By Jose Cabezas
TAPACHULA (Reuters) – Deployment of National Guard forces to Mexico’s southern border will advance quickly under a migration control deal signed last week with the United States, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Wednesday, although there were no visible signs on the ground late in the day.
Under the deal signed on Friday, Mexico agreed to take steps to control the flow of people from Central America, including deploying 6,000 members of the country’s National Guard across its border with Guatemala.
“Starting from today, and in the coming days, the deployment is going to progress rapidly,” Ebrard said during President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s regular morning news conference.
However, a Reuters photographer in Southern Mexico said there was no sign of National Guard forces being deployed late on Wednesday – only regular checkpoints by the army, marines and the Federal Police.
The deal agreed on Friday averted escalating import tariffs of 5% on Mexican goods, which President Donald Trump had vowed to impose unless Mexico did more to curb illegal migration into the United States. Mexico also agreed to a 45-day timeline to show that increased enforcement efforts were effective.
“A lot of things have to happen in 45 days,” Ebrard said. “We are going to do what we said we are going to do.”
Details of how much Mexico will spend on the border security measures will be made public on Friday, Ebrard said.
Lopez Obrador said some of the money needed to pay for the beefed-up migration programme will come from selling the former presidential plane, at a minimum price of $150 million, and from the sale of other aircraft used in the prior administration.
Ebrard said Mexico implemented a working group with Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to coordinate efforts at stemming the tide of people fleeing violence and poverty in Central America.
Mexico will meet on Friday with U.S. immigration officials to hammer out details of the new plan, he added, aiming to secure a commitment to faster asylum proceedings.
United Nations child relief agency UNICEF will be invited to provide assistance on the southern border, focussing on non-accompanied minors fleeing Central America, Ebrard said.
(Reporting by Jose Cabezas in Tapachula; Additional reporting by Daina Beth Solomon in Mexico City; Editing by Hugh Bronstein, Stefanie Eschenbacher, Will Dunham and Leslie Adler)