By Pedro Pablo Cortes
Mexico City, Oct 8 (EFE).- Officials of Mexico and the United States said here Friday that the two countries will work together as “equal partners” on a range of issues including migration, transnational crime, public health and economic development.
“After 13 years of the Merida Initiative, it’s time for a comprehensive new approach to our security cooperation, one that will see us as equal partners in defining our shared priorities,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a joint press conference with Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s administration had signaled ahead of Friday’s meeting of the US-Mexico High-Level Security Dialogue that it was not interested in continuing with Merida’s emphasis on a militarized drug war.
Under the US-Mexico Bicentennial Framework for Security, Public Health and Safe Communities, the two governments will “tackle the root drivers of these challenges … and focus not only on strengthening law enforcement, but also public health, the rule of law, inclusive economic opportunities,” Blinken said.
The “bicentennial” element of the name refers to next year’s 200th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two neighbors.
Ebrard said that Lopez Obrador wants to build a relationship where Mexico’s priorities – reducing homicides, providing young people with alternatives to crime and curbing the flow of guns from the US – have the same weight as Washington’s concerns.
Friday’s discussions produced agreements on joint efforts to prevent substance abuse and minimize harm from addiction and on more effective cargo inspection to stop shipments of chemicals used in making fentanyl and methamphetamine, the foreign secretary said.
Besides Ebrard and Blinken, the talks included US Attorney General Merrick Garland and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and their Mexican counterparts.
“I think that together, we will be able to inaugurate a new stage in our relations,” Lopez Obrador said at the start of the session, repeating his invitation to US President Joe Biden to visit Mexico.
Though it was not part of the official agenda, the question of migration loomed over the dialogues as tens of thousands of Central American and Haitian migrants find themselves stranded on Mexico’s northern border awaiting decisions from US authorities on their applications for asylum.
In front of reporters afterward, both Blinken and Ebrard denied having discussed Remain in Mexico, a Trump administration program that saw Lopez Obrador’s administration coerced into agreeing to harbor migrants pending adjudication of their asylum claims.
Biden ended Remain in Mexico after taking office in January, but US federal courts subsequently ordered him to reinstate the program, an idea that is not very popular on the Mexican side of the border.