- The Washington Times - Friday, June 7, 2019

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Friday appeared to undercut his own negotiators working to head off crippling tariffs, saying that the national guard forces they promised to deploy to Mexico’s southern border aren’t intended to stop illegal immigrants.

The 6,000 guard troops were part of an offer Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard made in Washington this week as steps America’s southern neighbor will take to try to derail the flow of Central Americans crossing its territory en route to the U.S.

But Mr. Lopez Obrador, at his daily news conference, said the deployment is more a matter of safety than of stopping the migrants, according to Mexican news outlets.

American officials say some 5,000 migrants enter Mexico a day, but Mexico is blocking perhaps just one in five of them. That leaves some 4,000 a day to reach to U.S.

The Mexican government is desperate to head off Mr. Trump’s promise of tariffs, starting Monday.

Mr. Lopez Obrador, though, is also keen not to be seen caving to Mr. Trump, who has repeatedly blamed Mexico for much of the migration problem facing the U.S., and in particular for the current border crisis.

Negotiations began in earnest Wednesday and have continued throughout the week, with both sides saying there’s been some progress but no breakthroughs.

Mr. Lopez Obrador has balked at the big steps Mr. Trump has demanded, such as turning away migrants at the Mexico-Guatemala border, or agreeing to sign a “Safe Third Country” agreement, which would mean any Central American asylum-seekers who traverse Mexico would have to apply for asylum in that country, rather than the U.S.

Instead, the Mexican president says the U.S. and Mexico should engage in nation-building in Central America, strengthening those countries so people don’t want to seek the better economic opportunities in the U.S.

Mr. Lopez Obrador has scheduled a rally for Tijuana on Saturday where he will plead for peace and cooperation, and where he will reveal his own position on the tariff negotiations, which he said he hasn’t been following too closely, Bloomberg reported.

“Unfortunately, there’s a mixing of migration with commercial matters,” he said Friday. “It’s not taking into account what’s happening in Central America, the profound crisis taking place.”

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