As migrant surge continues, Mexico pushes U.S. to improve relations with Cuba and Venezuela

Dec 29, 2023 | 0 comments

US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has met with Mexico’s president, in an attempt to limit the surge of migrants reaching the US southwestern border.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has said he is willing to help, but he wants to see progress in US relations with Cuba and Venezuela, two of the top sources of migrants, along with more development aid for the region.

An estimated 10,000 migrants leave Tapachula, Mexico on Tuesday in a caravan headed towards the United States southern border.

On Monday, Mexico’s top priority appeared to be getting the US to reopen border crossings that were closed because of the migrant surge.

“We spoke about the importance of the border, and about the economic relationship … the importance of reopening the border crossings, that is a priority for us,” foreign relations secretary Alicia Bárcena said after the meeting.
Both sides in the talks face pressure to reach an agreement after past steps like limiting direct travel into Mexico or deporting some migrants failed to stop the influx. This month, as many as 10,000 migrants were arrested daily at the south-west US border.

The US has struggled to process thousands of migrants at the border, and house them once they reach northern cities. Mexican industries were affected last week when the US briefly closed two vital Texas railway crossings, arguing that border patrol agents had to be reassigned to deal with the surge. Another non-rail border crossing remained closed in Lukeville, Arizona, and operations were partially suspended in San Diego and Nogales, Arizona.

Blinken left open the possibility that those crossings could be reopened if Mexico provides more help.

“Secretary Blinken will discuss unprecedented irregular migration in the western hemisphere and identify ways Mexico and the United States will address border security challenges, including actions to enable the reopening of key ports of entry across our shared border,” his office said.

Mexico says it detected 680,000 migrants moving through the country in the first 11 months of 2023 and assigned over 32,000 military troops and National Guard officers – about 11% of its total forces – to enforce immigration laws. The National Guard now detains far more migrants than criminals.

But the shortcomings of that approach were on display Tuesday, when National Guard officers made no attempt to stop a caravan of about 6,000 migrants, many from Central America and Venezuela, from walking through Mexico’s main inland immigration inspection point in southern Chiapas state near the Guatemala border.

In the past, Mexico has let such caravans go through, trusting that they would tire themselves out walking along the highway.

López Obrador confirmed last week that US officials want Mexico to do more to block migrants at its southern border with Guatemala, or make it more difficult to move across Mexico by train or in trucks or buses, a policy known as “contention.”
But the president said that in exchange he wanted the US to send more development aid to migrants’ home countries, and to reduce or eliminate sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela.

“We are going to help, as we always do,” López Obrador said. “Mexico is helping reach agreements with other countries, in this case Venezuela.” He said Mexico has proposed to President Joe Biden that a US-Cuba bilateral dialogue be opened.

In May, Mexico agreed to take in migrants from countries such as Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba who had been turned away by the US for not following rules that provided new legal pathways to asylum and other forms of migration.
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Credit: Associated Press

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