US President Donald Trump said he is now considering a “ban”, tariffs and remittance fees after Guatemala decided to not move forward with a safe third country agreement that would have required the Central American country to take in more asylum seekers.
“Guatemala … has decided to break the deal they had with us on signing a necessary Safe Third Agreement. We were ready to go,” Trump tweeted.
“Now we are looking at the ‘BAN,’ Tariffs, Remittance Fees, or all of the above. Guatemala has not been good,” Trump wrote.
Trump has made restricting immigration a cornerstone of his presidency and re-election campaign. He has pushed Guatemala, Mexico and other countries in the region to act as buffer zones and take in asylum seekers who would otherwise go to the United States.
The Guatemalan government had been expected to hold a summit with Trump during which Guatemala’s President Jimmy Morales would sign the safe third country agreement, but the country’s constitutional court blocked Morales from making the declaration.
Rights groups have also said that Guatemala does not have the resources to host asylum seekers.
Following Trump’s tweet, Guatemala’s Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel blamed unnamed “national actors” for damaging relations with the US and said they would be responsible if Trump put tariffs on the Central American country.
The Foreign Ministry also issued a statement blaming the country’s top court for the situation, but retracted the statement shortly afterwards.
Abelardo Medina, a senior economist at the Central American Institute for Fiscal Studie said if Trump implements a ban, tarriffs or remittance fees, it will have a significant effect on Guatemala’s economy.
Guatemalans living in the US sent about $8.19bn back home in 2017, and more than $9bn in 2018, or 11.3 percent of the country’s gross national product (GNP), according to data from the Guatemalan National Bank.
“A ban would be catastrophic in the short term for businesses and it would also lead to increased unemployment, which would generate more immigration,” Medina, told Al Jazeera.
“Any tariffs on remittances would impact most those who live day-to-day,” he added. “Guatemala does not have the resources or the capacity to be a ‘safe country.’ Guatemala does not even have the resources to attend to its own citizens.”
With additional reporting from Jeff Abbott.