Mexican president to hold bilateral talks with Trump on July 8

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will hold bilateral talks with his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump on July 8 in Washington, where he will underline his commitment to trade and investment, Mexico’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.

The leftist Lopez Obrador has not left his country since taking office in December 2018, and paying his first foreign visit to Trump is politically risky because the U.S. Republican president is widely disliked in Mexico.

The Mexican president has described the planned visit, which is intended to celebrate the start of a new North American trade deal on July 1, as a matter of economic necessity.

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said Lopez Obrador would hold bilateral talks with Trump on the afternoon of July 8. Trilateral matters that include Canada will be on the agenda on the morning of July 9, he added.

Mexico wanted to stress its commitment to trade, investment and social welfare at the Washington summit, Ebrard told a news conference, standing alongside Lopez Obrador.

Lopez Obrador floated the idea of talks in Washington to mark the July 1 start of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which is replacing the 26-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Mexico has urged Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to take part in the meeting, and Ebrard said he expected Canada’s government to detail its plans soon.

So far, Canada had not responded to the invitation to participate in Washington, Lopez Obrador said.

Many Mexicans have held Trump in low regard since he described Mexican migrants as rapists and drug runners in his 2015-16 election campaign and vowed to make Mexico pay for his planned border wall.

He has also made repeated threats against Mexico’s economy to pressure its government to stem illegal immigration.

(Reporting by Dave Graham and Anthony Esposito; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Gang violence hits Mexican leader’s ratings, U.S. warns of ‘parallel government’

Gang violence hits Mexican leader’s ratings, U.S. warns of ‘parallel government’
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Support for Mexico’s president has fallen some ten percentage points during a surge in gang-related violence, a poll showed on Friday, just as the U.S. ambassador voiced concern about “parallel government” by cartels in parts of the country.

The Nov. 6-11 survey of 1,000 Mexicans for newspaper El Universal showed President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had an approval rating of 58.7%, down from 68.7% in late August. The poll had a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

Although Lopez Obrador’s popularity remains strong compared with many world leaders, nearly one year into his administration, skepticism is growing about his performance on the back of several shocking security lapses to recently roil Mexico.

Last month the president took flak from critics when it emerged security forces had released a son of the notorious kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman after heavily-armed cartel gunmen overwhelmed security forces and briefly took control of the northern city of Culiacan.

That criticism was compounded by outrage and condemnation of the government from some U.S. lawmakers when suspected cartel gunmen massacred three mothers and six children of dual U.S.-Mexican nationality in northern Mexico last week.

U.S. President Donald Trump has responded by suggesting Mexico should join the United States to fight the cartels, fueling concerns that the American leader could use gang violence to put pressure on the Mexican government as he has over migration.

Speaking on Thursday, the U.S. ambassador in Mexico City, Christopher Landau, offered a terse assessment of the situation, saying there were parts of Mexico in which drug cartels formed a kind of “parallel government”.

“It can’t be that the territory where they have this kind of power continues to expand across the country,” Landau said on Thursday during an event in the northern city of Monterrey in remarks that were later broadcast on television.

“The future of Mexico is so important that if we don’t fight this now, it’s going to get much worse,” he added.

A dozen years of gang-fueled violence have claimed well over 200,000 lives in Mexico and murders hit record levels last year.

Taking office in December, the veteran leftist Lopez Obrador has pledged to address the root causes of crime and is pursuing a less confrontational approach to pacifying the country.

He quickly created a new militarized police force, or National Guard, to tackle the problem. But at the behest of Trump, thousands of its members have been sent to the borders of Mexico to help contain illegal immigration from Central America.

(Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

‘Robin Hood’ Mexican president says to return stolen wealth to the people

Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaks during a news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Monday he will create a “Robin Hood” institute to return to the people the ill-gotten wealth seized from corrupt politicians and gangsters.

His administration is drawing up a bill to create an independent “Robin Hood” institute “against the corrupt” that would put confiscated goods such as real estate, jewelry and cars into the public’s hands, the president told reporters.

“Let’s quickly return everything to the people that’s been stolen,” he said at his regular morning news conference.

For example, the institute could assign seized homes to municipalities for schools, hospitals or elderly care centers, he said. Assets seized by the government tend to have been ransacked or require expensive upkeep, he noted.

He did not estimate the value of the assets, or offer details on how they would be given back to the people.

A 2017 report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development noted that recent studies estimated that Mexico lost between 5 percent and 9 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) to corruption annually.

Since taking office in December, veteran leftist Lopez Obrador has rolled out a string of welfare programs for the poor and the elderly, cut salaries for top civil servants and says he is saving public money by eliminating corruption.

Lopez Obrador has shunned the often luxurious trappings of Mexico’s wealthy elites, choosing to fly coach and drive through the capital in a white Volkswagen Jetta.

Immediately upon taking office, he turned over the presidential palace to the public and put his predecessor’s official plane up for sale.

(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon and Sharay Angulo; Editing by Dave Graham and Jeffrey Benkoe)

Mexican president says illegal immigration to U.S. ‘is not up to us’

FILE PHOTO: Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador looks on during a meeting with industry bosses and members of his cabinet to discuss the new administration's policy on the minimum wage at National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico December 17, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido/File Phot

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Thursday he was committed to helping curb illegal immigration after renewed Twitter criticism by U.S. counterpart Donald Trump, but he suggested it was an issue chiefly for the United States and Central America to address.

Illegal immigration across the U.S. border has caused persistent bilateral tensions ever since Trump launched his bid for the presidency almost four years ago, saying that Mexico was sending rapists and drug runners into the United States.

With initial campaigning for the 2020 U.S. presidential election already underway, Trump sent out a tweet early Thursday that again attacked Mexico over migration.

“Mexico is doing NOTHING to help stop the flow of illegal immigrants to our Country,” Trump wrote. “They are all talk and no action. Likewise, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador have taken our money for years, and do Nothing.”

Trump again threatened to close the U.S. southern border.

At his regular morning news conference, Lopez Obrador was asked about Trump’s tweet, and said he was focused on addressing the root causes of migration. He repeated that he wanted a cordial relationship with Trump.

“We respect president Trump’s position, and we are going to help. That is, this is a problem of the United States, or it’s a problem of the Central American countries. It’s not up to us Mexicans, no,” Lopez Obrador told reporters.

“I just emphasize that migration flows of Mexicans to the United States are very low, a lot lower,” he said. “The Mexican is no longer seeking work in the United States. The majority are inhabitants of our fellow Central American countries.”

Trump’s latest broadside came one day after the United States, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador agreed to conduct joint police operations in Central America to improve border security and tackle illegal immigration.

The three countries account for the bulk of migrants apprehended trying to cross illegally into the United States.

Trump’s remarks also followed calls on social media for a new caravan of migrants to form in Honduras.

Over the weekend, a group of around 1,200 migrants, most of them from Central America, began moving toward the U.S. border from southern Mexico.

(Reporting by Miguel Angel Gutierrez, Dave Graham and Lizbeth Diaz; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)