APEC: López Obrador and Biden close the year with a meeting crossed by the migration crisis
Mexico and the United States took advantage of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC) to talk about migration and fentanyl, two topics that have become unavoidable in the bilateral relationship. Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Joe Biden met this Friday in San Francisco, on the sidelines of the international summit, to make a final cash cut before 2024, an election year on both sides of the border. Both leaders held a cordial dialogue and exchanged praise before the media, despite permanent challenges behind the scenes and some recent disagreements. “I thank you for the cooperation and leadership you have demonstrated in the face of this challenge, Mr. President,” Biden said in his inaugural address. “I couldn't have a better partner and ally than you,” he added. “We are closer than ever,” responded his Mexican counterpart. “Our relationship is excellent.”
The immigration crisis emerged from the beginning of this week as the main issue of the meeting. It was, in fact, the only agenda item that was explicitly mentioned in the previous statement issued Monday by the White House. Migration, which broke all records in the last 12 months, has become the Achilles heel of the Biden Administration and the main source of criticism from the Republican Party ahead of next year's elections. Turning off that front has been one of the United States' priorities at the last APEC summit.
“The issue that concerns them is migration, and within this the resolution of the Venezuelan issue is fundamental,” said Gustavo Petro, the president of Colombia, who met with the US president on Thursday afternoon within the framework of the forum. . Petro, in line with López Obrador, proposes diverting the migratory flow that is headed to the Darién jungle towards Venezuela. The condition for this is that Washington softens the sanctions imposed on the Nicolás Maduro regime. This year, Venezuelans surpassed Mexicans in illegal crossings for the first time in history.
To deal with Washington's demand to do more to contain the migration phenomenon, the López Obrador Government has insisted on the need for the United States to invest more in development cooperation programs in sending countries and adopt measures to attack the causes. structural aspects of migration, beyond seeking short-term solutions focused on containment. “We have to help each other so that migration is optional and not forced,” López Obrador stressed.
The extension of just over 30 kilometers of the border fence, announced during the visit of a delegation of senior officials to Mexico City last month, did not go down well with Mexican authorities. Mexico responded with a summit convened in Palenque (Chiapas) with 10 other Latin American countries on migration at the end of October, which resulted in a critical position on the US sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela as a trigger for the migration crisis.
The Mexican president seems to have considered the recent controversies over. “He is the first president of the United States in a long time who does not build walls, because that is not a solution,” López Obrador said about Biden, a recurring compliment on the four occasions they have met. The Mexican also recognized Biden as “the only United States president in recent history to open a legal avenue for migration” and highlighted the presence of tens of millions of people of Mexican origin in the United States, although the official statements were not beyond the common places.
Biden and López Obrador faced each other for about an hour at the Moscone Center, before the last working meeting of the summit, in which the American president must hand over the presidency of APEC to the Peruvian Dina Boluarte. The night before, the Mexican president attended an official dinner hosted by his American counterpart at the Legion of Honor museum in San Francisco. On this occasion, the exchange focused on issues of cooperation in national security and, above all, border control. They also took time to talk about the trade relationship, one of the strongest ties between both countries. “We are the main trading partner of the American Union, something outstanding,” López Obrador celebrated.
Both heads of state came to the meeting after holding separate meetings this week with Chinese President Xi Jinping. After a “frank” meeting, in which differences were evident, the United States and China agreed to more intense collaboration in the fight against trafficking in chemical precursors, crucial for the synthetic drug trafficking chain from Asia to North America. Mexico, which is considered only a transit territory, followed the lines of that agreement and asked Beijing to increase exchanges of information in the joint fight against drug trafficking and support in the control of substances for the production of fentanyl and other synthetic drugs.
“In terms of the fight against drugs, Mexico is committed to continuing to support not allowing the introduction of chemicals, we are very aware of the damage it causes in the United States,” said López Obrador. “It is an act of solidarity.” The emphasis on National Security on the agenda was reflected in the delegations that accompanied the leaders. The Mexican president appeared with five members of his Cabinet: Rosa Icela Rodríguez (Security), Luis Cresencio Sandoval (Defense), Rafael Ojeda (Navy), Alicia Bárcena (Foreign Affairs) and Raquel Buenrostro (Economy). Several old acquaintances of Mexico stood out in Biden's delegation, such as the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken; Ambassador Ken Salazar; special assistant to the president Juan González, and advisor Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall. The president's return to Mexican territory is scheduled for this afternoon, with a flight scheduled a couple of hours after the meeting with Biden.
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