Mexico agrees to invest $1.5 billion in ‘smart’ border technology | National policy

By WILL WEISSERT and ZEKE MILLER – Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador agreed to spend $1.5 billion to improve “smart” border technology in meetings Tuesday with President Joe Biden – a decision, according to the White House, shows that cooperation between neighbors succeeds where the Trump administration is committed to walling off the border and making Mexico pay.

A person familiar with a series of agreements the two countries reached when their leaders met in Washington said they also called for other things like increasing the number of work visas issued by United States and welcoming more refugees. They would also continue joint patrols for Mexico and Guatemala to hunt smugglers along their shared border.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal had not been officially announced. But the Biden administration was thrilled to secure border funding from Mexico after years of failed attempts by former President Donald Trump.

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The agreements came hours after the meetings began, with López Obrador offering more than half an hour of commentary. He touched on everything from Americans heading south for cheaper prices at the pumps at Mexican gas stations to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal politics, all the while chastising conservatives and saying the United States and Mexico should reject the “status quo” at the border.

López Obrador said the two countries ‘should close ranks to help each other’ amid soaring inflation and border challenges starkly underlined by 53 migrants who died last month after being abandoned in a suffocating tractor-trailer on a secluded side road in San Antonio.

Although in the past it was did not shy away from facing American criticismLópez Obrador struck a positive tone with Biden while heaping praise on Vice President Kamala Harris.

Biden was equally conciliatory, saying, “I see, we see Mexico as an equal partner” and brushing aside differences of opinion on policy with López Obrador, “You and I have a strong and productive relationship and I would say a partnership. .”

It was a change from last month, when López Obrador declined Biden’s invitation to the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles after unsuccessfully urging the United States to include the leaders of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela – all countries with anti-democratic regimes.

The Mexican leader also called on the United States to support Ukraine in his war with Russia “a gross mistake” and criticized the United States for moving more quickly to provide military funding to Ukraine than financial aid to Central America.

Speaking about the migrant deaths in Texas – which included people from Mexico and Central America – Biden said “we know we have to meet these challenges together”. He said the United States and Mexico agree on the need to increase opportunities for legal migration, especially as more workers can help ease labor shortages in the United States. States and potentially help calm rising prices.

“This is a proven strategy that fuels economic growth and reduces irregular migration,” Biden said.

Immigration has been a political flashpoint for Biden, as leading Republicans have pointed out a growing number of people from Mexico and Central America illegally crossing the US southern border while criticizing the administration and leading Democrats for not doing more to slow it down. López Obrador acknowledged those criticisms, but said the situation on the border will require solutions, not just politics.

“The way out is not through conservatism. Output through transformation,” he said. “Transform, not maintain the status quo.”

Tuesday was the second in-person meeting between Biden and López Obrador at the White House. First lady Jill Biden hosted Mexican first lady Beatriz Gutiérrez Müller at the White House celebration this spring Cinco de Mayo.

Discussions come just before Biden leaves for Israel, the West Bank and Saudi Arabia.

A series of agreements announced by the Biden administration promised joint actions to modernize and improve infrastructure along key parts of their 2,000-mile (3,200 kilometer) border, strengthen law enforcement cooperation anti-fentanyl smuggling legislation and promoting clean energy.

Biden said a “major anti-smuggling operation” against fentanyl traffickers has been underway since April and has led to more than 3,000 arrests.

Despite broad agreement on the attempt to increase legal migration, the Biden administration has been less clear on the extent to which it will urge Mexico to stop people crossing its territory and then entering the United States illegally. This was a key Trump demand.

Vice President Kamala Harris, who has been tasked with exploring the root causes of immigration in Latin America, also hosted López Obrador for a Tuesday breakfast that featured mutual kind words. Speaking to the Mexican president outside the Naval Observatory, which is the vice president’s residence, Harris referenced his past visits to his country.

“The time I spent with you in Mexico was so special to me,” she said, noting “the friendship that has been so important to both nations.”

“She’s our friend,” said López Obrador. “But also a woman with principles. A smart woman. Honest. She is a supporter of equality. So I congratulate the American people because they have a top notch vice president. … We have always spoken for the good of our peoples and our two nations. Today we are going to do the exact same thing.

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