June 16, 2019
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Mexico to hold permanent talks on immigration with regional neighbors

Mexico City, Jun 12 (efe-epa).- Mexico will hold permanent discussions on the immigration phenomenon with Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, according to the Aztec nation's foreign relations secretary, who was scheduled to speak Wednesday with the presidents of those three countries.

"I'll speak today with the presidents. But we've already had conversations with the ambassadors. We talk every week," Marcelo Ebrard said at the National Palace in Mexico City, adding that talks have been launched on a permanent basis to attend to the emergency.

During Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's morning press conference, Ebrard said the four countries will be discussing consular matters, protection for migrants and the "complex" issue of border management.

"We have to go over a lot of details and work closely with them. On (Thursday) I'll let you know what happened with this," the foreign relations secretary said.

Ebrard said that following the implementation of a "special plan" with different government offices on Tuesday, thousands of members of a newly created National Guard force are being deployed at Mexico's southern border with Guatemala, one of the steps Mexico is taking to curb the flow of United States-bound migrants under an agreement reached last Friday with Washington.

Trump had threatened on May 30 to impose 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 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.

"We could say that we're already in the implementation phase of the special plan," Ebrard said, adding that the National Guard rollout will be carried out quickly starting this week.

On Friday, Ebrard will meet with the governors of the southeastern Mexican states of Oaxaca, Chiapas, Veracruz and Campeche with a view to establishing state and federal measures to tackle illegal immigration.

After providing a detailed report to the Senate about his conversations with US officials in Washington last week, Ebrard on Wednesday said a phone call he had with US President Donald Trump at the conclusion of the negotiations lasted five minutes.

During that contribution, Trump communicated to him the importance of tackling illegal immigration and drug trafficking, he said.

Regarding that second point, Ebrard said he told the US president that "a very broad cooperation program" was in place.

Ebrard also said that next week he will meet with various United Nations agencies to discuss the migration phenomenon, including the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

He said political, public safety and economic factors - and particularly lower coffee prices - were to blame for an "exponential" increase in the number of mostly Central American migrants in recent months.

Ebrard also ruled out the possibility that Lopez Obrador's initial policy of offering thousands of humanitarian visas to migrants had contributed to the exodus.

Finally, he said that after meeting with the state governors on Friday he will have a more exact estimate of the economic cost of implementing all of the new migratory measures.

Before Ebrard spoke, Lopez Obrador said a positive agreement had been reached with the US that avoided "an economic and financial crisis" and which has been well-received by Mexican citizens, business leaders and financial markets.

"It's a big challenge because we have to show within a certain period that there's another way to address the immigration phenomenon, which would be the Mexican way," the president said, referring to the fact that in 45 days the US government will evaluate the progress made and could reissue the tariff threat.

Without providing concrete figures, Lopez Obrador said a budget is in place for the immigration crackdown thanks to money the government has saved through its anti-corruption fight and austerity measures.

The leftist leader called on all Mexicans to empathize with migrants and referred to biblical teachings about caring for others.

"No xenophobia, which means hatred of foreigners, nor campaigns against migrants. That's neither human nor Christian," Lopez Obrador said.

mqb-er/mc

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