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World What will VP Harris seek -- and find -- in Mexico?

22:20  04 june  2021
22:20  04 june  2021 Source:   cnn.com

Harris tackles migration in high-profile visit to Guatemala and Mexico. Here’s what’s on the agenda.

  Harris tackles migration in high-profile visit to Guatemala and Mexico. Here’s what’s on the agenda. Vice President Kamala Harris hopes to address the root causes of migration, a politically fraught issue that's vexed several administrations.It's a tall order for Harris, whose portfolio expanded earlier this week when President Joe Biden tapped her to lead the administration's efforts to protect voting rights as several Republican-led states move to restrict access to the ballot.

There are several questions around Vice President Kamala Harris's upcoming trip to Mexico and Guatemala on June 7 and 8. They mainly involve the larger of those two countries, but as the US seeks to deepen its ties in Latin America -- and, importantly, as it hopes to stem the flow of migrants heading to the southern US border -- the answers will help determine whether the Biden administration can effectively address the so-called "root causes" of that migration in Mexico and the Northern Triangle of Central America.

Kamala Harris sitting at a table using a laptop computer: Vice President Kamala Harris in May 2021, in Washington, DC. © Alex Wong/Getty Images North America/Getty Images Vice President Kamala Harris in May 2021, in Washington, DC.

First, there is the question of timing, as Harris seems to have chosen an odd moment to visit America's southern neighbor.

Harris visits Latin America to tackle migration, corruption

  Harris visits Latin America to tackle migration, corruption WASHINGTON (AP) — Kamala Harris, on her first foreign trip as vice president, is looking to deepen diplomatic ties with Guatemala and Mexico, two Latin American nations key to the Biden administration's efforts to stem the spike in migration at the U.S. border. Harris, who is set to depart Washington later Sunday, is seeking to secure commitments for greater cooperation on border security and economic investment, but corruption in the region — a far more intractable challenge — will complicate her efforts. It’s already had a significant impact on her work in the region.

On Sunday, June 6, Mexico will hold its largest and most polarized elections in years. The entire House of Representatives and nearly half of the country's governorships are at stake, including those in four border states.

Both President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO, as he is known) and a united opposition have made this election a referendum on his controversial administration. He has constantly criticized the electoral authorities, who disqualified a slew of candidates from his party; Mexico's election authorities have already warned him about crossing lines by publicly advocating for his party ahead of the vote. At this point, it is likely that there will be widespread complaints and lawsuits over the results. (Mexico's electoral process is even more complicated than that in the US. It is convoluted, protracted and bedeviled by excess regulation, and appeal mechanisms will likely drag out for days, if not weeks.)

Harris targets corruption, immigration on Latin America trip

  Harris targets corruption, immigration on Latin America trip GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — With Kamala Harris visiting Guatemala and Mexico on her first foreign trip as vice president, the Biden administration is expected to announce new measures to fight smuggling and trafficking, and hopes to announce additional anti-corruption efforts as well on Monday, a senior administration official said. The official, who briefed reporters traveling with Harris on Sunday, spoke on condition of anonymity to preview announcements before they have been made public. No further details were provided. Harris has been tasked by President Joe Biden with addressing the root causes of the spike in migration to the U.S.

Given all that, this is perhaps not the most auspicious moment for Vice President Harris to come calling, especially since practically everyone will try to involve her in the multiple electoral controversies certain to arise. An ominous sign of this was the cancellation of her scheduled visit to the Mexican Senate next Tuesday, which Sen. Ricardo Monreal, leader of AMLO's Morena party in the Mexican Senate, announced Thursday night.

The second question is about Harris's agenda. As her staff has said, a range of issues, from economic development to climate change, will be up for discussion, with the broad aim of deepening bilateral ties. Harris also intends to meet with a range of stakeholders, including community leaders, workers, and entrepreneurs.

The stated policy itinerary sounds like a good start. But given the primacy of immigration in America's dealings with these two countries, particularly at this moment, one must hope that Harris fully follows through in discussing the full range of issues during this trip.

Mexico president appears to hold key majority in elections

  Mexico president appears to hold key majority in elections President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s party and allies seemed poised to keep a majority in Mexico’s lower chamber of congress in initial results.López Obrador’s Morena party will have to rely on votes from its allies in the Workers Party and Green Party, but together they were expected to capture between 265 and 292 seats in the 500-seat lower house. Morena alone was expected to win 190 to 203 seats, according to preliminary vote counts.

Harris, along with President Joe Biden and many State Department and White House National Security Council officials, has rightly said that dealing with the migration issue in Mexico and Central America is not just about throwing money at governments in a region with corruption problems and weak rule of law. Encouragingly, the Biden administration has signaled it wants to engage with international organizations, non-profits, community leaders and more.

So several questions come to mind, mainly: In Mexico, will Harris really engage with such groups as promised -- some of which are seeking meetings -- or will the vice president end up sidelining them in order to placate the Mexican government?

To explain: President López Obrador has feuded with civil-society organizations, especially those involved in women's rights or working against corruption and impunity, insinuating they are conservative or traitorous. It would be absurd for Harris to meet with such groups in Guatemala, for example, and not in Mexico. (Just as, for instance, it would be unwise of the Biden administration to cut funding for Mexican groups while increasing it for Central American ones.)

Harris turns focus to Mexico on trip to address migration

  Harris turns focus to Mexico on trip to address migration MEXICO CITY (AP) — Vice President Kamala Harris is closing out her first foreign trip Tuesday with a visit to Mexico and a meeting with President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a key but complicated ally in the Biden administration’s efforts to curb the spike in migration at the U.S. border. While Lopez Obrador committed in a previous virtual meeting with Harris that the U.S. can “count on us” to help address the issue of irregular migration, the Mexican president has in the past blamed President Joe Biden for the increase in migration at the border. And he was chummy with his predecessor, President Donald Trump, despite Trump’s hardline polcies towards migrants.

