Biden meets Obrador in Mexico amid strained relations over drugs, migration

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador welcomes U.S. President Joe Biden at the Felipe Angeles International Airport in Zumpango de Ocampo on Sunday. Biden arrived in Mexico City to attend the North American Leaders' Summit, set for Monday and Tuesday. Photo by Mexican President Press Office/UPI
1 of 4 | Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador welcomes U.S. President Joe Biden at the Felipe Angeles International Airport in Zumpango de Ocampo on Sunday. Biden arrived in Mexico City to attend the North American Leaders' Summit, set for Monday and Tuesday. Photo by Mexican President Press Office/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 9 (UPI) -- U.S. President Joe Biden met Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador at the National Palace on Monday amid tensions between the North American allies over irregular immigration at their shared border and the drug crisis.

First lady Jill Biden accompanied her husband on the trip, and participated with her Mexican counterpart, Beatriz Gutierrez Muller, in a lavish opening ceremony during which the women offered a joint message of solidarity that contrasted with comments later made by their husbands.


In remarks to the media during a meeting in Mexico City that the White House described as meant to strengthen bilateral cooperation, Obrador described Biden as "a humanistic and visionary ruler" while calling on him to invest more capital in Latin America for the benefit of all those on the continent.


He said the last U.S. major investment was the 10-year, multibillion-dollar Alliance for Progress program of the President John F. Kennedy administration in 1961.

"I maintain that it is time to end that oblivion, that abandonment, that disdain for Latin American and the Caribbean," Obrador said, who added that there is no other leader than Biden "who could carry out this undertaking."

Obrador added that while their trade agreement involving Canada is a "valuable tool" to take advantage of the domestic market their three countries make up, too many goods still come from Asia.

"Could we not produce what we consume in America?" he asked. "Of course. It is a matter of definition and of jointly planning our future development."

"You have the key to substantially hope and improve relations between all the countries of the American continent," he said.

Biden retorted that the United States has spent billions of dollars in the hemisphere in the last decade and a half alone while stating that Washington, D.C, has interests that "doesn't end in the Western Hemisphere."

The U.S. president added that during their meetings they would discuss strengthening their supply chains as well as their shared security situation, specifically a joint action to address "the plague of fentanyl that has killed 100,000 Americans so far."


He added that looking back on their shared history of some two centuries it is "clear that the stronger and safer we both are is when we stand together."

"Mexico is a true partner and when we work together in common values and mutual respect, nothing much is beyond our reach," he said.

A readout from the White House of their meeting states the pair reviewed security cooperation and discussed the prosecution of drug traffickers and the dismantling of criminal networks that the United States blames for being behind the shipping of illicit drugs, specifically fentanyl, that has been fueling the United States' opioid crisis.

They also discussed greater economic integration and "their commitment to implement innovative approaches to address irregular migration," it said.

The Bidens landed in Mexico this weekend, and will meet Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday when they are expected to further discuss the topics of drugs, crime and migration.

Biden's meeting with Obrador and Trudeau, unofficially nicknamed the "Three Amigos Summit," comes after the U.S. president visited the U.S.-Mexico border for the first time since his inauguration to discuss the migration crisis with federal and local officials.


Biden and Obrador were then to participate in a dinner with Trudeau at the palace, which will be closed to the press.

On Tuesday, Biden is expected to meet with Trudeau to discuss commitments to clean energy and support for Ukraine amid the war with Russia before a scheduled photo op with Obrador.

Later in the day, the three leaders will meet for the 10th North American Leaders Summit to "continue to deepen and expand our security cooperation and economic partnership and increase coordination on global and regional issues," according to the White House.

"We have a big agenda that ranges from the climate crisis to economic development and other issues. But one important part of that agenda is strengthening our border between our nations," Biden said during a speech Thursday on border security at the White House.

Biden has received bipartisan criticism for not doing enough to slow the border chaos. He responded last week by announcing new measures to increase security while allowing up to 30,000 a month to apply for asylum before traveling to the border.

"We can't stop people from making the journey, but we can require them to come here in an orderly way," Biden said.


Some of those measures, like embracing Trump-era Title 42 that will allow them to immediately remove migrants because of COVID-19, drew anger among some of Biden's own supporters.

Former President Donald Trump shared a post to his Truth Social platform on Monday in which he said the United States is "like a Third World Nation" because of the border crisis.

The Biden administration has been pressing Obrador to crack down on drug cartels that have trafficked the synthetic opioid fentanyl into the United States.

Last week, Mexico arrested Ovidio Guzmán, the son of the imprisoned cartel leader Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, who has been accused of being part of a cartel trafficking fentanyl.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said last month that it seized the equivalent of 379 million potentially deadly doses of fentanyl in 2022, which is enough to kill all 331.9 million Americans.

The Biden administration has been targeting corruption in Central America as a leading cause behind the migrant crisis, and early in his tenure, Biden issued several memorandums concerning the surge in migrants that links the issue to corruption in governments of the Northern Triangle.

Trade disputes and other tension have also been brewing among the three nations since the Trump administration replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement with a new trade pact, and the three leaders are expected to focus much of their discussions on such issues.


Last summer, Obrador skipped the Summit of the Americas hosted in Los Angeles after the United States chose not to invite the leaders of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela because of their human rights records -- which angered other nations in the region.

Biden sought to ease some of the tensions at the start of the trip by arriving in Air Force One at Felipe Angeles International Airport in Zumpango de Ocampo, a newly constructed airport favored by Obrador.

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