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Mexico wants U.S. backing for Central America development plan to stem migration

Mexico wants U.S. backing for Central America development plan to stem migration
FILE PHOTO: Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaks to the media during a news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico May 1, 2019. Press Office Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo   -   Copyright  HANDOUT(Reuters)
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By Diego Oré

MEXICOCITY (Reuters) – Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Monday he had ordered his foreign minister to seek a pact with the United States, Canada and other nations in support of a development plan for Central America to control immigration.

Lopez Obrador said U.S. President Donald Trump had made a commitment for U.S. investment in Central America and Mexico, and had shown interest in his push for economic development over security aid, but that the next step was to sign an agreement.

“We no longer want cooperation for security forces. We don’t want the Merida plan, we don’t want helicopters mounted with machine guns. We want cooperation for development,” said Lopez Obrador, reiterating his view that only economic development will tackle the root causes of immigration.

Lopez Obrador has said he wants the United States to ditch the Merida Initiative that deploys millions of dollars for security programs in Mexico in favour of more development assistance.

However, Trump earlier this year ordered an end to U.S. aid to Central America over rising numbers of immigrants. He threatened to impose tariffs if Mexico does not do more to stop the flow of mostly Central Americans reaching the U.S. southern border, the biggest wave in a decade.

Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said in December that Washington was committing $5.8 billion to development in Central America and increasing public and private investment in Mexico via the Overseas Private Investment Corporation by $4.8 billion.

In a partial rollback of the aid cut last week, U.S. Attorney General William Barr said Washington would continue funding police forces in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

(Reporting by Diego Ore; Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Jonathan Oatis)

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