a country struggling to manage the crisis. (Moises Castillo / AP)
By Sonia Perez D. Associated Press

GUATEMALA CITY – Guatemala’s president questioned his country’s relationship with the United States, revealing frustration over the U.S. continuing to send deportees infected with COVID-19 to a country struggling to manage the crisis.

“This of allies with the United States isn’t true,” President Alejandro Giammattei said Thursday. “Guatemala is an ally of the United States, but the United States is not Guatemala’s ally. They don’t treat us like an ally.”

Giammattei is the first of the region’s leaders to speak out against the U.S. policy that has sent thousands of deportees back to their countries since the pandemic began.

Guatemala has confirmed 119 deportees arrived with COVID-19 from the United States, including three confirmed by a health official Wednesday. The country has suspended the deportation flights on several occasions after infected passengers were detected, but resumed them after assurances from U.S. authorities.

The U.S. began testing Guatemalan deportees for the disease before deporting them, but even then Guatemala has detected infected deportees. It appeared some had been tested and certified as negative a week before their departure.

Giammattei said the infected deportees were creating “serious problems” in his country’s already overloaded health system.

“The United States has helped other countries including with ventilators and to us nothing has come, not even chopped corn,” he said during an online appearance with the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center. “We don’t feel very grateful for the way we have been treated.”

Giammattei appeared to be referring to medical aid sent to Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras, all governments receiving deportees without complaint. Last month, Giammattei was notably absent from a list of phone calls U.S. President Donald Trump made to the presidents of El Salvador and Honduras offering aid and encouragement.

“We understand the United States wants to deport people, but what we don’t understand is that they send the flights all contaminated,” he said.

Guatemala has not accepted a flight yet this week.

Political analyst Renzo Rosal said the issue was raising tensions between the two countries “because the United States has shamelessly continued sending infected migrants and has not complied with what it offered.”

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