Curaçao Independence Day

10 Oct

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

On behalf of the people and Government of the United States of America, I congratulate the people of Curaçao as you celebrate Curaçao Day.

The longstanding friendship between our two countries is rooted in our shared values and cultural ties based on rule of law and support for democracy.  Working together in partnership, we will overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, tackle the climate crisis, and build back a better economy. Despite the pandemic, our joint law enforcement efforts, including the largest aerial counter narcotics deployment in 10 years, continue to disrupt the nefarious activities of narcotraffickers. Additionally, we have furthered our joint initiative to promote English language education in public schools, which builds lasting bridges between cultures and expands economic opportunity.

I wish the people of Curaçao a happy Curaçao Day and looking forward to our continued partnership.

DNC Statement on Donald Trump’s Rally in Iowa

9 Oct
In a desperate attempt for relevance, Donald Trump is holding another rally today. DNC spokesperson Ammar Moussa released the following statement: 

“Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Donald Trump’s stranglehold on the Republican Party speaks to their complete ideological bankruptcy and is the anvil around their necks going into 2022. The Republican Party remains beholden to a president who oversaw millions of lost jobs, hundreds of thousands of lives lost, and a violent assault on the Capitol and police officers. While Republicans have failed to lead, President Biden and Democrats continue to deliver for Iowans and Americans in ways Trump and Iowa Republicans are desperate to claim credit for — but voters recognize Democrats continue to deliver record job gains, leadership out of the pandemic, and an agenda to lower costs for families and ensure the ultra-wealthy and corporations pay their fair share.”

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Secretary Blinken’s Meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Lapid and the UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed

9 Oct

Office of the Spokesperson

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will meet with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and the UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan on October 13 in separate bilateral meetings and then in a trilateral setting. They will discuss progress made since the signing of the Abraham Accords last year, future opportunities for collaboration, and bilateral issues including regional security and stability.

Uganda’s Independence Day

9 Oct

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

As Uganda celebrates the 59th anniversary of its independence, it is a pleasure to congratulate all Ugandans on behalf of the people of the United States.

Our two peoples benefit from the longstanding partnership between the United States and Uganda.  Our now decades-long cooperation on health has helped bring Uganda to the cusp of controlling the scourge of HIV/AIDS and has significantly reduced deaths and illnesses due to malaria, tuberculosis, and other maladies.  Our partnership has also paid major dividends in the fight against COVID-19.  As we work together to end the pandemic, we will continue to partner with the Ugandan people to strengthen democratic institutions, respect for human rights, and economic development through expanded bilateral trade and investment.

The United States also appreciates Uganda’s commitment to welcoming those fleeing war and persecution. By offering to temporarily host evacuees from Afghanistan, Uganda has shown that its hospitality and generosity extend across the globe.  We also value the contribution of highly effective Ugandan peacekeeping forces to efforts to maintain peace and security in the region.

On this auspicious day, we look forward to continuing our partnership and cooperation with Uganda for many years to come.

Secretary Antony J. Blinken With Ana Maria Salazar of El Financiero/Bloomberg TV

9 Oct

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Mexico City, Mexico

Sofitel Hotel

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for this interview for El Financiero/Bloomberg.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  It’s good to be with you.  Thank you.

QUESTION:  Especially today where we have heard both from the Mexican Government, from Secretary Marcelo Ebrard and from you trying to outline what this new relationship between Mexico and the United States is going to look like, and it’s been interesting to listen to the statements being made and reading the document that was published today, this new agreement that is supposed to replace the Iniciativa Mérida.  So I guess my first question is:  There’s so many areas that it appears that President Biden and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador may have different visions of what this relationship should look like.  Could you just kind of explain to us or just outline what are the areas where we absolutely know that they’re in agreement, particularly when it has to do with border issues?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, I actually think there’s a tremendous amount of shared vision between the two presidents.  But let me say this:  We’ve been working closely together between our governments for the last nine months, almost ever since our administration took office, and we have built up a tremendous amount of trust and also very practical cooperation.  Of course, we’ve been dealing with migration —

QUESTION:  Right.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  — and the challenges that it poses together.  But very important, we – the two presidents agreed very early on that we would do two things to reflect the incredible breadth and depth of the relationship.  We would renew our economic dialogue and look at ways to increase economic cooperation, trade, investment, especially focusing on underserved communities and also looking, for example, at how we can build a strong supply chain that connects our countries.

QUESTION:  Right.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  We’ve done a lot of work there, very productive.  And the second piece was security, and ultimately this is about protecting citizens in both of our countries.  And what we focused on is taking a different approach.  Mérida had been in existence for 13 years.

QUESTION:  Right.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  It produced some good things, but every strategy needs to change, to evolve to account for different challenges.  And this approach that we’ve taken together is much more comprehensive.  Yes, law enforcement is very important and we’re going to modernize it.  But we also have to be and we are investing in our people, in giving them greater opportunities so that they don’t look to crime, look to drugs.  The United States has obligations when it comes to trying to reduce the demand for drugs, which feeds insecurity.  We have to do more when it comes to weapons that are crossing the border from north to south.  We’re working on that.  But we’re also looking at new ways to get at the cartels, including disrupting their finances, working on that together.

So all of this taken together is a much more, as we would say, holistic approach, and the two presidents very much share that vision.

QUESTION:  Because the president, President Manuel López Obrador, has taken a position ever since he was a candidate that his strategy for – his law enforcement strategy is abrazos y no balazos, which is “hugs and not bullets.”  And it seems to translate in not going after these criminal organizations that are trafficking particularly fentanyl into the United States.  So when I look at the agreement that was presented today, acuerdo bicentenario, I guess the question is:  How much of Mérida is still in that agreement and how important is law enforcement when trying to establish where the resources are going to go?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Law enforcement is a fundamental pillar of the – of the agreement, but, as I said, there are other pillars which are also vitally important that recognize that we have to approach this comprehensively.  But, for example, you talked about fentanyl.

QUESTION:  Right.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  We met with President López Obrador this morning.  We had a really, I think, significant and important exchange.  And one of the things that he said was that the drug problem, while there’s a demand problem on the U.S. side, increasingly there is a problem in Mexico itself, including with fentanyl.  It’s something that he talked about, and he talked about the ravages that fentanyl is having in Mexico as well as in the United States, and a very specific plan to try to deal with that together.

