As the United States deported hundreds of migrants to Guatemala earlier this year, it said some of the deportees were healthy — even though they tested positive after landing, authorities in the Central American nation said.
“We understand the United States wants to deport people, but what we don’t understand is that they send the flights all contaminated,” Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said during an online event Thursday, according to the Associated Press.
Despite the spreading pandemic, U.S. immigration authorities have continued to send thousands of Central Americans back to their home countries.
El Salvador and Honduras, which have both welcomed the deportation flights without complaint, have received shipments of medical aid along with deportees. But Guatemala has been an exception — in part, it seems, because Giammattei is speaking up.
“The United States has helped other countries including with ventilators and to us nothing has come, not even chopped corn,” he told the Atlantic Council. “We don’t feel very grateful for the way we have been treated.”
In mid-April, Guatemala temporarily stopped accepting deportation flights. Flights with virus-stricken deportees, officials said, were increasing the country’s coronavirus caseload and threatening to topple its fragile health system.
In total, 119 deportees from the United States had arrived in Guatemala with covid-19 during the pandemic.
Guatemala changed course earlier this month, as U.S. officials vowed to test the deportees. But of the 65 Guatemalans who were flown from Alexandria, La., on May 13, 16 deportees later tested positive.
A spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told the AP that all Guatemalans on the plane had been tested before departure. Another 15 sick migrants were kept from boarding when they tested positive, they said.
Yet Giammattei’s comments Thursday underscored his growing frustration.
“Guatemala is an ally of the United States, but the United States is not Guatemala’s ally,” he said. “They don’t treat us like an ally.”