US, Mexico in flurry of talks amid migration, drug rows

US 'intensely focused' on hostages despite end of Gaza truce: Blinken
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The United States and Mexico starting Friday will hold two top-level meetings in less than a week as the neighbors face growing pressure over migration and drug smuggling.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and top US trade officials are holding talks Friday in Washington with Mexican Foreign Secretary Alicia Barcena and commercial officials that will touch on economic issues affecting both sides of the 1,954-mile (3,145-kilometer) border.

On Thursday, Blinken in turn will travel to Mexico City for talks focused on security, State Department officials said.

Blinken will be accompanied on the trip by Attorney General Merrick Garland and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

“These dialogues are really the scaffolding for economic and security cooperation with Mexico,” a senior US official said on customary condition of anonymity.

The pair of annual talks “assess our progress and drive strategic priorities for the coming year,” she said.

No meeting was immediately announced between Blinken and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Barcena told the United Nations last week that Lopez Obrador wants to meet with US President Joe Biden to discuss migration, as Mexico is “overwhelmed” by people coming from violence-wracked Central America and Venezuela.

She appealed for help, saying that Mexico was processing 140,000 asylum applications a year and supporting migrants as they await decisions on entering the United States.

Under a setup dating from Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump, Mexico has agreed to keep migrants as they seek to enter the United States, where migration has become a major political issue.

The Biden administration has kept in place Trump’s hard line on unauthorized border crossings but, calling for more humane treatment, has set up centers where migrants can apply to travel legally and avoid turning to smugglers.

Mexico last week agreed to take further action and deport migrants from border cities after a surge of crossings into the United States.

The talks come as the United States also grapples with a crisis of synthetic opioids, with nearly 110,000 Americans dying last year of drug overdoses, mostly of fentanyl.

US authorities say the fentanyl is largely coming from Mexican drug cartels that use precursor chemicals from China.

The Biden administration has imposed sanctions on cartels but a number of politicians from Trump’s Republican Party have called for tougher steps, including even US military action inside Mexico.


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