QUESTION:  So when I look at this plan, I guess the big question mark I have, and I’m trying to understand:  How much of this plan is going to have short-term results in those areas that are politically very sensitive in the United States, which includes this uncontrolled migration crossing through Mexico, trying to reach the United States?  And what – and how is that cooperation going to take place when you look at this, the agreement?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So I think there are two things here.  First, when it comes to security broadly, what we’ve agreed to do – we now have this strategy and the approach.  Between now and December, we’re going to be working on putting together the specific steps to actually implement the strategy, and we’re also going to have metrics so that we can measure whether we’re making progress.  So between now and December we have a lot of work to do, then we’ll begin actually implementing the things that we’ve agreed on.  It will take time to show concrete results, but there is a clear roadmap going forward with agreement on what we need to do.

Second, with regard to migration, there’s been I think more cooperation and coordination than I’ve ever experienced these last months between Mexico and the United States because we’re dealing with an immediate challenge that is actually unlike anything we’ve seen.  We have pressure in terms of irregular migration, obviously, coming from the Northern Triangle countries – El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras.  We have pressure coming from Venezuela, we have pressure coming from Haiti – both Haiti itself and also Haitian communities that have been living in Chile and Brazil – a lot of this fueled by the economic crisis that came out of COVID-19.

And so there are two things that are happening.  One, there’s been very intense and day-in, day-out cooperation between the United States and Mexico to deal with the immediate challenge.  But, equally important, there’s a recognition by the two of us that we have to do two other things.  We have to deal more effectively with the drivers of irregular migration.  That takes time, but we’re working together on doing that so that people actually have opportunity at home and don’t feel that the only choice they have is to take an incredibly hazardous journey, put their lives on the line, and then not get into the United States in any event.

The other thing, though, that we also recognize and that we’re going to do together is there has to be greater regional coordination and cooperation, a greater sense of shared responsibility among all of the countries in the region.

QUESTION:  Talking about Central America and Latin America.  Right.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Beyond Central America, but it goes to Costa Rica, to Panama; it goes to Brazil, to Chile.  And together we are working on building that kind of cooperation and coordination.

QUESTION:  Let me ask you this, then:  When you look at this agreement, do we have any sense of how much resources we’re talking about?  I know you have to go and negotiate this in Congress.  And what we hear from the Republicans – some legislators are just going to be very focused on how does this agreement resolve fentanyl and the immigration concerns.  Do we have any sense how this is going to finally work out and how much money we’re talking about?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, what President Biden has talked about and what will be reflected in the budgets that he puts forward is when – just when it comes to the Northern Triangle countries, making investments of about $4 billion over four years, which is very significant; working through different institutions, not just the governments, because in some cases it’s very challenging given corruption and other problems.  But making the kinds of investments, especially in economic opportunity – jobs – so that, again, people have – one of our colleagues in Central America says there should be a right to remain.  That is —

QUESTION:  Right.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  And that’s very important, but we have to make that real, and these kinds of investments, especially creating opportunity, much of it has to be done through the private sector.  Creating the conditions for private sector investment – that produces jobs, that creates opportunity, that creates confidence in people that they can stay and make their lives in their homes.

QUESTION:  One last question:  What’s the biggest challenge that you see in the bilateral issues?  I mean, what would produce sleepless nights in Washington?  What worries you the most?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  In a funny way, what worries me the most is that we lose sight of the fact that our relationship – as important as irregular migration is as a challenge, as important as the transnational crime is, that we lose sight of the fact that our relationship is so much more than that, that we are connected as profoundly as any two countries in the world by our history, by our geography, by our cultures, by our people, by our economies, and that we make the most of those connections.

And what gives me a sense of confidence is that over the last nine months, I think on both – in both governments there’s been a recognition of that, that we have to have a bigger and broader horizon for what this relationship is all about.  Yes, work on these real challenges that are – that we have to deal with, but also look at the broader picture and what’s possible.

I had the amazing opportunity this morning in coming to the Palacio Nacional to be greeted by President López Obrador and then to spend 40 minutes with him with the Diego Rivera murals, the entire history of Mexico.

QUESTION:  It’s incredible.  It’s extraordinary, yeah.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  It’s extraordinary, but it reinforces so much that actually brings us together.  Countries – both of our countries have had to be melting pots in different ways for different communities, different cultures.  We have a history of a tremendous amount of back and forth between our countries that has actually enriched both.  So what I really hope is that our governments in a way can paint a new mural, a new panel that captures the incredible possibilities of the relationship as well as dealing with the challenges.

QUESTION:  That’s a great metaphor.  That’s a great metaphor.  Thank you.  Thank you so much, Secretary Blinken.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Great to be with you.

QUESTION:  Thank you so much.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.

Secretary Antony J. Blinken With Alejandro Dominguez of Milenio TV

9 Oct

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Mexico City, Mexico

Sofitel Hotel

QUESTION:  Secretary, thank you for your time.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Good to be with you.

QUESTION:  I want to start us with you.  When do you expect all these committments that you achieved today in this dialogue will translate into actions and results?  As results, I mean reducing the rates of homicides or reducing the rates of arms trafficking.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, I think the first thing that’s important is that as partners with shared responsibility, Mexico and the United States have adopted a new approach to dealing with security, security that affects the lives of citizens on both sides of the border, both of our countries.  And we’ve taken a much more holistic and comprehensive approach, making sure that we’re also – besides putting into effect the most effective possible law enforcement, that we’re also making sure that people have opportunity; that we’re also making sure that we’re dealing with the demand for drugs, the trafficking in weapons that are crossing the border, in this case from north to south; that we’re dealing with the criminal enterprises and networks, including financial flows.  All of that is part of what we’re doing.

So to answer your question more specifically, what we – we’ve adopted this new approach together.  Between now and December we’re going to be putting together an action plan, the very concrete steps that we agree on to move the plan forward, and then we’ll start to put those steps into effect.  This will play out over time.  I think it’s going to take some —

QUESTION:  And the goal is that, to reduce and to decrease these rates of homicides and arms trafficking?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  The fundamental goal is to protect our citizens.  The number one responsibility that we have as governments, Mexico and the United States, is to protect our citizens, to protect their safety, to protect their well-being.  And that has to translate in concrete ways.  We’re actually also going to have clear measures and metrics, so that we can hold ourselves accountable to see if we’re making progress.

QUESTION:  As a shared matter, which is security, how does the U.S. Government see what Mexico is doing?  Is Mexico effectively fighting organized crime, for example, dealing with all these criminals and all these drug dealers?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  It’s a big challenge for both of us.  But I think what you’re – what we’re seeing through this very, very deep and sustained collaboration is a commitment on both of our parts to deal with this.  And so for the United States, we have to continue to do more to reduce the demand for drugs, which feeds crime.  We have —

QUESTION:  But it’s enough – with a policy as “hugs, not bullets” – that the Mexican Government has?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I think what we’re – what we’ve agreed on is, as I said, a comprehensive approach that has both, which is to say that we have to have modern, effective law enforcement, but we also have to make sure that we’re doing things that take away some of the underlying drivers that lead to crime, that lead to insecurity, that lead to trafficking.

