By Sofia Menchu
GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei criticized the United States on Thursday for sending back migrants infected with the novel coronavirus to his Central American country and straining its weak health system.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, and Giammattei's attempts to curb deportation flights from the United States, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has been sending Guatemalan migrants back to their home country.
Of the deportees, 119 have tested positive for the virus, 5% of the country's 2,512 cases.
"We understand that the United States wants to deport people, but what we do not understand is why they send us flights full of infection," Giammattei said in an online talk hosted by the Atlantic Council's Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center.
"We've had serious problems with deported people," he said. "We haven't been treated by the United States in a way that I'd say is kind, in relation to the deportees."
Giammattei, 64, a retired doctor who walks with crutches because of multiple sclerosis, also said the United States had sent not "even a mask" during the pandemic.
The U.S. Embassy issued a statement giving details of the economic aid it has designated recently for Guatemala, including supplies, training and assistance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and $2.4 million in aid committed last month through USAID.
"The United States is committed to the health and prosperity of the Guatemalan people," Ambassador Luis Arreaga said in the statement.
Mexico, Colombia, Haiti and Jamaica have also registered infections among deportees.
This week, the U.S. Border Patrol said it would begin deporting Mexicans on flights as a way to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The Mexican government said eight flights were planned for May that would send up to 133 people to Mexico City.
(Reporting by Sofia Menchu; Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Robert Birsel)