But unfortunately, Washington apparently needs Mexico's cooperation in keeping Central Americans away from the US border -- in other words, doing the United States' dirty work. Harris could face implicit pressure to avoid ruffling AMLO's feathers by meeting with non-profits, given his very public spats with that sector.

This brings us to migration. While it is not the only issue on her agenda, it looms large over US dealings in the region, and one wonders how extensively Harris will cover the full range of policy items on the table during this visit.

Among those other issues would be, as always, drugs and security, but also matters the Biden administration has brought up with other governments. These include climate change and renewable energy, human rights and democracy, the rule of law, macroeconomic policy and pandemic (mis)management, and even relations with Russia and China, not to mention Venezuela. In fact, many of these issues are linked and cannot be easily compartmentalized.

But immigration clearly occupies much of America's interest, given the flow of migrants heading north and the domestic controversies the US has experienced over immigration in the past decade -- including in the first year of Biden's presidency.

One can see why it might dominate Harris's meetings.

Harris defends telling migrants 'do not come,' not visiting US-Mexico border

  Harris defends telling migrants 'do not come,' not visiting US-Mexico border Vice President Kamala Harris is facing backlash from conservatives for not having visited the southern border and from progressives for telling immigrants "Do not come." Harris, currently on the second half of a two-day visit to Guatemala and Mexico, has been facing backlash from conservatives for not visiting the southern border since President Joe Biden tasked her with an immigration role in March, when a record-breaking number of unaccompanied minors were crossing the southern border. Now, she is hearing new criticism from progressives for using her international spotlight in Guatemala on Monday to tell immigrants, "Do not come.

US border policies themselves are complicated enough to manage. For example, detaining the recent huge influx of unaccompanied Central American minors makes it inevitably more complicated for immigration agents to muster the manpower to deter single Mexican males from attempting to enter the US without papers. Resources can easily be spread thin. That's why the Biden administration, like the Trump administration that preceded it, has sought agreements with Mexico and Central American countries to help stem the flow of those leaving.

For the US, immigration from Mexico is a complicated issue in itself -- one that ties in with AMLO's domestic policies. Here is one reason the number of apprehensions of Mexican nationals has grown so much since 2019: Emigration has increased from some areas, as poverty gives some Mexicans more reason to leave. AMLO's macro-economic policies and the collapse of the Mexican economy in 2020 have attracted little attention from the US, allowing him to mismanage that economy unhindered. That, in turn, has stimulated migration.

Immigration also ties in with other border-control and security issues for the US. Dedicating troops and police to rounding up Honduran children and their mothers subtracts resources from other chores -- namely drug enforcement, which perhaps explains the jump in fentanyl exports from Mexico, which in turn is responsible for the tragic rise of opioid overdose deaths in the United States: more than 90,000 in 2020.

Human rights, democracy and the rule of law are also fundamental challenges in the Northern Triangle (as Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador are known) that must be tackled in order to address the "root causes" of migration. And just as much so in Mexico. Human Rights Watch has warned about the increasing threats to human rights and democracy under López Obrador. His attempts to pressure the Supreme Court, the country's independent agencies and the media are not dissimilar to what President Nayib Bukele is undertaking in El Salvador.

Who is Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the Mexican president who met with Kamala Harris today?

  Who is Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the Mexican president who met with Kamala Harris today? Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador meets with Harris Tuesday as she leads efforts to stem illegal immigration at the southern border.The Vice President met with community organizers, business owners and Presidents Alejandro Giammattei and Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the leaders of Guatemala and Mexico, respectively. In March, President Joe Biden tasked Harris with addressing an increase in migration  — including unaccompanied minors  — at the southern border.

And indeed, if Harris were to avoid mentioning corruption in Mexico while assigning López Obrador a partnership role in combating it in Central America, that would be something of an oxymoron. Mexico is not the country that most quickly comes to mind when thinking of fighting corruption anywhere, not even in Central America.

The answers to these questions -- of whether Harris will meet with civil-society groups and raise a broader set of issues, beyond immigration, while in Mexico -- should be "yes."

The timing for Vice President Harris' visit is unfortunate, but Harris should meet with many sectors in Mexico -- mainly women's groups, migrant defenders and anti-corruption activists -- not just López Obrador and his officials, as her office has indicated she will.

Harris's agenda should include the full gamut of bilateral issues if only to demonstrate that she and her boss take them seriously and are not willing to brush them aside for the sake of cooperation on migration. At least until Biden himself has time to sit down with López Obrador for a "come to Jesus moment" and a full review of American policy toward Mexico.

Kamala Harris sitting on a table: Vice President Kamala Harris in May 2021, in Washington, DC. © Alex Wong/Getty Images North America/Getty Images Vice President Kamala Harris in May 2021, in Washington, DC.

CNN panel criticizes Kamala Harris' 'cringeworthy' border response .
Kamala Harris has faced a barrage of criticism for her handling of her first foreign trip. On Sunday CNN's politics panel joined in, describing her as bizarrely unprepared for obvious questions.Harris, tasked by President Joe Biden with working to stem soaring migration levels, found herself mocked for being unable to answer the obvious question as to when she would visit the U.S.-Mexico border. To her visible irritation, she was asked multiple times when she would go and see for herself - and each time, she stumbled over an answer.

usr: 3
This is interesting!