QUESTION:  Did you make any specific requirement to the Mexican Government, for example, to achieve the extradition of some drug lords who are detained here and that have pending charges in the United States of America?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  We cooperate on extraditions on a regular basis, so there’s nothing new.  But I think there’s a strong commitment on the part of both of our countries to do what’s necessary together to advance the prospect of strengthening security for all of our citizens.  Extradition is a part of that.

QUESTION:  In the case of DEA agents, do you discuss this topic of granting the visas for them?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  We talked about all of these things, but I’m not going to get into operational details about how we’re doing things.

QUESTION:  Okay.  But Mexico blocked some of them.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Again, I’m not going to get into operational details.  But what’s so important about what we did today is we had the – we had the Merida Initiative for 13 years.  But every strategy has to be reviewed, renewed, revised.  And we’ve taken now, as I say, a much more comprehensive approach to the challenges of citizen security that we both strongly agree on.

QUESTION:  In this new stage of the Merida Initiative that has another name, what does Mexico is asking to the United States instead of arms, instead of helicopters, instead of this kind of support?  Do you understand it?  Is it money, or what is?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So I think there are a few things.  One is a recognition, which we share, that we also have to be investing in finding opportunity for our citizens, because if they don’t have that opportunity then some of them may be driven to crime, to drugs, et cetera.  That’s a part of it.  We had a very successful High-Level Economic Dialogue about a month ago in Washington, where we have very concrete plans for doing that, for increasing investment, increasing trade, and increasing investment especially in underserved communities.  So that’s one part of it.

But again, as I said, we – I think this works both ways.  The demand for drugs in the United States is a problem that fuels much of the crime.  We’re focused on that.  The weapons coming across the border from north to south is part of the problem.  We had with us today the Attorney General of the United States, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, and we had our – our Mexican counterparts were there.  And this shows that this was – this is a comprehensive effort across both of our governments, because each of these elements is part of the strategy.

QUESTION:  So it’s cooperation and maybe investing in social programs?  (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yes, absolutely.

QUESTION:  Okay.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  It is investing in social programs.  And this is something that President Lopez Obrador feels very strongly about, and we agree with him.

QUESTION:  Finally, in the immigration topic, do you believe these – what we are seeing in camps of immigrants, the treatment that we give them in Mexico and the United States and other countries, is that humane treatment for them?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  We are facing together, I think, a unique circumstance when it comes to irregular migration.  Not only do we have the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, we have Venezuela, Haiti – both from Haiti itself, but also from other countries in Latin America where Haitians have been living for many years.  Much of this is driven by economic crisis, which has been made worse by COVID.  And so all of these things are coming together.

We have two things that we’re – three things, I should say, that we’re – Mexico and the United States are working very closely together.  One is dealing with the immediate challenge, including very regular cooperation when it comes to our border, the northern border, but also Mexican southern – Mexico’s southern border.  We’re working together in both ways.

But we both recognize this:  There are two things that we also need to do, even as we’re dealing with the immediate challenge and cooperating very closely on that.  We have to be investing in ways that deal with the drivers of irregular migration, and we have a commitment to do that, and we’re doing that increasingly in coordination with Mexico.  The other thing we have to do – and again, we both agree that we’ll be leading efforts on this – is to make sure that there is greater regional responsibility, coordination, cooperation among all countries in the region.  Everyone has to have a sense of responsibility when it comes to this.  We’ll be working together to do that.

QUESTION:  Is there any chance to – for these people to seek asylum in their country or in the country where they are, right now in Mexico, even some from Chile (inaudible)?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, there are a number of things going on.  But one of the things we’re working on in the United States is to strengthen our own asylum system, because it needs resources, it needs investment, but it also needs time so that we can process more rapidly, effectively people making asylum claims.  And if the claim is justified, we will follow our traditions and obligations under the law.  On the other hand, if it’s not justified, people will have to return to the countries that they came from.

But it’s not enough for any one country to do these things.  We’ll also be expanding legal pathways to migration.  But it’s not enough for any one country to do that.  There has to be much greater cooperation and coordination with every country meeting its responsibilities.

For example, we have Haitians who have been living in Chile and Brazil for many, many years. Well, they’ve been misinformed about the ability to come to the United States now, because this summer we granted what’s called temporary protective status to Haitians who were already in the United States.

QUESTION:  But —

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  But it doesn’t apply to people who come after the declaration of that status.  People have been misinformed – more than misinformed, they’ve been lied to – into believing they can come to the United States and get temporary protective status and be able to stay.  That is not the case.

But if they try to do that, then if they’re coming from Chile or Brazil, for example, where they’ve been long established, they should be able to return there.  So – but all of this demands cooperation and coordination, and countries need to support each other, because this is a unique situation.  And over time, I think we can build a better system, and in our case one that is safe, that is orderly, and that’s humane and that meets our traditions.

QUESTION:  So returning them to their country where they do have a chance to achieve a better life?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, this is why it’s so important to also look and invest in dealing with the drivers of irregular migration, because you’re exactly right.  If people feel that they have absolutely no choice, that they’re prepared to give up everything they know – their families, their communities, their language, their culture – to take an incredibly hazardous journey, to put their lives in danger, and then to come and also not be able to get to the United States, it’s because there’s tremendous pressure on them.  And they have to feel that they have a chance to earn a living, to provide for their families, to have a future.  So we have  – but it takes time to do this.  But Mexico and the United States together understand this, and together we’re going to be working on this and making some of these investments.

We have to have governments that we can work with effectively.  We have to deal with challenges like corruption and insecurity.  But we understand that there are – this is a long-term solution, but we also have to have some short-term answers to the immediate problem.

QUESTION:  Thank you very much for your time here, sir.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you very much.  Good to be with you.

Secretary Antony J. Blinken Remarks to Mission Mexico Staff

9 Oct

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Mexico City, Mexico

U.S. Embassy Mexico City

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  Okay, a few things right from the start.  The first rule of politics: never, never, never follow Ken Salazar to a podium.  (Laughter.)  Second, I’ve had the opportunity now in the nine or so months that we’ve been in office to visit some of our missions around the world, and, of course, we have challenges with COVID, but missions are stepping up.  But I will admit it, and I’ll admit it in public:  Mission Mexico – unbelievable, like, we’ve not had a reception like this any place (inaudible).  (Cheers.)

