GUATEMALA CITY -- Political neophyte Jimmy Morales was sworn in as Guatemala's president on Thursday amid uncertainty over how the comedian plans to run the country beset by rampant corruption, entrenched poverty and violent criminal gangs.
Dressed in a dark suit and accompanied by wife, Morales received a hug from his mother and applause from friends and party members as he mounted the stage.
United States Vice President Joe Biden met with Morales and the leaders of El Salvador and Honduras before the swearing in Thursday.
Biden congratulated Morales for his commitment to fight corruption. He noted that thousands of Guatemalans had gone into the streets to demand change and elected Morales to do the job.
Morales petitioned Biden Thursday to add Guatemala to the list of countries granted temporary protected status, which provides its eligible citizens in the U.S. a degree of temporary protection from deportation and allows them to work and travel.
El Salvador and Honduras already have the status known as TPS. It is usually granted in cases in which the country is suffering from an armed conflict or natural disaster that makes it difficult to receive its citizens.
Guatemala has been beset by corruption scandals that forced President Otto Perez Molina and his vice president from office.
Last year, the U.S. Congress approved $750 million in aid to the three countries contingent on their efforts to reduce migration to the U.S. and the factors driving it.
Morales has yet to say who will make up his Cabinet, and he already suffered one political setback when prosecutors formally asked for the equivalent of impeachment proceedings against an allied lawmaker suspected of human rights violations dating to Guatemala's civil war.
"He is a president who takes office without a party, without well-qualified people he trusts and with a state apparatus that's really in financial and institutional ruin," said Edgar Gutierrez, an analyst at San Carlos University in Guatemala.
Morales won office in a runoff Oct. 25 after huge anti-corruption demonstrations. Perez Molina and his vice president are behind bars and facing prosecution, and the outsider's triumph was seen as a punishment vote from an electorate that wanted a fresh break.