A Salvadoran Port in Guatemala?

The president of Guatemala offered the neighboring country to explore the possibility of El Salvador having a maritime cargo terminal in the Guatemalan Atlantic, a proposal that generates doubts among exporters.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The announcement was made on January 27th, during a meeting between Alejandro Giammattei and Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele, on the occasion of the signing of the open skies agreement.

The plan is to give El Salvador a plot of land next to the Santo Tomás de Castilla National Port Company (Empornac), to build a cargo loading and unloading terminal in Guatemalan territory.

See "Guatemala and Honduras Compete for Salvadoran Cargo"

Giammattei said at the conference that "... We have offered El Salvador something unprecedented in the history of Central American integration. Today (January 27, 2020) I want to announce it publicly, because we are going to explore as soon as possible the possibility of El Salvador having a port in the Guatemalan Atlantic."

Antonio Malouf, Guatemala's economy minister, told Prensalibre.com that "... the technical-legal analyses will be carried out to give up the land in Empornac, which is known as 'El Arenal', where a container storage depot currently operates, but which does not have the yard or terminal infrastructure or the dredging conditions. It is a completely new port and they would be building it and we are giving the land basically that is El Arenal. What is needed is for them - El Salvador - to have commercial access to the Atlantic and they need a bigger ship that Empornac can receive."

For El Salvador's export sector, the proposal raises many questions, such as "... What is the need for an El Salvador port in Guatemalan territory? Will border taxes be lowered? Will the movement of goods be more agile?"

Silvia Cuellar, executive director of the Exporters Corporation (Coexport), told Elsalvador.com that "... What would be the scope of a project of such magnitude? Would El Salvador build it? If so, when the agreement with Guatemala ends, the investment in this infrastructure would remain in Guatemalan territory."

Another concern that arises is whether El Salvador would have in concession a space within one of the ports of Guatemala, and if then in that port the border permits would be processed. None of this is clear.

See note from Prensalibre.com "How would the port in the Guatemalan Caribbean that El Salvador could use to export be" and from Elsalvador.com "Salvadoran exporters without information of possible port in the Atlantic offered by president of Guatemala" (in Spanish).

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