So I have to start by saying as well that Ambassador Salazar is the best political ambassador we have.  He’s also the only political ambassador we have, but we’re working on it.  (Laughter.)  And in all seriousness, in the short time that the ambassador has been here, that we’ve been working together, I have to tell you I’ve never seen anything like it.  No one in my experience has ever hit the ground running as fast and as hard as the ambassador has.  No one has accomplished more in such a short period of time, and it’s a time that really has the potential to be transformational in the relationship between the United States and Mexico.

And Ken, because of your extraordinary energy, the optimism that you bring to this mission’s work, but also – and maybe most important – the vision that you’re bringing, I think the chance to really make that transformation real is greater than it’s ever been.  So I’m so grateful that you’re here leading our way.  (Applause.)

Now, you’ve all discovered the ambassador’s sometimes distinct approach.  I understand there have been a few sing-a-longs, including during the introductory town hall.  I got some feeling for that today.  By the way, muchas gracias.  (Applause.)  I wonder if any (inaudible) – and Stephanie, it’s wonderful to be with you again.  We actually traveled together to Japan and Korea during my very first trip as Secretary when Stephanie was the deputy execsec.  And I said I would come to Mexico City since you were heading here.  Well, promise delivered.

And to my great friend and colleague Juan Gonzalez, the ambassador is exactly right:  With Juan, with Brian Nichols, we have the most amazing leadership team back in Washington for this hemisphere and for this relationship.  (Applause.)  As the ambassador said, by the way, more important than (inaudible), and they’re – come on up.  Come on up.  (Applause.)  (Inaudible.)  All right, cool.

So as good as these people are, something the ambassador said really sums it up, and that is whatever success that we have is really because of each and every one of you.  Whether you’re here at the embassy, whether you’re at one of our many consulates across the country, what you’re doing every single day – day in, day out – is what is building and transforming this relationship.  I know that trips like these, even relatively short ones, involve an incredible amount of work, a tremendous amount of churn underwater.  Everything is very smooth on the surface.  I know it doesn’t always look that way when you’re in the midst of it, but I really want to say to all of you who worked on this visit, have a great wheels-up party.  (Laughter.)

But as Ken said, we had a – I think – I don’t want to be too presumptuous, but I think that we may have an opportunity to look back on this day as one of the pivotal days in the relationship.  There are going to be many more, but we had meetings this morning, as you know, with President López Obrador, with Foreign Secretary Ebrard.  We had the High-Level Security Dialogue with the foreign secretary and all of our Cabinet colleagues, including the Attorney General, including the Secretary of Homeland Security, including the Deputy Treasury Secretary, and all of our senior team.

And we managed to fit in a tour of the incredible Diego Rivera murals in the Palacio Nacional.  And I have to tell you that for me, it was something I’ll never forget because the tour guide was President López Obrador, and he recounted through the murals the extraordinary history of Mexico as well as the history of the relationship between our countries.  And it was incredibly powerful, incredibly evocative, and I think my hope for all of us with Ambassador Salazar in the lead is that we will together with our partners – partners in Mexico – paint another panel for that mural that shows a transformed relationship, one that is truly a partnership, one that is based on shared responsibility and really shared opportunity and that captures the extraordinary breadth of the relationship between our countries that sometimes gets lost in the understandable day-in-day-out focus on some of the immediate challenges, whether it’s migration or security.  So I think we have that opportunity and this is really, I believe, our mission going forward.

But you all know this.  It’s trite to say it, but it is fundamentally true and so important to restate it.  This relationship is, simply put, one of the handful of the most important relationships the United States has with any country in the world.  Our governments are working together, you’re working together every single day on dozens of issues that actually affect the lives of our fellow citizens and affect the lives of Mexicans, whether it’s commerce, whether it’s trade, whether it’s climate, whether it’s energy, whether it’s justice, policing, border management, public health, education, cultural exchanges, tourism – the entire gamut.  And that’s what I hope we don’t lose sight of as we’re focused sometimes on the day-in-day-out urgencies – we don’t lose sight of the incredible breadth of this relationship.

So I really wanted to just have an opportunity to come by – I gather this is a typical Friday afternoon gathering – (laughter) – and just say thank you for the work that you’re doing to make this real.  Your work is actually having a direct (inaudible) of our people, on the lives of Mexicans, and actually on the lives of people throughout the region and beyond.

Let me just cite a few quick examples of some of the work that I know you’ve been doing.  In addition to the High-Level Security Dialogue, we launched the High-Level Economic Dialogue just about a month ago.  Mexico is our largest trading partner.  Our economies are incredibly closely linked.  We’ve worked together to strengthen trade, infrastructure, supply chains, to promote sustainable development in southern Mexico and Central America, and that is the work of this mission.

On security, INL is working closely with the Government of Mexico on fighting drug trafficking, on making our border more secure, more efficient.  USAID, where the rubber really meets the road in so many of our missions around the world, has had amazing success working with at-risk youth.  Kids who have previously committed crimes but go through our violence diversion program, as I understand it, have a 7 percent recidivism rate.  That’s compared to a national average of 16 percent.  That’s a remarkable success story.

On migration and immigration, we’ve made tremendous progress under the most difficult circumstances, reducing the immigrant visa backlog thanks to the work you’re doing here.  My understanding is since May the consular team in Ciudad Juarez has decreased pending immigrant visas cases by nearly 40 percent, and I’m really grateful for everything you’re doing to make the immigration process more efficient, more humane.  And making sure that the legal pathways to migration are working is one of the critical factors in taking pressure off irregular migration.  So this is both very important and it’s also a profound way that our countries are connected.

I want to mention something that may not be expected, and that is how this mission helped our evacuation efforts halfway around the world in Afghanistan.  You here made more than 13,000 calls to U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents in Afghanistan to share vital evacuation information and to help them know what they needed to do in order to leave, if that’s what they chose to do.  This was literally the definition of an all-hands-on-deck situation, and the fact that so many of our people – here in Mexico but also around the world – stepped up made the huge difference.

And, of course, like missions around the world, you have been grappling with COVID-19.  You’ve provided emergency services to U.S. citizens in Mexico.  In fact, the last time I was here when I was deputy secretary, I spent some time visiting with U.S. Citizen Services, and it’s a remarkable operation that I wish more of our fellow Americans got a chance to see, because you do incredible work every day helping our fellow citizens.  You’ve facilitated the interrupted flow of temporary agricultural and other essential workers to the United States.  You’ve helped with our donation of almost 8 million vaccines to Mexico.  And you did that even while you were dealing with this terrible pandemic.

And let me just say that I know it’s been a hard time for many of you.  We’ve lost 21 Mission Mexico colleagues to COVID-19, and it’s hard to put words to that loss.  Each of them mattered a great deal to people in both our countries, and I know that for many of you this was deeply felt, personally felt, and a hard, hard thing to get through.

