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López Obrador and Harris during Friday's meeting. López Obrador and Harris during Friday's meeting.

Migration, corruption, tree-planting on agenda of López Obrador-Kamala Harris meeting

US can count on Mexico to support migration policies, president says during videocall

President López Obrador pledged to support the United States’ migration policies during a video call with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday.

“We agree with the migration policies you are developing and we are going to help, you can count on us,” the president told Harris in his introductory remarks.

López Obrador also told the vice president that he was happy that President Joe Biden had given her the job of attending to “the migration issue.”

“This means that it is an issue that President Biden cares about a lot, because he decided to appoint you, the vice president of the United States, to attend to this issue,” he said.

His remarks came after Harris said the United States and Mexico must work together to stem migration from Central American countries.

“Our nations face serious challenges, Covid being an obvious one, economic repercussions coming from the Covid pandemic, as well as the surge of migrants arriving at our shared border,” the vice president said.

“Together, we must fight violence, we must fight corruption and impunity. It is in our countries’ mutual interest to provide immediate relief to the Northern Triangle [Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador] and to address the root causes of migration,” she said.

“You and I have discussed before an understanding and belief [that] most people don’t want to leave home and when they do it is often because they are fleeing some harm or they are forced to leave because there’s no opportunity in their home. And so this is in our mutual interest to address some of these root causes,” said Harris, who is scheduled to visit Mexico and Guatemala early next month.

The Biden administration has said it is determined to improve the rule of law and reduce corruption in Central American nations as part of its strategy to stem migration to the United States, which has increased significantly since the new U.S. president took office in January. Harris recently announced US $310 million in additional aid for the region, which has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and recent hurricanes.

The U.S. vice president’s chief spokesperson said in a statement after the meeting that “the leaders agreed to work together to establish a strategic partnership to address the root causes of migration from countries in the Northern Triangle region.”

“Through this joint initiative, the United States and Mexico will leverage their expertise and resources to tackle a range of challenges, including lack of employment, limited market access, and deforestation and regional instability caused by climate change,” the statement said.

lopez obrador and kamala harris
The leaders agreed to work together to address the root causes of migration.

It also said that United States and Mexican officials discussed “their desire to advance a bilateral effort against migrant smuggling and human trafficking that will bring together law enforcement from both nations to dismantle criminal networks.”

The statement made no mention of support for López Obrador’s proposal for the United States to support financially the expansion of Mexico’s tree-planting employment program into Central American nations and issue U.S. work visas and eventually citizenship to people who participate in the scheme for three years.

The president proposed the scheme to Biden at a climate summit last month and raised it again with Harris on Friday.

“We have a specific proposal that I believe could be convenient,” he said in his introductory remarks.

In addition to proposing an expansion of the Sembrando Vida (Sowing Life) tree-planting program, López Obrador thanked the United States government for sharing 2.7 million AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines with Mexico, according to a statement released by the president’s office.

“In addition, he praised the United States’ decision to support the suspension of Covid-19 vaccine patents. In accordance with the bonds of solidarity and cooperation between both countries, he asked the United States to increase cooperation with Mexico to accelerate the pace of immunization in the country,” the statement said.

The meeting between López Obrador and Harris came a day after the federal government sent a diplomatic note to the United States to ask it to explain why it has provided funding to Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity, a civil society organization that the president has accused of attempting to “sabotage” his administration. However, prior to the meeting López Obrador said he wouldn’t raise that issue.

He chose instead to focus more on what unites Mexico and the United States rather than the issues that divide the two countries.

“We have a border of more than 3,000 kilometers that unites us and we have to seek understanding, not fight. There is a phrase attributed to the president Porfirio Diáz, ‘ ‘Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States,'” López Obrador said, drawing laughter from Harris and other U.S. officials.

“Now, because the relations are much better, we can say, blessed Mexico, so close to God and not so far from the United States,” he added, repeating the same message he conveyed to President Biden in March. “We’re going to continue understanding each other, we have many things in common.”

Source: Reuters (en) 

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