The lifting of Title 42, a controversial pandemic-era program of the US that led to the rapid expulsions of nearly 2 million migrants and asylum seekers, is an opportunity for nations to have a sense of shared responsibility, according to Guatemala's foreign minister.
Noting that the migration issue was among the topics discussed during the recent Summit of the Americas, Mario Bucaro told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview in Ankara that migration should be "orderly, safe, regular and, of course, optional.”
"So the lifting of Title 42 also presents an opportunity for the countries to have a sense of shared responsibility, and we join efforts so that this direction has an impact and we can save lives in a very difficult moment for the world as well," Bucaro said.
US President Joe Biden had planned to end Title 42 on May 23, but on May 20, a federal district court judge issued an injunction blocking its termination. The Biden administration is appealing the injunction.
Some 1.7 million people are estimated to have been removed in the two years since President Donald Trump introduced the program in 2020 in a bid to thwart the spread of the coronavirus.
Being a transit route for migrants for a long time, Bucaro said his country has a long tradition of "guaranteeing the dignified return of our nationals who return after a migration process."
As Türkiye faces similar migration challenges, he said "Guatemala is in the best disposition to collaborate with Türkiye, trying to share all the best practices that these massive return efforts have allowed us."
He underlined that today his country has "one of the most advanced" laws on combating human trafficking groups, adding a human trafficker can face sentences ranging from 30 to 50 years when a migrant dies.
"And in this sense, Guatemala and Türkiye will also continue collaborating on important issues such as refugees and the necessary elements to be able to adapt our legislation so that the steps taken today, I reiterate, can guarantee the dignity of those who are migrating," he said.
Türkiye 'fundamental mediator' to bring hope
Congratulating Türkiye for being a bridge between Russia and Ukraine, the foreign minister said the Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made "fundamental mediating" on the issue of "bringing hope to the world."
"Guatemala is a nation of peace, and the presence of our president, accompanied by his delegation in Kyiv, was precisely to invite the parties, as Türkiye has done, to seek active mediation and especially put an end to this conflict that is causing this food crisis that we understand today," Bucaro said.
He described the Türkiye-brokered deal on grain exports on July 22 as "very important," and added: "We celebrate the passage of several ships, and it is a serious thing, and it is through the mediation of Türkiye."
He said it is also time to support Ukraine to be able to carry out the exports, which are also destined for the Americas and the Caribbean.
Regarding the Russian war's effects on the Guatemalan economy, he said his country is "one of the most resilient economies" in the Americas, but it is also important for them to guarantee the export and import of grains and fundamentally the issues of logistics chains, which are fundamental, “since that we have two ports and two seas that also ensure these exports.”
Fight against cartels
Asked how the war against cartels is continuing after the recent attack by Mexico’s Jalisco New Generation cartel on President Alejandro Giammattei's convoy in a small village at the border between Guatemala and Mexico, the foreign minister said his country works hand-in-hand with Mexico as well as the US in intelligence sharing.
The Central American country extradited more than 80 drug cartel leaders to the US and drug seizures in the country have increased "exponentially" under President Giammattei's government, Bucaro said.
"We collaborate a lot in the dismantling, especially of gangs, of traffickers, of people, but especially also in lawsuits for trafficking, where we have a very active collaboration," he said. "And this, of course, is also providing a parameter for us to begin prospecting for new elements of collaboration that we can develop, such as the protection of our border."
The border between Guatemala and Mexico is "one of the most important borders" and the issue is not only that the migrants are passing through the border but also some other elements, he said. That is why, he added, both nations have been opening new controlled cargo border points to guarantee the presence of the authorities in these places.
Relations with Türkiye
Nothing that Türkiye and Guatemala are celebrating 148 years of relations, he said there are two more deals on their way about diplomacy, protocol, and culture, and "soon" his country will be closing some fundamental agreements also in economic matters for small and medium-sized companies.
He also said that he finds "extremely positive" the fact that Ankara became a non-regional observer member of the Central American Integration System in 2015.
"The role of Türkiye as well, and the presence it has had as an observer has been essential in terms of cooperation," he said, adding today borders are no excuse for them to unite.