President López Obrador discussed migration and job creation in Mexico and Central America during a telephone call yesterday with United States President Donald Trump.
“In respectful and friendly terms, we spoke about the migration issue and the possibility of implementing a joint program of development and job creation in Central America and our country,” López Obrador wrote on his Twitter account.
The conversation between the two presidents followed an announcement by Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard earlier this week that Mexico will invest more than US $30 billion over the next five years on a Comprehensive Development Plan with Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador aimed at curbing migration to the United States.
López Obrador has called on the United States to contribute to the plan, which Ebrard said last month would need to be on the scale of the Marshall Plan that rebuilt western Europe after World War II.
Thousands of Central American migrants have entered Mexico in large groups known as caravans over the past two months to travel to Mexico’s northern border and seek asylum in the United States.
Several thousand are now stranded in Tijuana and other border cities, where many will face a frustratingly long wait for the opportunity to plead their case for protection to United States authorities.
A growing number of migrants are crossing or attempting to cross the border illegally to hand themselves over to U.S. border agents and thus expedite the asylum request process.
Trump has described the caravans as an “invasion” and frequently urged Mexico to do more to stop them from reaching the border.
Interior Secretary Olga Sánchez said yesterday that the government will stop illegal entries at Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala but gave no detail about how it would achieve it.
“In the south there will be only one entry, on the bridge,” she said. “Anyone who wants to enter illegally, we are going to say: ‘Get in line and you can enter our country.”
In spite of the contentious migration issue and their position on opposite sides of the political spectrum, the relationship between López Obrador and Trump has been mostly cordial.
Two days after his swearing-in on December 1, Trump congratulated López Obrador in a Twitter message and declared that “we will work well together for many years to come!”
Mexico’s first leftist president in a generation has stressed the importance of the relationship with the United States and said that he wants to maintain respectful dialogue.
Neither the United States president nor the White House commented on yesterday’s telephone conversation but Trump returned to Twitter this morning to comment on the issue that has come to characterize the strained relations with Mexico during his administration.
“I often stated, ‘One way or the other, Mexico is going to pay for the Wall.’ This has never changed. Our new [trade] deal with Mexico (and Canada), the USMCA, is so much better than the old, very costly & anti-USA NAFTA deal, that just by the money we save, MEXICO IS PAYING FOR THE WALL!” he wrote.
At his daily press conference this morning, López Obrador said he has never spoken to Trump about the border wall issue.
He echoed the sentiment in his Twitter message yesterday, stating that his conversation with the U.S. president was “good” and “friendly” and stressing his intent to maintain a relationship of respect.
López Obrador also said that Trump had invited him to Washington and that there was a possibility he would go but added that “there must be a motive” for any meeting.