MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has challenged U.S. President Joe Biden to end his “abandonment” of Latin America and the Caribbean. ’ and an attitude of “contempt” as the two leaders meet on Monday, making for a rough start to the talks on Latin America and the Caribbean. North American Leaders Summit.
The comments stood in stark contrast to López Obrador and Biden’s recent public displays of affection, where they smiled, hugged and shook hands for the cameras. But it didn’t take long for old tensions to surface once the two sat down in the ornate room of the Palace of Nations next to a delegation of senior officials.
López Obrador challenged Biden to improve life across the region, telling him “the key is in your hands.”
“Now is the moment we decide to undo this abandonment, contempt and amnesia for Latin America and the Caribbean,” he said.
Biden responded by defending the billions of dollars in foreign aid the U.S. spends around the world, saying “unfortunately, our responsibility does not end in the Western Hemisphere.”
While both men committed to working together, it was a decidedly pointed exchange that was on full display in front of reporters. It was unclear whether the mood would pick up later in the evening, when Biden and López Obrador will dine with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife.
Much of the work for the summit will be handled on Tuesday, when the three leaders will hold talks for several hours.
The meeting takes place every year, but there was one hiatus during Donald Trump’s presidency of the United States. It is often called the “three friends summit”, referring to the deep diplomatic and economic ties between the two countries, but new strains have emerged.
All three countries are grappling with the influx of people entering North America and cracking down on smugglers who profit by convincing migrants to make dangerous trips to the United States
Separately, Canada and the United States have accused López Obrador of violating free trade agreements by favoring Mexican state-owned utilities over power plants built by foreign and private investors. Meanwhile, Trudeau and López Obrador expressed concern about Biden’s efforts to boost domestic manufacturing, raising concerns that the U.S. neighbor could be left behind.
The relationship between Biden and López Obrador has not been particularly good over the past two years.The Mexican leader has made no secret of his admiration for Trump, who did not attend the Los Angeles summit last year Because Biden did not invite the dictatorships of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.
However, there are attempts to unfreeze the relationship.Biden purposely flies to new Felipe Angeles International Airportan important project for the Mexican president, although it has been a source of controversy.
The airport, just over an hour north of downtown, is expected to cost $4.1 billion to build, has few flights and, until recently, lacked a steady supply of drinking water. However, it is one of the key projects that López Obrador is racing to complete before his term ends next year, along with an oil refinery, a tourist train on the Yucatan Peninsula and trains linking the Gulf Coast to Pacific seaports.
The two leaders entered Mexico City in Biden’s limousine. López Obrador, fascinated by the presidential car dubbed “The Beast,” said Biden “showed me how buttons work.”
In particularly enthusiastic comments, the Mexican president called the first meeting between the two leaders on the trip “very pleasant” and said “President Biden is a friendly man.”
U.S., Mexico also reach agreement on major shift in immigration policywhich Biden announced last week.
Under the plan, the U.S. will deport 30,000 migrants a month from countries such as Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti and Venezuela that entered the country illegally. For various reasons, immigrants from these four countries cannot easily return to their home countries.
In addition, 30,000 people from these four countries are sponsored each monthbackground checks and airline flights to the U.S. will gain the ability to work legally in the country for two years.
On Monday, before the summit began, López Obrador said he would consider accepting more migrants than previously announced.
“We don’t want to predict things, but that’s part of what we’re going to discuss at the summit,” López Obrador said. “We support this kind of measure, giving people choice and choice,” he said, adding that “the number could increase.”
Mexico may need to increase the number of people with work permits in the United States in order to take in more deported immigrants.
Biden’s national security adviser, Jack Sullivan, warned that nothing has been decided yet.
“What we need is to see how the plan announced last week works in practice, and if there are any adjustments to that plan that need to be made, then we can discuss the next steps,” he said.
En route to Mexico, Biden made a four-hour stop in El Paso, Texas — his first border visit as president It was also the longest time he spent on the US-Mexico route. The highly controlled visit appeared designed to disprove Republican narratives of a crisis situation by showcasing the smooth operation of processing immigrants who entered legally, clearing smuggled contraband and treating illegal immigrants humanely.
But the trip may do little to quell criticism from both sides, including immigration advocates who have accused the Democratic president of enacting brutal policies that differ from those of his hawkish Republican predecessor, Donald Trump.
During Biden’s first two years in office, the number of immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border increased dramatically. In the year ended Sept. 10, there were more than 2.38 million stops. 30, exceeded 2 million for the first time.
López Obrador officially welcomed Biden at the National Palace on Monday afternoon, the first time Mexico has hosted a U.S. president since 2014.
In a show of solidarity, the first ladies of the United States and Mexico delivered identical speeches, with Jill Biden alternating in English and Beatriz Gutierrez Mueller in Spanish.
“We believe poverty is not God ordained, but a product of inequality,” Jill Biden said. “We know the poor deserve a better life, and they work every day with compassion to improve everyone’s life.”
Earlier in the day, Jill Biden met with women from education, the arts and business, most of whom are recipients of U.S. co-op programs or scholarships.
“Do whatever you want, but teach others,” she said, while encouraging women to work together and support others.
Biden is expected to visit Canada after his first trip to Mexico as president, but has not yet scheduled it.
A senior Canadian official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said Canada was working with the Americans to prepare for a visit in the near future.
Associated Press writers Andres Leighton in El Paso, Texas; Anita Snow in Phoenix; Morgan Lee in Santa Fe, New Mexico; Mark Stevenson in Mexico City; and Josh Boak contributed to this report.