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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 23 January 2019

Mexico and US presidents discuss plan to stop migration

Lopez Obrador says he spoke to Trump about development and job creation in Central America

Migrants from Central America at the border with the US in Tijuana, Mexico. Reuters
Migrants from Central America at the border with the US in Tijuana, Mexico. Reuters

Mexico's leftist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador says he discussed the issues of migration and job creation in a phone call with US President Donald Trump on Wednesday.

The issue came to the fore last month when a caravan of about 7,000 migrants arrived in the Mexican border city of Tijuana and some attempted to enter the United States.

"In respectful and friendly terms, we spoke about the migration issue and the possibility of implementing a joint programme of development and job creation in Central America and our country," Mr Lopez Obrador wrote on Twitter.

The Mexican president has called on the United States to join in a "Marshall Plan" effort to commit about $20 billion (72bn) in public and private investment in Central America to create jobs, so people there will not have to emigrate.

Despite their differences in background and policy, the relationship between the two leaders has been quite cordial. Mr Lopez Obrador, who took office December 1, has said he hopes to make migration a choice, not a necessity, for poor people of the region.

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Earlier on Wednesday, Mexico's top security official said the government would stop illegal entries at its southern border with Guatemala.

Interior Secretary Olga Sanchez Cordero said the new administration would end undocumented or illegal crossings over the Suchiate River, which marks much of the border between Mexico and Guatemala.

"In the south there will be only one entry, on the bridge," she said. "Anyone who wants to enter illegally, we are going to say: 'Get in line and you can enter our country.'"

She offered no details on how that would be done.

In late October, Mexican authorities briefly tried to block a migrant caravan from crossing the river with ranks of police and military personnel, a helicopter and boats but the migrants crossed anyway.

Ms Sanchez Cordero said the migrant caravan was "no longer an issue".

"Do you know why it is no longer an issue? Because in five days this administration solved the issue, five days," she said, referring to the first week since Ms Lopez Obrador took office. "The United States was impressed."

The new administration has mobilised material and equipment to improve conditions at the migrants' shelter in the northern border city of Tijuana, but problems continue because the Central Americans there are frustrated by the slow pace at which US officials are processing asylum requests.

Ms Sanchez Cordero said Mexico would promote a "Christmas at home" campaign to encourage many of the migrants to return to their home countries for the holidays.

Updated: December 13, 2018 01:32 PM

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