June 16, 2019
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Mexico: National Guard will start operating near southern border on June 18

Mexico City, Jun 14 (efe-epa) Mexico's foreign relations secretary said here Friday that a newly created National Guard force will start operating in the country's southern region on June 18 with the goal of halting the flow of United States-bound migrants.

"Regarding the National Guard deployment, it will be concluded by Tuesday of next week (June 18)," Marcelo Ebrard told reporters during President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's regular morning news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City.

A total of 6,000 National Guard troops are being deployed to southern Mexico to provide assistance to immigration authorities.

A new security force made up of army, navy and Federal Police units, the National Guard had been scheduled to officially start operating on June 30.

But a diplomatic spat with the US and Washington's threat to impose crushing tariffs on all Mexican goods accelerated the deployment.

Trump had threatened on May 30 to slap escalating tariffs on all Mexican exports in the coming months (up to a level of 25 percent by October) if Mexico did not take aggressive steps to halt illegal immigration, but he agreed last Friday to suspend that threat after Lopez Obrador's administration vowed to crack down on migrant flows.

A move by Washington to levy tariffs on all Mexican imports would inflict serious economic pain on the Aztec nation.

Mexico shipped $328 billion in products - mainly vehicles and vehicle components - to the US during the first 11 months of 2018, representing 79.4 percent of the country's total exports.

Ebrard said Friday that the illegal trafficking of mostly Central American migrants to the United States via Mexico generates roughly $6 billion a year in illegal proceeds.

That estimate is based on the amount that migrants pay people smugglers - between $3,500 and $7,000 per person.

Those most vulnerable to people trafficking are children, who are kidnapped and sold to families who believe that if they enter the United States with a minor they will eligible for a 20-day permit.

"I'll get you the kid so that in the United States they give you the permit," Ebrard said of "the most heart-wrenching" product of people trafficking.

The foreign relations secretary also confirmed the recent sharp rise in people making the northbound journey, saying "there has been a 300 percent increase in the flow of undocumented migrants to the US" over the past several months.

On Tuesday, Mexico's government announced the creation of a special table for discussions of the migratory phenomenon, a panel made up of senior officials from different secretariats (ministries).

On Friday, Ebrard said that special committee had now been fully established.

He also said the National Institute of Migration (Inami) had hired 825 new employees who will start working this weekend.

"They didn't have sufficient personnel, and that was one of the big problems we had," the foreign relations secretary said.

In addition, around 200 workers from the Social Wellbeing Secretariat have been deployed to attend to the migration phenomenon in the southeastern state of Chiapas, which borders Guatemala.

Mexican officials also will meet with their US counterparts on Friday to discuss ports of entry and the number of migrants requesting asylum in the neighboring country.

He said a table for talks on regional development with the Central American nations of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras - the main migrant source countries - has already been set up and that those discussions will begin next week.

Mexico has stressed since Day 1 that socio-economic development is the ultimate solution to the migrant crisis, Ebrard said, adding that "we're going to demonstrate that it can be done, in the short and long term."

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