EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The president of Mexico is flying to Central America and Cuba this week to discuss migration and economic aid. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s five-day trip starting Thursday comes on the heels of talks with the U.S. government on joint actions to curb rising northward migration flows.
“We talked with Biden about programs to develop Central America, about migration issues. We are convinced we have to address the causes (of migration) and create jobs in Central American countries,” Lopez Obrador said Wednesday in a news conference broadcast on YouTube.
Migrant encounters in the United States continue rising to historical levels, with most of the migration coming from Mexico, Central America and Cuba.
Lopez Obrador said he will talk to presidents Alejandro Giammatei of Guatemala, Xiomara Castro of Honduras and Nayib Bukele of El Salvador about economic assistance programs to curb migration. He’s also meeting with Cuban President Miguel Diaz Canel, although Lopez Obrador did not mention aid to that country.
“There is not sufficient investment yet. We are investing in Central America according to our means, with programs like Sembrando Vida (Seeding Life) and Jovenes Construyendo el Futuro (Youths Building the Future). In El Salvador already 10,000 farmers are getting support from the government of Mexico so they can keep working in their towns and don’t feel obligated to migrate,” the Mexican president said.
Earlier this week, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard met with U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in anticipation of the planned rollback of public health order Title 42 at the border, which for two years has allowed U.S. border agents to swiftly expel newly arrived migrants.
The order is set to expire May 23 though a federal judge has issued a temporary block that the administration is contesting in court.
The Biden administration is also encouraging job creation in Central America, with Vice President Kamala Harris reaching out to large U.S. companies to invest in or expand operations in the region.
Lopez Obrador on Wednesday said that may not be enough.
“We’re trying to convince the U.S. government to make swift investments. They think it’s enough to promote private investment, that if factories open in Central America jobs will be created and people can work close to their homes. That is good but it takes time,” Lopez Obrador said. “The other thing (we have to do) is increase the number of temporary (U.S.) visas in Central America. It’s a paradox that the U.S. is short on labor and has an immigration policy that doesn’t let that labor force come in.”
Mexico’s Seeding Life program works by paying farmers in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras a small wage to keep working their land. The Youths Building the Future program funds internships in factories, small businesses and farming operations.
Lopez Obrador said he’s trying to convince the Biden administration to pair financial aid to Central America with temporary U.S. work visas, which would be another incentive for people not to opt for trying to move to the United States permanently by any means available.