But throughout the difficulties of the last year and a half, two years, I just have to say I am really humbled by your dedication to keep doing the job, to keep getting it done, to serve our country, to serve the relationship between Mexico and the United States.  So whether you work for the State Department or work for more than 30 agencies represented here, whether you’re Foreign Service, whether you’re Civil Service, locally employed staff – and locally employed staff, you are the lifeblood of this mission and every mission around the world; we’re so grateful to you and for the partnership – whether you are a U.S. direct hire, a contractor, a family member – because we know your service too – very simply, thank you, thank you, thank you.  We’re here to support you.  We want to give you everything you need to do your jobs well.  As we say, “I’m from the federal government, I’m here to help.”  (Laughter.)  But for today, it’s just this:  Thank you.  Job very well done.  Let’s keep doing it.  (Applause.)

Secretary Antony J. Blinken And Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard At a Joint Press Availability

9 Oct

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Mexico City, Mexico

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

FOREIGN SECRETARY EBRARD:  (Via interpreter) Thank you.  We are here today wrapping up a process that has gone on for several months and that allows us to first affirm that we are leaving the Merida Initiative behind, and that starting today, we start with the Bicentennial Agreement.  Why bicentennial?  Because we will be celebrating 200 years of relations between Mexico and the United States.  As you know, they were the first country that recognized us, so that is why we have given it this name.

What is this agreement based on?  You will have a declaration with the details; however, it is based on the incorporation of the visions of President Biden as well as President Lopez Obrador’s and having a more comprehensive approach regarding security, health, and safe communities.

This morning, the President Lopez Obrador was saying that we are inspired and that we coincide in terms of the concepts of freedoms and liberties of President Roosevelt.  So there is an ideological and political affinity between both our presidents, Biden and Lopez Obrador.  What you will see in this document is the translation in terms of security, public health, and safe communities of those points that we agree on, which are crucial.

The second thing I need to say is that we have found from the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and from the Secretary on all representatives of the U.S. Government that we have a relation in which Mexico’s priorities are the same – have the same level of priority as the ones from the United States.  Today is something – this is something that we can say, something that we did not have before.

For Mexico, we must prioritize violence, homicides, providing opportunity for development for young people.  We are addressing the root causes of all of the issues that we are facing, and these priorities have been taken into account.  In this document, we see a translation of a system, an institutional system, to follow up on this agreement.  This agreement is not a declaration; it’s a path to be taken that is verifiable and that will provide results.

We have to present on December 1st our yearly plan – what are we going to do from December 1st, 2021 to December 1st, 2022.  At the end of January by next year, we have to lay down on paper – write down on paper what we’re going to do in the next three years, so verifiable, transparent towards our citizens.

To summarize, this is not a limited cooperation; this is a partnership that is superior, qualitatively speaking, a partnership with people that you trust and respect.  Partnerships cannot be done otherwise.  So respect, co-responsibility, and reciprocity – these are the basis for this partnership between Mexico and the United States in matters of security, public health, and safe communities.

You will see that there are three broad objectives to protect our people, to prevent crime in the border region, to dismantle criminal organizations, to create immediate memorandums, MOUs to reduce addiction to drugs and the harm related to them.  This is the first time that we do something like this in our history.  An MOU to launch the program for control for control of port containers, a binational working group on chemical precursors, joint work in terms of supporting what Mexico is doing in forensics to locate people who have disappeared.

So this is an agreement that will be memorable due to its content and due to the fact that it translates for our peoples, for our societies, the coincidences that both administrations, both governments have.  Thank you so much to the U.S. delegation, and especially the Secretary of State, Mr. Anthony Blinken, who will now have the floor.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Gracias, Marcelo, y buenas tardes a todas y a todos.  It’s a pleasure to be here with you and with your entire delegation and ours.  I think the spirit of collaboration, of teamwork and partnership was as strong as I’ve ever felt it in working with the United States and Mexico.  And it’s wonderful for me to be back in Mexico.  My last visit was actually a virtual one – one of the first visits I did when we first took office.  But I think even a brief time here is a demonstration that there is no substitute for being together in person.

Our two countries, Mexico and the United States, share so much more than a border.  We share a history, parts of which I had the opportunity to see this morning in the incredibly evocative murals of Diego Rivera at the Palacio Nacional.  And I had something I will never forget, which was a personal commentary on the murals and on the history of Mexico by President López Obrador.  It was for me a truly extraordinary moment.  I am so grateful to him for taking the time and sharing so much about his knowledge of Mexico’s history and the history that unites our countries – cultural, economic ties, deep bonds, of course, between our communities and families.

The relationship between our governments is wide-ranging and complex.  Every single day, we are working together on an incredibly broad range of issues, from Congress to climate, from public health to public education, tourism, to regional diplomacy; maintaining that relationship, and strengthening it demands constant, candid dialogue at every level.  It requires seizing opportunities and adapting to new challenges, and that’s exactly what we did today with high-level dialogue.

And I am tempted to say I agree with everything Marcelo said, because I do.  It was a very accurate and important description of what we – of the work we did today.  And I have to say the relationship that we demonstrated today, the trust that is there between us, I’d like to say if I can, Marcelo, I think that’s the kind of relationship we have been able to build these past nine months and for which I am really, really grateful.

So as you all know, this morning, together with Attorney General Garland, Secretary of Homeland Security Mayorkas, Deputy Treasury Secretary Adeyemo, and other senior officials from our administration, we started the day with the chance to meet with President López Obrador.  We touched on, again, a very broad range of issues that are so crucial to our relationship, including security, including migration, the economy, COVID-19, the climate crisis.  And after that, with Foreign Secretary Ebrard and our colleagues, we had a very productive first meeting at the High-Level Security Dialogue, where we launched the U.S.-Mexico Bicentennial Framework on Security, Public Health, and Communities.

Now, that might sound like a mouthful, and it is, but it is rooted in the idea that we have a shared responsibility, as neighbors and as partners, to improve security for the people of our nations.  That is what it boils down to.  And it marks the beginning of a new chapter in Mexico-U.S. security cooperation, one that will see us working as equal partners in defining and tackling shared priorities, one that seeks to address the root causes of the security challenges that we face, including inequity, corruption, impunity, and one that does that not only by modernizing law enforcement, but also strengthening public health, the rule of law, and broader-based economic opportunity.

