Guatemalan president becomes first Latin American leader to visit Zelenskyy in Kyiv

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Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei has visited Kyiv to express his solidarity with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as Russia continues its brutal assault of Ukraine.

Giammattei met with Zelenskyy in the capital on Monday, becoming the first Latin American president to make the trip.

Many Latin American leaders have avoided taking a stance on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, reflecting in some cases decades-old ties to Russia and in others a wariness of US foreign policy goals.

“We stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people, who have resisted with courage,” Giammattei said at a joint news conference. “As long as human lives are lost, we cannot silence our voices.”

“Let it be clear that since the beginning of this conflict, Guatemala has raised its voice,” he said. “We will always be consistent with our words. Guatemala does not and will not remain silent.”

Zelenskyy thanked Giammattei for his support for sanctions on Russia and Guatemala’s support for an international tribunal on crimes committed during the war.

Ukraine’s president noted that Latin America, like many other parts of the world, has suffered from higher prices due to the fighting in Ukraine, which is a big producer of agricultural and other commodities.

“Only together can we protect our world,” Zelenskyy said.

Critics of Giammattei’s government said the president has more pressing issues he should be dealing with at home, including corruption and human rights.

“The entire world knows the way in which President Alejandro Giammattei has been eroding democracy and promoting impunity in his country,”  said Carolina Jiménez, president of the Washington Office on Latin America. “One trip to Ukraine is not going to change that reality.”

The US government has sharply criticised the weakening of Guatemala’s anti-corruption efforts and last year cancelled the US visa of Guatemalan Attorney General Consuelo Porras, who has been pursuing former prosecutors.

Instead of going after corruption, the government has been filing legal charges against the former anti-corruption officials themselves, prompting over 20 of them to flee the country.

Giammattei’s government and prosecutors accelerated efforts begun by his predecessor to undo a UN-backed anti-corruption campaign that put several top officials, including former presidents, behind bars. They say those prosecutions themselves were irregular.