The U.S. President, Joe Biden, visited, El Paso, Texas, on Sunday (8) a city bordering Mexico, before his official visit to the neighboring country, where he will address the migration crisis and the urgency to reduce the damage of drug trafficking in his country.
Biden’s arrival in Mexico will take place amid intense debates about illegal immigration and drug trafficking in the region, issues that could affect his image in a possible reelection bid in 2024.
The Democrat visited El Paso in a gesture to his opponents, who berate him for not stepping foot on the 2,100-mile border in his two years in office.
“Our border communities represent the best of our nation’s bounty and we will get them more support as we expand legal avenues for orderly migration and limit illegal immigration,” he wrote on his Twitter account before arriving in Texas.
Biden met with Customs and Immigration agents and the Border Patrol at the Bridge of the Americas checkpoint, a complex of inspection buildings and fences separating the two countries.
The agents and officers, including specialists with sniffer dogs, gave a demonstration of techniques for searching vehicles passing through the border. Biden also exchanged views with Border Patrol agents on sections of the fences between the United States and Mexico.
The estimated 2.3 million arrests and expulsions of undocumented migrants in fiscal year 2022; the 108,000 drug overdose deaths in 2021: migration and drug trafficking will be at the center of the meeting between Biden and his Mexican counterpart, leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador, on Monday in Mexico City.
On Tuesday, the two leaders will attend the North American Leaders’ Summit along with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“Mexico is particularly relevant when it comes to dealing with the two serious problems, which have become political vulnerabilities for Biden,” Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue study center, told AFP.
Before traveling to El Paso, Biden announced a migration program limited to four countries: Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, mired in a deep crisis, although the incessant flow of undocumented travelers affects several nations.
The program will allow monthly entry of up to 30,000 people for two years, while strengthening deportations of those who enter U.S. territory illegally.
But without a robust plan for dealing with refugees, “these new measures will only put asylum seekers in dangerous situations,” warned the NGO International Rescue Committee.
Leaving regional issues aside for a moment, Biden called Sunday’s invasion of the Three Branches headquarters in Brasilia by hundreds of supporters of former president Jair Bolsonaro “outrageous. The invaders do not accept the inauguration of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
His Mexican counterpart, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who will receive him on Sunday night, denounced this attack as a “coup attempt by Brazilian conservatives.”
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who is accompanying Biden, emphasized Sunday that the immigration problem goes far beyond the United States and Mexico.
“The issue is dominating the hemisphere, and a regional challenge requires a regional solution,” Mayorkas told ABC broadcaster.
The flows of migrants fleeing violence and poverty in their countries are a particular challenge for Mexico, whose border has become a revolving door for illegal travelers trying to enter the United States.
Thousands of them remain in Mexican territory because of the so-called “Title 42,” a restrictive rule implemented by the U.S. government during the covid-19 pandemic and authorizing express expulsions. The measure was adopted by the administration of Republican Donald Trump (2017-2021), but the courts prevented its suspension over fears of an even greater avalanche of migrants.
The Biden-AMLO bilateral meeting will also be marked by the tragedy of fentanyl, a synthetic drug 50 times more potent than heroin, whose production and trafficking are controlled by Mexican cartels with chemical components from China, according to the DEA, the US drug enforcement agency.
Nearly two-thirds of the 108,000 overdose deaths in the US in 2021 involved synthetic opioids. The amount of fentanyl seized in 2022 alone would be more than enough to kill the entire U.S. population, the agency says.
Therefore, Biden seeks to “expand information exchange” with Mexico and “strengthen prevention,” said the head of U.S. diplomacy for Latin America, Brian Nichols.
In 2021, the two countries announced a change in their anti-drug policies to focus on the causes of drug trafficking, after 15 years of a strategy with an emphasis on the active participation of military forces. Since its launch in 2006, Mexico has accumulated some 340,000 murders and thousands of missing persons, without the cartels having lost any strength.
Amid this bloodbath, the Mexican government has filed two lawsuits against American firearms manufacturers.
Security experts see a cooling of cooperation under López Obrador’s “hugs, not gunshots” policy, which contrasts with operations like last Thursday’s capture in Culiacán of Olívio Guzmán, son of Joaquín “Chapo” Guzmán, sentenced to life in prison in the United States.
Climate change will also be on the table, after the two countries announced at COP27 a renewable energy project that will require $48 billion in investments and in which Mexico promises to expand its greenhouse gas reduction goals by 2030.
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