There’s been a surge of activity on the Mexican border this week, but it’s probably not the border you’re thinking of. Rather than Mexico’s northern border with the United States, this activity is taking place on the country’s own southern border with Guatemala. The government has deployed long lines of immigration agents and security officers along the Suchiate River, a common crossing point for traffic heading north. They are reportedly there to stop the flow of illegal migrants heading north toward the United States. In this instance, as reported in the Associated Press, however, it wasn’t just migrants they were stopping. That section of the river is frequently used by Guatemalan merchants who purchase goods in bulk in Mexico and take them home to sell in their own country. Some of the merchants were being allowed through to do their business, provided they left their identification papers with the immigration authorities to be picked up on their way back home. Others were simply turned back.
The Mexican government has interrupted the usually free-flowing cross-river traffic here before, infuriating merchants on both sides. In recent years, as migrant caravans arrived in Tecun Uman, Mexican troops lined the Mexican side of the Suchiate and largely stopped the raft traffic.
The last time was in January 2020 when hundreds of soldiers blocked large groups of migrants trying to cross.
This time there is no large migrant presence across the river, but Mexico is again under pressure to slow the flow of migrants north as the U.S. government wrestles with growing numbers, especially of families and unaccompanied minors.
Many of those, however, are believed to be traveling with smugglers who can simply choose among the hundreds of unmonitored crossing points on Mexico’s long jungle borders with Guatemala and Belize.
So what prompted President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) to send out the troops and crack down on the flow of migrants heading north? The linked report suggests that Mexico has been “under pressure” to slow the flow of migrants, but who specifically is applying the pressure isn’t indicated. Back when Donald Trump was in office, all of the cards were on the table. But since Joe Biden took office, the situation has grown cloudier, just as the human traffic jam building up on our border continues to swell.
After Biden backed out of the agreements Trump made with Mexico to help secure the border, it seemed unclear what each country’s role would be going forward. But now, AMLO is suddenly playing border hawk for us again. You don’t suppose it could have anything to do with Joe Biden sending a huge load of AstraZeneca vaccine doses down south of the border, do you? If you haven’t already read that linked report from Allahpundit on just how unpleasant the optics of this situation could be for Joe Biden, check it out.
The short version is that the White House really can’t afford to have this look like a quid pro quo situation. Any sort of deal where Biden suggests that AMLO needs to help make him look less bad with the mess on the border or we continue sitting on the 2.5 million doses that we probably aren’t going to wind up needing anyway makes it sound like we’re willing to just let Mexicans keep dying of the plague. And just by the way, the FDA hasn’t even cleared the Astrazeneca vaccine for use yet. (But the White House apparently thinks it’s good enough for the Mexicans, I guess.)
So here we are one week later. The 2.5 million doses are on their way to AMLO and his troops are lining part of the border with Guatemala and turning back almost everyone who approaches. I’m sure that’s just a coincidence. Synchronicities happen all the time, amirite?
The report I linked above also notes that the Mexican officials currently monitoring the Suchiate River will not be able to stop all of the flow of illegal migrants because the ones paying human traffickers to bring them across will take unguarded crossing points in the jungle. That’s certainly true, but the section of the river in question is where almost all of the well-organized caravans come through, and they will most certainly be able to stop the vast majority of the people traveling in that fashion.
AMLO is no dummy. He knows he’s going to come off looking very good in the eyes of his people if he suddenly starts vaccinating millions more of them by cutting a deal with Joe Biden. Oh… sorry. By making “an arrangement that is absolutely in no way, shape, or form a “deal.”