Guatemalans protest controversial US migrant pact

Guatemala City (AFP) –


Dozens of Guatemalans protested on Wednesday against a controversial pact signed by the government with Washington aimed at curbing migration into the United States.

The agreement was completed last week by acting US Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan, who is currently in Guatemala, and the Central American country's Interior Secretary Enrique Degenhart.

It has come under fire for designating Guatemala, which has one of the world's highest murder rates, a "safe third country" meaning would-be asylum seekers traveling through the country would be obliged to seek refuge there rather than in the US.

"It's an agreement that violates the constitution, human rights, international pacts and conventions," protester Brenda Hernandez, who was demonstrating in front of a hotel in the center of Guatemala City, told AFP.

Congress is temporarily sitting at the hotel while its permanent home is undergoing refurbishments.

Guatemala's human rights ombudsman Jordan Rodas has already questioned the pact's legality, saying his country's constitution does not authorize a minister to sign such an agreement.

Two weeks ago, Guatemala's constitutional court granted an injunction blocking President Jimmy Morales from signing the controversial deal.

The court had said any such agreement should first be approved by lawmakers.

Morales "has sold the country's sovereignty," said Hernandez.

Protesters held up banners describing Morales and US President Donald Trump as "pigs" while others accused their leader of laying out the red carpet for the "gringos," a slang term for Americans.

The deal, which Amnesty International has described as "cruel and illegal," means that migrants, mostly from El Salvador and Honduras, would be sent back to Guatemala if they reached the US having failed to apply for asylum earlier.