Alejandro Giammattei wins Guatemalan presidency

Guatemala's former first lady Sandra Torres is facing Alejandro Giammattei in the country's presidential election

Guatemala's former first lady Sandra Torres is facing Alejandro Giammattei in the country's presidential election

However, the president-elect said that during the "transition" time between now and then, he hopes "the doors will open to get more information, so we can see what, from a diplomatic point of view, we can do to remove from this deal the things that are not right for us, or how we can come to an agreement with the United States".

Alejandro Giammattei, the conservative Guatemalan politician who once vowed to build a "wall" to prevent migration to the United States if elected president, swept to victory in the Central American country's federal election on Sunday, vowing to bring change to the nation-as well as to its relationship with the U.S.

The two candidates had both avoided committing to strong positions on the USA deal.

Speaking to the Spanish-language bulletin of the US-based Israel Allies Foundation, he said close bilateral relations with Israel would be a top foreign policy priority of his, adding that he would keep the country's embassy in Jerusalem and take action against Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, which operates extensively throughout Latin America.

This was Giammattei's fourth run for the presidency and Torres' second.

Neither candidate arrives with a glowing reputation.

The 63-year-old spent several months in prison in 2008, when he was director of the country's prison system, after some prisoners were killed in a raid on his watch.

With 84 percent of the votes counted, Giammattei, of the Vamos (Let's Go for a Different Guatemala) party, garnered 59 percent of the ballots, or 1,650,976 votes. Investigative site Nomada branded Giammattei "impulsive. despotic, tyrannical. capricious, vindictive" - and worse.

Should he win, though, he "would face a lose-lose scenario" regarding the migration pact, Grais-Targow said.

On July 6, Morales' administration signed an agreement with the US that would require Salvadorans and Hondurans to request asylum in Guatemala if they cross through the country to reach the U.S.

In a poll by Prodatos for the Prensa Libre newspaper, 82 percent of respondents opposed it.

Remittances from US-based Guatemalans reached a record $9.3 billion (€8.3 billion) a year ago.

The new president will have to decide whether to nullify or honour the agreement, which could potentially ease the crush of migrants arriving at the USA border.

One man from Guatemala says the prices charged by people smugglers have risen sharply since Trump took office, now hovering around $10,000 (9,100 euros), up from about $6,000 a few years ago.

According to the World Bank, remittances account for 12 percent of the country's GDP.

The agreement was reached last month despite Guatemala's constitutional court having earlier granted an injunction blocking Mr Morales from signing the deal.

Under the agreement, migrants from neighboring El Salvador and Honduras will have to apply for asylum in Guatemala instead of in the United States, effectively turning the country into a buffer zone for Trump to stem migration north.

Around half the killings are blamed on drug trafficking and extortion operations carried out by powerful gangs.

Four years after large-scale anti-corruption protests forced then-President Otto Perez Molina to resign, many Guatemalans were also fed up with scandals and feel not enough has been done by the government of Jimmy Morales to combat graft.

Guatemalans aren't subject to Mr Trump's proposed migrant measures, but given that poverty in some indigenous areas reaches 80 per cent, many embark on the journey in search of the "American dream" despite the dangers.

And in June, a woman and three children died from heat and dehydration in Texas.

Threatened with economic sanctions if he said no, Morales agreed in late July to make Guatemala a so-called safe third country for migrants, despite endemic poverty and violence that have led to a constant flow of people northward.

More than 250,000 Guatemalans were detained between October 2018 and July this year for trying to enter the USA illegally, Washington's embassy said.

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