Less than an hour after departing for Central America, Vice President Kamala Harris returned to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland for an unexpected landing after a technical problem beset Air Force Two.
Symone Sanders, senior advisor and chief spokesperson for the vice president, said the quick return back to Maryland was in response to a landing gear malfunction, reports POLITICO, citing a pool report. Sanders said there were no immediate safety concerns.
“While there was no immediate safety issue, out of an abundance of caution, they returned to Joint Base Andrews, where they have all the parts and mechanics they need to fix the issue,” said Sanders.
The Associated Press reports that, after landing, Harris gave two thumbs up on the tarmac, before transitioning to a different plane. “I’m good, I’m good. We all said a little prayer, but we’re good,” said Harris, who was traveling to Guatemala and Mexico as part of her effort to address the so-called root causes of the migration crisis affecting the U.S. border.
Take two: VP Harris boards a replacement plane for the trip to Guatemala after her first plane had technical issue pic.twitter.com/foOIcSXJPT
— Jennifer Epstein (@jeneps) June 6, 2021
According to Axios, Harris was greeted by the Guatemalan foreign affairs minister and the U.S. ambassador to Guatemala.
VP Harris and Guatemalan Foreign Minister Brolo walked down this red carpet toward her car. As the got to the corner of the two carpets, they saluted one another. pic.twitter.com/QBsN2YjQJ2
— Jennifer Epstein (@jeneps) June 7, 2021
The visit serves as the first time Harris has traveled to Central America on behalf of the administration and comes after President Joe Biden tapped her to focus on the root causes of the migration crisis — which has fueled the border crisis that the administration has resisted calling a crisis. When Biden assigned the role to Harris in March, the vice president’s aides reportedly appeared panicked, partly out of fear the assignment would be misconstrued, and partly out of fear the assignment was politically damaging, CNN reported earlier this month, citing a White House official.
Neither Harris nor Biden have visited the U.S. border since assuming office.
The Guatemala trip, however, will serve as an opportunity for Harris to come “bearing gifts” for the region, reports The Washington Post. These “gifts” include coronavirus vaccines, a long-term economic investment plan of $4 billion, and $310 million in humanitarian aid and to address food insecurity. The White House announced the $310 million in relief back in April.
According to The New York Times, Guatemala has received over $1.6 billion in U.S. foreign aid over the last decade, but migration remains an issue. Part of the reason is that a lot of the aid ends up going to overhead for programs or companies, but another part is that the programs themselves haven’t been useful to people living in the country.
One, called the Rural Value Chains Project, spent part of its $20 million in American aid building outhouses for potato farmers — many of which were quickly abandoned or torn apart for scrap metal.
“This brings no value to people,” said Arturo Cabrera, a local government official, peeking into an unused outhouse. “It doesn’t generate income,” which is what people ultimately need, he added.
One achievement touted by Nexos Locales, a $31 million project administered by Development Alternatives Incorporated, a company based in Bethesda, Md., was creating an app to enable residents to see how their local government spent money. Aid workers said that many residents didn’t have smartphones, and that they couldn’t afford to pay for the data to use the app even if they did.