By: Wende DuFlon, USAID/Guatemala
Administrator Shah packed an enormous amount into his day-and-a-half visit to Guatemala. Dr. Shah and Mark Feierstein, Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), were hosted by U.S. Ambassador Stephen McFarland and USAID Director Kevin Kelly and USAID staff on an early morning helicopter ride over Guatemala’s mountainous terrain to a village in the municipality of Sacapulas, Quiché to meet with partners in USAID agriculture value chain, food security, and health/nutrition programs. The ride took travelers by six of Guatemala’s 33 volcanoes and past the famous destination spot–Lake Atitlan. At midday they returned to Guatemala City via helicopter for courtesy meeting with Guatemala’s President Alvaro Colom and Foreign Minister Rodas and an all-hands meeting with USAID Guatemala staff.
The Administrator held a press roundtable with Guatemalan journalists and several meetings with U.S. Government (USG) agency staff (USAID, Centers for Disease Control, Peace Corps, and U.S. Embassy sections) on two Presidential Initiatives—Feed the Future and Global Health—as well as the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI). The U.S. Ambassador and USAID Director accompanied Administrator Shah and LAC Assistant Administrator Feierstein throughout the day and evening at a dinner hosted by Ambassador McFarland at his Residence for government and civil society leaders to meet and talk with Administrator Shah to discuss security and justice issues in Guatemala.
The visit was an exceptional opportunity for USG staff to meet Dr. Shah and brief him on why Guatemala is a key player in a region that is critically important to the United States. Guatemala has the largest population and economy in Central America. Sadly, the country has some of the lowest human development indicators in the world, and income distribution is among the most unequal. Guatemala is also the epicenter in Central America of the fight against organized crime and large areas of its territory are under the control of drug trafficking organizations.
Administrator Shah’s trip signifies the long tradition of collaboration and friendship between Guatemala and the United States.