The Mexican government said on Thursday that it would curb movement on its southern border with Guatemala to help curb the spread of COVID-19 as the Biden administration set plans to borrow vaccines in Mexico to fight the pandemic.
Mexico’s announcement that it will block travel across the Guatemala border comes with preparations to strengthen enforcement efforts in the area against the leap of illegal immigration, according to a Reuters report.
Mutually beneficial measures follow weeks of diplomacy to address concerns over the growing apprehension of migrants trying to enter the United States, many of whom are unaccompanied minors, as well as obstacles to the initial launch of the vaccine in Mexico.
U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, has unleashed heavy fire from Republican opponents because of the rising challenge presented by the border. Meanwhile, his Mexican counterpart has pressured him for vaccines to make up for the shortage as the midterm elections approach.
Andres Rozental, a former deputy foreign minister of Mexico for North America, said it looked like a trade-off was happening, though it was unlikely that any senior figure in either administration would admit it publicly.
“It’s a give and take, a win for both,” he said.
When asked if the two countries had done quid pro quo, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said border security and vaccine requests in Mexico were part of “many layers” of dialogue between the government “unrelated” origin.
Roberto Velasco, a senior Mexican foreign ministry official, told local radio that the two announcements were unrelated, and were among discussions between governments.
Confirming the details reported by Reuters, Mexican Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard said Mexico and the United States are working on an agreement for 2.5 million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, and more will be revealed he on Friday.
“This will be the best start for a broad cooperation on vaccines,” Ebrard wrote on Twitter.
A U.S. official told Reuters that under the loan agreement, Mexico would receive a dose of AstraZeneca vaccine that the United States does not use. Canada is also set to receive 1.5 million doses under the agreement.
Due to the slow execution of promised deliveries, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been circulating around the world for vaccines, eager to arouse as many Mexicans as possible before the June 6 legislative election.
Mexico’s foreign ministry said that in order to contain COVID-19, restrictions for unnecessary crossings at its borders with the United States and Guatemala would take effect starting Friday, and remain in place until midnight on April 21.
In recent months, Mexico has announced extensions to travel restrictions across the U.S. border without mentioning the Guatemalan border, where new daily COVID-19 cases are now lower than in January.
Mexico’s own infections have fallen sharply in the last few weeks, and the two southern states that cover most of the border with Guatemala are at their lowest alert level.
Guatemala is one of three Central American countries battling poverty and violence that have helped drive migration to the United States.
Despite US concerns, the Mexican government itself is worried about the sudden influx of migrants.
The former Rozental official said that even if Mexico stopped the flow from Central America, it faced a more difficult time stopping its own citizens heading to the United States, which Mexico’s economy is still weak and expected the growth of the US.
Biden’s smarter approach to immigration compared to his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, and his $ 1.9 trillion economic stimulus plan will serve as a “pull factor,” Rozental said.
“The word is out,” he said, “that it’s easier to get to the United States than ever before.”
(Reporting by Dave Graham, Diego Ore and Raul Cortes in Mexico City and Jeff Mason in Washington; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Rosalba O’Brien)
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