There are three pillars to this framework which I just want to very briefly describe.  The first is protecting the health and safety of the people of our nations.  Often in the past, we tried to do this by relying too much on security forces and too little on other tools in our kit.  Of course, law enforcement has a critical role to play in reducing homicides and other serious crimes.  But its efforts have to be matched by investments in growing economic opportunity, particularly for underserved communities and regions.  That happens to be a central focus of the high-level economic dialogue that we launched a few weeks ago in Washington, and it is crucial to giving Mexican and American workers the tools they need to compete in the 21st century economy.

Our efforts also have to include substance abuse prevention, treatment, recovery support to help those struggling with addiction, to reduce the profound harm that illicit drugs inflict on our communities, and to reduce demand.  And our governments agreed that protecting our people means protecting human rights.

And that means establishing effective mechanisms to ensure that abusers are held accountable, which is critical to earning the trust of communities, shoring up again the rule of law, and giving victims the justice they deserve.  As Marcelo noted, we are expanding through our partnership efforts for resolving tens of thousands of cases of disappearances and missing persons in Mexico.  That is one example of how we can work toward this broader goal together.  It could help bring closure to families as they search for their loved ones and end impunity for offenders.

The second pillar is on preventing trafficking across borders.  We know that reducing arms trafficking is a priority for Mexico, as many of the illicit weapons in this country come from the United States.  And we’re committed to deepening our collaboration on arms tracing, on investigations, on prosecutions to disrupt the supply.  We’re also collaborating on fighting human smuggling and trafficking organizations as well as drug trafficking organizations, which perpetuate cycles of violence and human suffering.

Finally, the third pillar of the framework focuses on pursuing transnational criminal networks.  We will deepen our collaboration to combat money laundering and other forms of corruption.  Particularly as these illicit organizations are growing more nimble in exploiting financial systems, we’ll be making our justice systems more effective at investigating and prosecuting organized crime and increasing cooperation on extraditions.

We agreed to build better metrics as well so that we can track all of these goals and hold ourselves accountable to them.  The delegation that represented the United States Government in today’s High-Level Dialogue, including the Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, in and of itself reflects how seriously we take our shared responsibility to deliver security for our people and the comprehensive tools that we are bringing to bear to do that.

But crucial as this new framework is, we want the Mexico-U.S. relationship to be about more, much more, than migration and security.  Instead, it has to reflect the full range of issues where we share interests and we share values, including the environment, agriculture, technology, energy, trade, supply chains, and the innovative ideas that we came up with at the first High-Level Economic Dialogue.

The next months and years could be transformational in realizing the full potential of the Mexico-U.S. relationship and delivering in concrete ways for our people.  We’re committed to working with our Mexican partners to make that happen.

Thank you very, very much.

MODERATOR:  (Via interpreter) We have time for two questions from members of the Mexican press and two from the U.S. press.

Sarahí Méndez from Televisa.

QUESTION:  (Via interpreter) Secretary Blinken, as a part of this bicentennial understanding, I wanted to know if border security will be reinforced on behalf of the United States, if it will be harder for migrants and criminal organizations to cross over.  Will more resources be sent to Central America to apply in programs such as Jóvenes Construyendo el Futuro, Youth Building the Future, from a program of López Obrador?  And will the MPP program be applied in Mexico?

For Secretary Ebrard, we know that for Mexico arms trafficking is very important.  Secretary Blinken has talked about this issue.  Have you foreseen this topic on tracing weapons in Mexico that came from the United States?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you, I’m happy to start.  We are determined to have a border that is vibrant, that is a connector between our countries, between our people, commerce – a truly living thing – because these connections are so important to both of us.  But it also has to be safe, orderly, humane in terms of the way we deal with illegal migration.

We’re doing a lot of things together and also on our part to move more effectively in that direction, including working to strengthen our own asylum system so that we can deal much more effectively, rapidly, and humanely with those who have – are putting forward asylum claims.  We’re also working to expand legal pathways which are so critical to migration, and of course, we will uphold the rule of law.

So much of what we’ve been doing as well has been in collaboration and cooperation with Mexico, and I have to tell you how grateful we are for that, because we face a challenge that in many ways is, I think, unique with tremendous pressure from illegal migratory flows coming in different ways, different parts of the hemisphere, irregular migration, again, for very – for understandable reasons, which I’ll come to in a minute.  We see not only in the Northern Triangle but also, of course, recently Haiti, countries in the region that have had large Haitian-origin populations, Venezuela, and potentially other challenges to come, so much of this driven by economic challenges which have been exacerbated by COVID-19 as well as security challenges and other challenges.

I think as we’ve been working so closely together on this, one of the understandings that we have that we share – two things.  Even as we’re making sure that we have an approach that ensures that it’s safe, it’s orderly, it’s humane, that we uphold the law, we have to do two things.  And this is what the United States and Mexico are working on together.

One, we have to tackle the root causes of irregular migration.  Even as we’re dealing with the immediate challenges, ultimately the only solution is to deal with the root causes, because, again, it is not as if most people from wherever they are wake up one morning and say, “Wouldn’t it be a great thing to leave everything I know behind – my family, my community, my culture, my language, everything – and make this incredibly hazardous journey and come to – try to come to the United States, and also, by the way, not be able to get there.”  There are very powerful drivers that give people a sense that they have no choice.  We have to be able to address that.

I think fundamentally it’s about economic opportunity and demonstrating to people that they can have a livelihood, that they can have the possibility of providing for themselves, for their families, for their futures at home.  And we are working on that together.

The second thing I’ll say is that I think Mexico and the United States also believe strongly that we have to have a stronger regional approach to this challenge, that there has to be a greater sense and a greater practical application of the notion of shared responsibility.  And there too, our countries are working together to do that.

FOREIGN SECRETARY EBRARD:  (Via interpreter) As we have commented, President Lopez Obrador during our breakfast mentioned the importance of launching an immediate employment program in Central America that has the shape of Sowing Lives or Youth Building the Future.  The president mentioned that part of this was done by President Roosevelt with the so-called New Deal.

And so there is a great impact that the pandemic has had in Central America and in countries and in other regions, and as Secretary Blinken pointed out, there are critical situations going on around the world, such as in Haiti, for example.  And we believe that short-term we could carry out joint action, especially in Central America, inspired on employment opportunities.  That could be the most relevant kind of response.

Mexico is doing so to the best of our abilities.  We could have possibly in these three countries 40,000 people working by the month of January.  And we think it’s a good path to take, and we hope to do so with the United States as well.  They have been very receptive to this proposal, and hopefully we would soon be stating what steps we will be taking and how far they range.

Regarding arms trafficking, tracking – when you talk about these weapons – means that you can know the serial number, know where that weapon was sold, know the manufacturer.  It doesn’t refer to us tracking physically these weapons on behalf of the United States.  It means that among both countries we decide to track where it was sold, how it was transported into Mexico, et cetera, and how it was used.  That is what we’re going to do, and that is what we’re going to work on as a priority because, for us, reducing the number of weapons in Mexico implies reducing the level of violence.  You cannot reduce one without reducing the other.  It’s like a rule of thumb.

