MEXICO CITY ( Associated Press) – Mexico’s President Andres Manuel López Obrador plans to launch an electric, five-day tour on Thursday to four Central American countries and Cuba to discuss his government’s development outlook and ways in which which can help in easing the pressure of migration.
This will only be the third foreign trip in more than three years for a president who wants to say that the best foreign policy is good domestic policy. The visit is an opportunity for Mexico to re-establish itself as a leader in Latin America and will be welcomed by some leaders for their perceived anti-democratic tendencies under pressure from the US government and others.
Both geographically and figuratively, Mexico finds itself divided between the United States of America and the rest of Latin America. López Obrador has defied criticism from the Trump administration that his government is doing Washington the dirty work of trying to stop migrants before they reach the US border.
López Obrador will be received in Central America, in part, as an envoy to the United States when it comes to migration policy. He and President Joe Biden spoke on the phone on Friday, and their foreign secretaries met in Washington on Tuesday.
The US government is trying to build consensus ahead of the June summit of America in Los Angeles. It hopes to strengthen a regional approach to the management of migration flows, which have included large numbers of Central Americans in recent years, but more recently Haitians, Cubans, Venezuelans, Colombians and migrants from other continents who Make your way through America.
“We are working together to tackle an unprecedented migration challenge in our entire hemisphere and around the world for that matter, and cooperation with Mexico is absolutely vital,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday.
López Obrador and Biden agree that the root causes of migration such as lack of economic opportunities, crime and corruption must be addressed. Lopez Obrador has repeatedly urged Biden to fund the expansion of some of the Mexican leader’s signature social programs in Central America.
One pays farmers to plant trees that will eventually generate income through fruit or timber and encourage them to stay, a program praised by White House climate envoy John Kerry during a visit last year. Another trainee takes the youth to companies. Critics say both programs lack accountability.
The foreign ministry in Guatemala, where López Obrador will make his first stop on Thursday, said it expected discussions on immigration and a plantation program.
Ana Vanessa Cárdenas, coordinator of the International Relations Program at Anahuac Mayab University in Mérida, said the relationship between Mexico and the US is important to Central American governments, which are under pressure to address the root causes of migration because “Mexico is the facilitator of this aid.” And it’s also the motivator of that help.”
Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei has been under pressure from the US government to back down in the country’s fight against corruption – a campaign central to the image of López Obrador in Mexico.
El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele has faced international condemnation since imposing a state of emergency following a surge in gang killings in late March, hence a visit by López Obrador, who calls for a “hugs not pills” approach to security. Likes, there’s a good opportunity to show she’s not being taken apart. El Salvador’s security forces have arrested more than 22,000 suspected gang members in just one month, and human rights organizations say there have been several arbitrary arrests.
Mexican Senator Emilio lvarez Icaza, former chairman of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, called on López Obrador to postpone his trip to El Salvador last week. “It will set a very serious precedent that for the first time a Mexican president is in El Salvador, right in a state of emergency,” he said.
“It speaks badly of Mexican democracy, but for another country (El Salvador), it has the opposite effect,” Cardenas said. “It supports that things are being done within the framework of the international recognition that Nayb Bukele will work hard to obtain from another country.”
In Honduras, new President Xiomara Castro has forged close ties with the Biden administration. Last month, Honduras extradited former President Juan Orlando Hernández to the US to face drug and weapons charges and Castro campaigned to crack down on corruption. He is desperate to energize the economy and create jobs, so López may be open to Obrador’s proposals if there is money behind it.
The president’s agenda is less clear in Belize. The small country has no significant migration problems, but López Obrador hinted at a topic up for discussion earlier this week. One of his favorite projects is the construction of a tourist train around the Yucatan Peninsula which is neighboring Belize. The Maya train has been criticized for its environmental impact and lack of feasibility studies, but López Obrador says it will bring development to poorer areas.
On Tuesday, López Obrador said the train would benefit Belize and Guatemala by boosting economic activity along Mexico’s southern border.
The president’s final stop in Cuba will be the most symbolic.
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel visited Mexico last year for his independence celebrations. López Obrador has ruled largely as a nationalist and populist, but he has positioned himself politically as a devoted leftist.
“All Mexican presidents in the history of revolutionary Cuba have traveled to Cuba and obviously (Andres) Manuel López Obrador, the leftist president, cannot be an exception,” said Jorge Guajardo, a former Mexican diplomat and senior director of McLarty Associates. Washington.
The visit is also an opportunity to push back against the idea that López Obrador has been aligned with the United States to help stop the migration, he said. López Obrador has criticized the US economic blockade of Cuba and said he told US officials that no country should be kicked out of the US summit. The Biden administration has indicated that Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua will not be invited.
“I believe his visit to Cuba is a message to the most left-wing wing of his group,” Guajardo said.
Associated Press writers María Verza in Mexico City and Sonia Perez de in Guatemala City contributed to this report.