U.S. envoy: Agreement with Mexico "marks a new level of cooperation", but what is the deal?

(AP Photo/Anthony Vazquez)

It is being reported that Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Kamala Harris looked on as representatives signed a memorandum calling for economic development in Northern Triangle countries on Tuesday. There are no further details of what is in this memorandum. The memorandum sounds like Kamala’s trip to Mexico and Guatemala in general – much ado about nothing.

Specifics in the memo are not being reported but the idea is that we are to believe that Kamala has brought about new cooperation from AMLO to help control the flow of Central American migrants flooding the U.S.-Mexico border. Afterwards, Kamala said, “I strongly believe we are embarking on a new era.” AMLO must think the Biden administration has lost its mind. We already know that AMLO blames Biden for the historic increase in migrants heading for the southern border of the United States. Biden halted the Remain in Mexico policy that AMLO agreed to during the Trump administration. And, AMLO has been busy blocking off his own country’s southern border to stop the flow of Central American migrants heading to the U.S. He’s been willing to do some wheeling and dealing since Biden took office, including an exchange of tree planting for work visas and citizenship for Mexicans. The man is open to thinking outside the box. So, the question is, what did Kamala offer him?

The administration that pledged to be the most transparent ever fails again to let us know what they are doing. No details were offered, only nice words. When AMLO was asked if he would increase security at Mexico’s northern border, he replied, “We are very pleased to have her here and we will touch on that subject, but always addressing the fundamental root causes [of migration].”

It is being reported by the Washington Times that Mexican authorities barred one of the reporters traveling with Kamala from attending the photo-op of her meeting with AMLO.

The words of the U.S. envoy also sound weird, given the previous administration’s working relationship with AMLO.

U.S. special envoy Ricardo Zuniga said the agreement with Mexico marks a new level of cooperation.

“It’s very important to show that the United States and Mexico are collaborating and trying to improve conditions on the ground among our neighbors, because of the importance that other countries in Central America have for both of us,” he told reporters traveling with the vice president.

I’m assuming “improving conditions on the ground among our neighbors” is a nod to the financial aid the Biden administration is hot to dole out to Northern Triangle countries. What about COVID-19 vaccines, though? Did Kamala promise Mexico vaccines in exchange for cooperation with migration? If not, she’s a fool. Why not use COVID-19 vaccines as a carrot? Mexico is in need and certainly Northern Triangle countries (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) need vaccines. China is stepping in and filling the vacuum in El Salvador, as it did in April. Honduras is considering opening a trade office in China in order to get COVID vaccines. Nearly all countries in Latin America have ordered vaccines from Russia and/or China. Biden only announced that the United States will provide vaccines to Mexico in March without formally saying the vaccines are a quid pro quo. Wink, wink. Biden isn’t fooling anyone. I think most Americans would be ok with that kind of bribe, er, agreement in exchange for a return to stronger border security. It’s a win-win, too, for the public health bonus. Mexico has been quite slow in getting its citizens vaccinated. Quid pro quos be damned, offer vaccines for more cooperation – even though AMLO was already cooperating before Biden stopped the deal Trump made.

While the administration has tried to avoid appearing to use vaccine distribution to coerce cooperation on migration, cause and effect can be hard to discern.

Shortly after the U.S. announced in March it would provide 2.5 million vaccine doses to Mexico, additional Mexican troops were sent to its southern border and the country to stem the flow of illegal migrants.

Mexican officials also announced Friday they would use 1 million vaccine doses provided by the U.S. for people at the country’s northern border “with the aim of getting border transportation back to normal.”

Kamala has not exactly covered herself in glory during her little trip to Guatemala and Mexico. She’s been an embarrassment. Kamala mentioned that 500,000 doses of COVID vaccines would be provided to Guatemala yet the president was in no mood to be cordial to her. He spoke harshly about Team Biden and she was met with protesters in that country, too.

One of Kamala’s special advisers wanted to make clear the vaccines are being distributed by public health professionals, not as part of a political agreement.

“It’s important to mention here that when we’re talking about vaccine distribution, it is something that has been done by the public health professionals, and it’s not being done in exchange for some sort of political agreement,” Mazin Alfaqih, special adviser to the vice president for the Northern Triangle, told reporters traveling with Harris.

Here is an interesting tidbit from the press conference Kamala held in Mexico City. A reporter identified herself as a reporter with Univision but Univision denies she is one of its reporters. During her question to Kamala, she told her that she voted for the first time in 2020 and voted for her. Kamala was quick to thank her for her support.

Ugh.

AMLO signaled before her arrival that “an accord” would be signed linking immigration to development during Kamala’s visit. He offered no other details. I guess this memo is what he was talking about.