So we have found that they have been receptive.  There is interest within the delegation.  Today the Attorney General was here, CBP, and representatives from several authorities in DHS that have to do with these matters.  And on December 1st when we present the plan, you will see clearly the actions that will be taken.  Because there is a common denominator here: to reduce the arms trafficking as much as possible and as soon as possible.

QUESTION:  (Off-mike.)

INTERPRETER:  The interpreter apologizes; that microphone was not used.

FOREIGN SECRETARY EBRARD:  (Via interpreter) Today we did not deal with this topic, or we have not fixed a date for that.  We will inform on that as soon as we can.

MODERATOR:  The next question comes from Courtney McBride of The Wall Street Journal.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  A question for each secretary.

To Secretary Ebrard, what is your government seeking from the United States in exchange for the resumption of the MPP or the “Remain in Mexico” policy?  And you described this agreement, the bicentennial agreement, as a path to be taken, and you said it shared visions for the future of the relationship.  What specifically is Mexico seeking from the United States as part of this framework?

And to Secretary Blinken, how does the Biden administration expect migrants to remain in Mexico when the Mexican Government is issuing fewer visas to migrants, leaving a mass of people with nowhere to go?  And if you could also share what the U.S. Government’s key asks are of Mexico as part of the framework, I would appreciate it.

FOREIGN SECRETARY EBRARD:  (Via interpreter) Today we did not discuss the MPP or Title 42.  It was not a meeting about the border.  It was a meeting about a common vision that implies many topics.  We do have direct contact with CBP, DHS, et cetera with regards to – I’ll repeat so that you can hear the interpretation.  Is it working?

Once again, I was saying that today’s meeting did not include a session on Title 42 or the MPP.  It was not done this way.  We have direct contact with DHS on this issue.  When it comes to migration, let’s say that this has its own space for discussions with the United States.  And border security includes, of course, people smuggling, but today we did not meet to that end.  The U.S. will communicate what they’re going to propose in their own time.  We work every day because when it comes to Title 42, we have thousands of people repatriated, and we have been able to work jointly along these last few months.  So whenever we have something to inform, I’ll be able to comment on that specific question regarding MPP.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you, Marcelo.  And I don’t have much to add because, as Marcelo said, this is not something that came up today.  I would just simply say that U.S. immigration law, of course, remains in effect.  We continue to work very closely with Mexico to promote a safe, orderly, and humane process along the shared border and to address the myriad challenges of irregular migration.  DHS will have more on the specifics, but as I said earlier, just broadly speaking, I think the collaboration we have on working this incredibly challenging issue together – at least in my experience – has never been stronger.

But we both recognize that even as we’re dealing with the immediate challenge and pressures, which we’re in almost daily contact across our governments to do that, we also have to focus on some of the – again, the long-term drivers and – more to come on this – fostering greater regional collaboration and cooperation.  And that’s what – that is what we talked a little bit about today.

MODERATOR:  Gracias.  (Via interpreter) Arturo Páramo from Grupo Imagen.

QUESTION:  (Via interpreter) Thank you, and good afternoon, everyone.  Secretary Ebrard, I would like to ask if there is already a set date or a schedule for this investment project for development in Central America and southern Mexico.  You talk about measuring, things being able to be quantifiable.  Does this project have a chronogram that has been established?  And has some investment been made, given the fact that during the Trump administration an amount had been offered but nothing became concrete?  For this time around, do we have the commitment of the Government of the United States for that kind of investment?

And on the other hand, what differences are there?  We’re talking about ending the Merida Initiative and a new era in our bilateral relations.  In this sense, how can we see the difference between both agreements, meaning on behalf of the U.S. Government, will there no longer be ease of access to weapons, or will there be further exchange between agencies, between our countries to work in one country or another?  Is this modified?  Is this going to continue?  Are there going to be new rules?  How has the situation changed?

And you said that you did not talk about reopening the border or dates for anything about – regarding reopening the borders between Mexico and the United States.

FOREIGN SECRETARY EBRARD:  (Via interpreter) I would say the following:  The border is an everyday topic.  I – when I gave the floor to Secretary Mayorkas, I called him Alejandro because he has been here twice or thrice already, and I think that we speak every day about this.  Secretary Blinken and I only speak on Sundays.  (Laughter.)

And so I think it’s very clear that for Mexico, it is a priority to reopen activities at the border.  We had the health issue regarding the Delta variant at some point in the United States and in Mexico as well, and that’s why it was delayed.  As soon as the United States makes its decision, they will communicate that to us.  They know it’s a priority.  It was already mentioned this morning.  However, it was not the objective of today’s meeting.

What would be the difference with the Merida Initiative?  Now, let me explain:  The first substantial difference would be that the Merida Initiative was based, from the Mexican perspective, on the fact that we had to capture drug lords and with that it would be enough.  That was the essence of it saying, “Please, the United States, send helicopters, send equipment.  Please, provide assistance so that I can detain these drug lords and solve these issue.”  In the essence, that’s what Mexico thought at that time.

Today, what we have on our hands is a joint strategy which is much more complex.  We know that it’s not going to be enough to just detain or capture some drug lords.  We have to be concerned with addiction, with providing youths with employment opportunities, because if not they resort to crime activities.  We want to avoid the proliferation of consumption of cheaper drugs that is on the rise in both our nations.

So we have agreed on a joint strategy with the three components that we have already explained in which Mexico’s and the U.S.’s priorities are established.  It’s much more complex.  It’s broader.  It’s not only about just one straightforward action.  The success of this agreement is not going to be measured by how many drug lords we put in jail and how many press conferences we hold.  It will be seen through the reduction of the homicide rates in Mexico and the reduction of drug consumption. And there is also reciprocity and co-responsibility, so it’s more egalitarian, it’s more balanced.  That is, in essence, what we mean.  It’s not little.  It’s very much – it’s a lot, because we had not had something like this.

Regarding investments in Central America, you might ask, “Why don’t we have that yet?”  Because the U.S. is going through their budgetary process.  I think I’m answering something that – maybe I am stealing that answer.  But that question that you made, we posed that same question to our colleagues from the United States, and they said, “We’re in the middle of decision-making processes when it comes to our budgets.”  So the United States cannot but wait until that process is over to determine what they can invest so that we can achieve the objectives that we are proposing.

