The border will be the main protagonist this Tuesday during the visit to Washington of the Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, to his counterpart Joe Biden, who is scheduled to receive him at the White House. They will speak, according to an official from the US Administration who commented in a call with journalists and from anonymity details about the meeting, about how to improve the infrastructures in the 3,150 kilometers of border that both countries share, about the way to “approach migration and police cooperation to disrupt the flow of fentanyl” and also on how to “promote clean energy, economic innovation and prosperity”. “Economic cooperation or issues related to climate or food security” will also be on the table. On the Mexican side, López Obrador was somewhat more specific about the agenda by specifically adding the problem of inflation. “It is a meeting to reaffirm our commitment to work together for the benefit of our peoples. That is the purpose,” the Mexican president announced at a press conference.
It is the third time that both leaders meet. The first was in March of last year, when the pandemic still recommended virtual summits. They met again, already in person, at a meeting of the group known as the Three Amigos, the sum of the United States, Mexico and Canada, last November, to talk about the present and future of North America, after the years in which Donald Trump blew up that relationship. Afterwards, they did not see each other at the Summit of the Americas, held in early June in Los Angeles. So, López Obrador decided to stage his disagreement with the fact that Biden, host of the multilateral, did not invite Cuba, Venezuela or Nicaragua to stay at home.
The Joe Biden Administration has made an effort this Monday in a conversation with journalists to turn that rudeness into the impulse for this invitation to have taken place. The goal is to “discuss” a “broad and deep alliance.” López Obrador’s refusal to attend the Los Angeles summit has not been the only clash in the bilateral relationship. After the surprising harmony shown with Trump, the theoretical ideological closeness between the two Administrations has experienced episodes of tension. For example, the controversial Mexican electricity reform, which reduces the operation of many US companies and has caused diplomatic friction.
The day will begin for López Obrador with a breakfast with the vice president, Kamala Harris, at her residence, at the Naval Observatory, northwest of the city of Washington. Harris, who has been especially involved with the region, will discuss, according to another call with journalists, the efforts to tackle the causes of migration from Central America and the way to “advance cooperation with the region in terms of development” . At 11:15 a.m., López Obrador will be received by the president in the Oval Office. In the evening, Biden will embark on his trip to the Middle East, with stops in Israel, Palestine and Saudi Arabia.
According to the senior White House official, “there is no issue that the presidents want to address that is off the agenda.” And that, he added, includes controversies such as López Obrador’s recent statements about the founder of Wikileaks (he said that the United States should “dismantle the Statue of Liberty” if it condemns Julian Assange and that it would intercede for the activist during this bilateral), on the attacks on press freedom in Mexico (“it is known that the struggle between democracies and autocracies is one of the issues that most concerns Biden,” said the high-ranking official in the call) or energy and environmental policy of the neighbor to the south, which collides with Washington’s plans.
It is also expected that during the meeting some kind of agreement will be reached to reinforce the San Isidro entry point, “the busiest land border crossing.” “Our goal is to create a crossroads [digno] 21st century San Diego [California]”, added the US official, who did not want to go into detail about the negotiation between the two countries on the number of work visas that will be processed (this Tuesday, he insisted, it will be one more day to discuss “cooperation and implementation and not so much of specific numerical commitments”).
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He wanted to emphasize, however, “the efforts to expand access to the H2B program [pensado para los trabajadores temporales no agrícolas]”That will allow us to address the problem of labor, which is scarce in tourism, industry and other key sectors,” he concluded. The Mexican president also ruled out talking about specific agreements but stressed the opportunity to undertake a regularization by quotas for Mexican migrants. “Why deny that labor force is needed, that workers are needed? Transformations are required, that is the approach. We are going to change.”
The recent tragedy in San Antonio, where 53 migrants died asphyxiated inside a truck, 26 of them Mexicans, who arrived in the middle of a record season for immigration, is planning the bilateral one; May broke the records for illegal entries into the country with more than 239,000. “We are doing a lot to expand our cooperation to address the problem of human trafficking networks. That issue will be very important at the meeting”, the White House representative has promised. “It is about seeing how we can expand the legal channels of entry, with special attention to Central America, but without forgetting that, as was demonstrated in San Antonio, many of these incidents are carried out by Mexican citizens. The important thing is to be clear that legal migration can boost economic growth.”