Guatemala’s minister of Defense says he’s concerned that terrorists and other criminals could be heading through Central America to reach the U.S. border.
The top Guatemalan official, Gen. Henry Yovani Reyes Chigua, raised his concerns in a recent interview with the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Guatemala is the northern most Central American country before Mexico for the millions in that region who now migrate each year to the southern U.S. border.
Reyes Chigua says he worries that there’s no way to know all of the backgrounds of those migrants.
“We don’t have that information when they’re coming in,” he told a foundation reporter. “So it is something that we do worry [about], and following the instructions of the [Guatemala] president, who is the commander in chief, we are doing everything we can to keep our country safe and defend our safety and sovereignty.”
President Alejandro Giammattei has deployed hundreds of special forces to the country’s southern border with Honduras and has increased prison time for convicted human traffickers to a maximum 30 years prison time.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported a record roughly 2.3 million “encounters” with migrants in fiscal 2022, which ended in September.
Agents during that period reportedly apprehended 98 people on the terror watchlist at the southern border, compared to zero in fiscal 2019. However, the foundation does not say whether the increase is the result in a worsening problem or improved law enforcement efforts.
The federal government also recorded in the most recent fiscal year a nearly-600% increase in so-called “Special Interest Migrants,” according to an internal document recently obtained by the foundation. Most of those migrants came from Turkey, where terrorist groups like Islamic State are known to operate, according to the State Department.
“The military of Guatemala is obligated by the Constitution to protect, keep safe and fight for the sovereignty of the country,” Reyes Chigua said. “Given that these migrants are coming from different countries, we can expect that these people might belong to either terrorist groups or organized crime.”