By RICARDO CASTILLO
It may not be all that much in the way of meeting U.S. President Donald Trump’s expectations for the Mexican government to put a halt to the swelling human tide of immigrants bellowing in hunger and poverty north from Central America through Mexico to the United States, but it does represents a first solid step in an effort to prevent Washington from slapping the nation’s imports with a progressively increasing tariff (5 percent a month for the next five months, until it reaches 25 percent next October).
On Thursday, June 6, Mexico’s Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said in Washington that as of June 30, Mexico will be prepared to station permanently 6,000 National Guardsmen at the Guatemalan border.
“We have informed the government of the United States that the National Guard (GN) has been formed in Mexico and that the National Guard has been entrusted with covering the coordination of regions along the southern border, and we have explained to them (U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo) that these troops will be permanently deployed there,” he said.
In a short press conference, Ebrard explained that “the National Guard will be deployed all over the nation, but the immediate priority will be overseeing the southern border” with Guatemala.
Since Wednesday, June 5, Ebrard has been holding meetings with Pence and Pompeo hoping to convince them to have Trump thwart his intention to impose tariffs on Mexican exports, a move many analysts claim will send Mexico reeling into a recession, badly hurt many U.S. state economies that thrive on exports to Mexico, and definitely have a disastrous effect on Central American nations, the source of the problem at hand.
The National Guard was just approved into existence last month by the Mexican Congress, which, in an extraordinary session, drafted operational regulations for the agents, which for starters will consist of some 30,000 guardsmen.
Ironically, one of the duties not included among the NG’s responsibilities was that of performing the role of immigration agents, which is what is needed in this particular case. The National Guard members are for the most part already-trained soldiers and marines who are now undergoing retraining to serve as public security agents.
Regarding the U.S. administration’s response, Ebrard said: “We have not yet reached an agreement. There have been publications in various media stating that we have reached an agreement. But we do not have that agreement yet. Thus far, the administration (of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador) has presented its point of view, our proposals, and, well, that is how negotiations happen.”
Negotiations sessions are expected to continue on Friday, June 7, at the U.S. State Department, where Ebrard “will probably” meet with Pompeo.
But for now, Mexico has placed an ace on the table in the hopes of coming up with a high enough hand to convince Trump to not proceed with his plan to impose tariffs.