And we are also going through budgetary processes, but we were talking about the U.S.’s participation.  So when they are done with that, we will know.  Remember that it’s different, because on that occasion we talked about private sector investment, and here we’re talking about a more – an investment of a more social nature with government resources.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  And just to add very, very quickly, first, Marcelo is right.  I know that when the phone rings in his house on a Sunday, he thinks, “Oh, it must be Tony,” because we have a track record for some reason of speaking on Sundays.

And yes, to your – to your point or question, Marcel is exactly right:  We’re in our budgetary process.  But just to be very clear, President Biden has made a commitment to budget significant assistance for Central America, and in particular for Honduras and El Salvador and Guatemala, in order to address the drivers of irregular migration and to hopefully have an impact on people’s lives so that they feel that they can remain in their own countries.  And we have talked about investing $4 billion over the four years of our administration, and the budget proposals that we are making reflect that commitment.

MODERATOR:  The last question from Nike Ching of Voice of America.

QUESTION:  Good afternoon.  Secretary Blinken.  Several U.S. senators today wrote you a letter to express disappointment over the inhumane treatment of Haitian migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.  If I may, a question for you:  Is the U.S. providing Mexico assistance to fly those migrants back to their homeland?  What specific assurances has the Government of Mexico has given you that they are treating those Haitian migrants humanely, as you have asked?  And – or have they – will they help to facilitate Haiti’s long-term stability?

Good afternoon, Mr. Foreign Secretary.  What assurances are you giving the Haitian migrants in Mexico that they are – they will be treated humanely?  And how is Mexico working with the U.S. to discourage people from heading to the border?  And if they do make it to the border, should they expect the same treatment that sparked criticism worldwide?  Thank you very much, both gentlemen.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  We are determined that as we enforce our laws, we do so fully respecting the human rights and the dignity of all people, including those who may be seeking to enter the United States as irregular migrants.  That is the fundamental basis upon which we’re proceeding, and we are determined to do that.  We’re in very close daily contact with our colleagues in Mexico on the question of the irregular Haitian migration, some of which is coming from Haiti itself, some of which is coming from other countries in our hemisphere where Haitians have resided for some time and now seek to come to the United States.

We also are trying to be very clear that if they seek to make that journey in an irregular manner, they put themselves at tremendous risk along the entire route, and they will not be able to enter the United States.  So we’re working to make sure that we’re communicating that effectively. Unfortunately, one of the things that’s happened is various groups are spreading false information about what possibilities exist for those coming to the United States irregularly, and trying to misinform people that they will be able to enter the United States.  The danger – the journey is profoundly dangerous and it will not succeed, and we are working to make sure that people understand that.

But we’re also working closely together and working ourselves to make sure that people are treated with dignity, with decency, and that their rights are fully protected.

FOREIGN SECRETARY EBRARD:  (Via interpreter) Yes, thank you. I can tell you that we have not transported people coming in this case not from Haiti but from Brazil and Chile who started migrating up north.  We have not provided transportation of those people or origins that go to the United States back to Haiti.  That has not happened.

What are we doing?  What is Mexico doing?  First, those who – for those who it applies, we have offered refuge.  Why?  Because approximately 90 percent of those people already have that in other countries, in Brazil or in Chile.  However, those who do not, we can provide them with it.  Not all of them ask for it for many reasons.

How many people coming from Brazil, Chile, Colombia, or other countries are in Mexico right now?  Approximately 14,000.  What are we doing with these people?  Most of them even speak Spanish.  And we are trying to provide them with employment opportunities with the help of the private sector.  We have already started that; it has not been easy either.

And what have we realized?  That many people lie to them.  Usually they’re told that if they get to the U.S. in time, they can apply for TPS, which is a program designed for Haitians who live in the United States, not for people living outside the United States.  So starting August 3rd with an announcement of broadening the dates – the date limit for that program, they thought that they needed to get to the United States faster and they thought that they would be able to remain there.  That is what – the information we have gotten from those people that we have made contact with.  Obviously right now we’re getting information that we did not have before.  The National Migration Institute has now hired people who speak not only French but also Creole so that they can communicate better.

So what are we doing?  In half a year, we have received that number of people.  We estimate that there are another 14,000 at least out there in different situations within our country that have not requested refugee status.  So what is Mexico’s position?  Those are the facts.

What I find reproachable is that they are lied to.  That is a really serious situation because those people have already suffered so much.  Can you imagine coming from Brazil and Chile, and going through the entire continent, and getting to the United States thinking that you are going to get a residency just by getting there?  And that’s why this movement was generated recently.

So thank you for that question, because it allows us to clarify these things.  This doesn’t happen that easily.  The people who come to Mexico invariably will be offered the same status.  We have the – that capability.  We are a country of over 120 million people.  If 15,000 people from Haiti come to Mexico and want to work and want to remain here, it’s not a problem for Mexico.  What is a problem is to tell these people that if they get to the United States, they’re going to get a residency.  So we’re working very hard for them to get trustworthy information.

MODERATOR:  (Via interpreter) Thank you very much.  That will be all.  Thank you, Secretary Ebrard, Secretary Blinken.

Under Secretary Zeya’s Travel to Haiti and Panama

9 Oct

Office of the Spokesperson

Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights Uzra Zeya will travel to Haiti and Panama from October 12–16, 2021.

In Haiti, Under Secretary Zeya will meet with Prime Minister Ariel Henry to discuss an inclusive, Haitian-led political dialogue that will lead to free and fair elections; how Haiti can provide better security for all its citizens; and support for returning Haitian migrants.  The Under Secretary will also meet with Minister of Justice Liszt Quitel to discuss the investigation into President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination and the Bel-Air, La Saline, and Grand Ravine massacres.  The Haitian people deserve justice in all these cases.  Under Secretary Zeya will also meet with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and with UNICEF to thank them for their humanitarian assistance and earthquake recovery efforts in Haiti, including IOM’s assistance to the Haitian government in receiving Haitian returnees.  These meetings will advance partnerships that are addressing the root causes of migration in Haiti, and support Haitian-led efforts toward the restoration of democratic institutions.

Under Secretary Zeya will then travel to Panama City to meet with Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo and participate in a High-Level Security Dialogue with the Government of Panama.  The October 14 High-Level Security Dialogue will advance ongoing collaboration between the United States and Panama to jointly address regional migration challenges, combat money laundering and drug trafficking, and fortify respect for democratic principles across the region.  The Under Secretary will also meet with international organizations, civil society, and NGOs to further collaboration with these important partners on issues relating to security, providing international protection, and migration management.  Finally, Under Secretary Zeya will travel to the Darién region to learn about Panamanian, U.S., and international organizations’ efforts to address the challenges of irregular migration and to provide humanitarian assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, and vulnerable migrants.