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

President of Guatemala Alejandro Giammattei visited Kyiv to express his solidarity with President Volodymyr Zelensky as Russia continues its vicious assault on Ukraine.

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

Many Latin American leaders have been reticent about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in some cases reflecting years of ties to Russia and in others wary of US foreign policy goals.

“We stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people who courageously resisted,” Giammattei said at a joint press conference. “As long as human lives are being lost, we cannot silence us.”

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

Zelensky thanked Giammattei for supporting sanctions against Russia and Guatemala’s support for an international tribunal for crimes committed during the war.

The President of Ukraine noted that Latin America, like many other regions of the world, suffered from rising prices due to hostilities in Ukraine, which is a major producer of agricultural and other products.

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

Critics of Giammattei’s government say the president has more pressing issues that he should address at home, including corruption and human rights.

“The whole world knows how President Alejandro Giammattei undermines democracy and encourages impunity in his country,” said Carolina Jimenez, president of the Washington office for Latin America. “One trip to Ukraine will not change this reality.”

The US government has sharply criticized Guatemala’s waning anti-corruption efforts and last year revoked the US visa of Guatemala’s Attorney General Consuelo Porras, who has been harassing former prosecutors.

Instead of fighting corruption, the government brought legal cases against the former anti-corruption officials themselves, causing more than 20 of them to flee the country.

Giammattei’s government and prosecutors have stepped up efforts launched by his predecessor to reverse a UN-backed anti-corruption campaign that has landed several senior officials, including former presidents, behind bars. They say the persecution itself was illegal.