GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) – Guatemala’s president on Monday cautioned that Central America would need help from rich countries to stave off more migration, with powerful Hurricane Iota hours from wreaking destruction in the poor region still reeling from recent storms.
“If we don’t want hoards of Central Americans looking to move to other countries with better living conditions, we have to make a wall of prosperity in Central America,” President Alejandro Giammattei said at an event in Honduras with the Central American Bank for Economic Integration.
In 2018, the first of a series of migrant caravans set off from Central America aiming to reach the United States, despite strict migration policies under U.S. President Donald Trump, who has called for building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Along with the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis, experts have warned the aftermath of hurricane season could fuel a new round of migration from the region.
Catastrophic rainfall from Hurricane Eta earlier this month has already destroyed entire crops, and Hurricane Iota, a category 5 storm set to roar into Nicaragua overnight, is expected to bring further flooding.
“A physical wall isn’t going to hold back the needs of the people,” Giammattei added, speaking alongside Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez.
Both said Central America has been the worst affected region in the world by climate change, itself spurred by “industrialized” countries.
Giammattei also called for ending a “vicious cycle” of taking on debt every time natural disasters strike Central America.
“This human development won’t be achieved easily and simply through speeches, it will require actions, and actions that come from industrialized nations,” Giammattei said.
(Reporting by Sofia Menchu and Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Christopher Cushing)