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Blinken meets Lopez Obrador to ease thorny US-Mexico relations


© Reuters File Photo: US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken speaks during a press briefing with Matthew Kerman, Secretary-General of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, at the OECD Ministerial Council meeting in Paris, France in October.

By Simon Lewis

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken visited Mexico on Friday to hold talks with President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, trying to mend fences between the two countries over a new security cooperation agreement and a jumping agreement. Transfer

Top U.S. diplomats visit Mexico at a time when the Biden administration is increasingly relying on its southern neighbor to stop the flow of Latin American immigrants to the United States.

Blinken’s visit is part of the Biden administration’s first U.S.-Mexico high-level security dialogue, where the two countries will discuss a new agreement to tackle everything from drug flows to U.S.-made gun smuggling into the United States. Mexico.

Lopez took Obrador Blinken on a mural tour of the National Palace before having breakfast with the two delegations, where the Mexican leader invited US President Joe Biden to visit.

Blinken said Lopez Obrador’s earlier remarks were “absolutely consistent” with what Biden had in mind in terms of US-Mexico relations.

At the beginning of the breakfast meeting, Blinken said, “I am very inspired by the vision you have expressed. It is a partnership, a shared responsibility, to make it a reality.”

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland were with Blinken, who is also meeting with Secretary of State Marcelo Ebard.

U.S.-Mexico relations took a major hit last October when U.S. anti-drug agents arrested former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos, angering the Mexican government. Cienfuegos was released, but the detention strained the relationship and security cooperation was damaged.

U.S. officials are calling the new security agreement broader than the previous one, the Merida Initiative, under which the United States provided nearly 3. 3. billion to help Mexico fight crime.

Launched in 2007, the Merida Initiative initially provided military equipment to Mexican forces and later helped train Mexican security forces and the judiciary. But Lopez Obrador was a vocal critic of the program, saying it tarnished relations with previous governments and financed security equipment in the 2000s.

Mexican officials say the new agreement will likely focus on information exchange, the root cause of the violence and the flow of U.S.-made guns into Mexico, a key concern for Lopez Obrador.

But negotiating a new deal would be painful. Vanda (Nasdaq 🙂 Felbab-Brown, a security and foreign policy analyst, said the United States wants a more muscular approach to the fight against drug cartels, while Lopez prefers a softer and less confrontational approach to fighting the Obrador gang.

“There’s a small area of ​​overlap,” said Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow in the Brookings Institution’s foreign policy program at a think tank in Washington. “The United States is in an awkward position here because the Lopez Obrador administration is very comfortable ending security cooperation.”

What’s more, discussions about new security cooperation may be overshadowed by immigration concerns.

The increase in the number of Haitian and Latin American immigrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border last month plunged the Biden administration into another crisis and underscored Washington’s reliance on Mexico to stem the flow.

Mexico’s importance in managing immigration has given the Lopez Obrador administration the opportunity to pursue more independent policies in other areas, Mexican officials said privately.

During the change of US president earlier this year, Mexico made it difficult for American law enforcement agents to work in the country. Mexico has also delayed visas for US anti-drug officials, according to US media reports.

A senior Mexican security official said Mexico was optimistic about the new deal and that there could be an opportunity to review the restrictions imposed on US agents operating on Mexican soil, but that conditions could not be restored before Cienfuegos was arrested.

“I think part of the U.S. government knows this is not possible,” the Mexican official said.





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