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Message from the Chief Representative

It will have been almost a year since I arrived in Guatemala. I could spend long and fruitful days. On the other hand, I felt time flies fast at the same time. At any hand, I am honor of coming here.

Guatemala City, the capital of Guatemala remains everlasting spring as same when I came here. Volcanoes could be viewed in the distance, and the beauty of the green city remains the same. In JICA Guatemala office, we made a big effort especially to deal with the immigration affairs and the 30th anniversary of Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (hereafter JOCV) dispatching to Guatemala this year.

Under Donald Trump's regime in the US, the wall has been constructed between the US and Mexico to prevent illegal immigrants from entering the US boundary since this regime has concerned the surge of illegal immigrants from the region known as the Northern Triangle of Central America (Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras). Therefore, Guatemala office started to collect the wide range of information not only from the press report but also by visiting Guatemala government, international organization, research institution and the laboratory of immigrant affairs.

We found that the poverty and the lack of employment and income in rural area triggered illegal emigrants from Guatemala through our research. In Guatemala, the majority of farmhouse in those areas are small-scale farmers who work on Single-commodity crop cultivation such as coffee or be self-sufficient. This vulnerable agricultural business easily can collapse due to the bad weather and the price movement of products. In addition, they have no choice to a new job even in big cities, which prompted them to rely on their family or relatives who work in the US in most cases. Ultimately, they aim to cross the continent overland there illegally since a US visa is not issued for an unskilled labor.

Not a few Guatemalans still desire to immigrate to the US although President Trump's regime enforces towards illegal immigrant restriction. It could be assumed that they may think the illegal entrance is more promising as their strategy to live longer even if there is a risk of deportation.

It can be said that projects' success in JICA is related with the remedy of that issue mentioned above indirectly. Thus, in order to solve the problem, it must be imperative to incorporate the perspective of preventive measures for illegal immigrants to each project.

Therefore, we will consider what we can do as international cooperation and study on immigrant affairs.

As the second part of my greeting, I would like to mention the 30th anniversary of JOCV dispatch program to Guatemala. We have attempted to promote this anniversary year by inviting media such as newspaper, radio and TV to our events to conduct interviews as much as possible. Further, we held Japanese culture events and JOCV events at Uspantan in April, Sololá in June, and Quetzaltenango in September and at Antigua in November. Furthermore, in 7 February this year, we were able to hold the ceremony of JOCV dispatching 30 years anniversary at National Palace and Mr. Castillo, Vice president participated in the event as a representative of Guatemala government.

The Vice President thanked the volunteers for their constant works in various institutions and municipalities in Guatemala and their contribution to the social development through sports, healthcare, education and vocational training.

He also mentioned the experience with Toru KOBAYASHI, a JOCV of basketball when the vice president used to be a basketball player. Additionally, experiences when he was hosting some JOCVs as CEO of "the Instituto Nacional de Capacitación" - National vocational training Institute were referred in his speech.

A series of these events could only be realized with the cooperation and participation of ministries, the Japanese Embassy, JOCV and their counterparts, and officials concerned. I would like to take this opportunity to appreciate all of your cooperation.

What I feel in this country is that it is tough to think of the national development with my common sense when I was in Japan. In terms of economy situation, GDP per capita has achieved 4,466 dollars in Guatemala, which is close to middle-income countries. However, 59.3 % of around 15 million of Guatemalan citizens are categorized as poverty, which means the extreme disparity society in Guatemala.

Thus, it can be said that there are plenty of needs of international cooperation in Guatemala. Nowadays, Japanese governmental budget for ODA has decreased compared to 1990s, when its budget was maximum. This situation has always been concerned. However, I believe that we could do more for the development depending on our idea regardless of the size of budget.

March 2020
Chief Representative, JICA Guatemala
YAMAGUCHI Naotaka

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