Mexico: Relationship with US closer than assumed
Canadaâs Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, from left, Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray, and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, pose for a group photo at the end of their joint press conference in Mexico City, Friday, Feb. 2, 2018. Tillersonâs Mexico stop kicks off a weeklong trip to Latin America which will take him to Argentina, Peru, and Colombia, with a final stop in Jamaica. (Rebecca Blackwell/Associated Press) February 2 at 6:39 PM
MEXICO CITY â" Mexicoâs foreign relations secretary said Friday that it might come as a surprise but his countryâs relationship with the United States today is âmore fluidâ and âcloserâ than it was with previous U.S. administrations.
Mexico has had wel l-publicized disagreements with President Donald Trump during the past year over trade, immigration and payment for a proposed border wall. But Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Videgaray said that âwith the Trump administration, weâre committed to having a very close communication and that has proven to be a tremendous benefit for the relationship.â
âIt might be surprising to some people, but thatâs a fact of life,â Videgaray said at a joint news conference in Mexico with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland. The three countries are currently renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Tillersonâs stop in Mexico kicked off a six-day Latin America trip that will also take him to Panama, Argentina, Peru, Colombia and Jamaica. He was greeted in Mexico City by a handful of protesters holding up signs reading âDreamers, Trumpâs hostages,â and âWe are workers, not terrorists, not crimi nals.â
The three spoke about security concerns, especially the trafficking in opiates and synthetic opiates like fentanyl that have caused a wave of overdose deaths.
âGiven the deadly nature of the opioid crisis, we must do more to attack the business model of those who traffic drugs and guns,â said Tillerson.
Asked about reports of Russian meddling in Mexicoâs July 1 presidential elections, Tillerson said âwe know that Russia has fingerprints on elections around the world ... my advice to Mexico would be to pay attention.â
The three officials said they also discussed the political and economic crisis in Venezuela and its governmentâs decision to push up presidential elections to April under conditions that opponents say overwhelmingly favor President Nicolas Maduro, who is so far the only candidate.
âWe shared our concerns for the humanitarian crisis that has unfolded in Venezuela,â Tillerson said. âWe all urge the Maduro reg ime to return to free, open credible, democratic elections.â
Videgaray was quick to note that Mexico has limits on how far it will go in pressuring Venezuela.
âMexico will in no case support any option that implies violence,â Videgaray said.
Tillerson said the United States wants to see a âpeaceful transition.â
âIf President Maduro would return to the Venezuelan constitution, restore the duly elected assembly, dismantle the illegitimate constituent assembly and return to free and fair elections, then heâs happy to stay and run in the free and fair elections,â Tillerson said. âIf he wants to step aside and let someone else run in them, thatâs fine.â
Venezuelan officials condemned Tillersonâs remarks earlier Thursday at the University of Texas. Tillerson said that throughout the course of Latin Americaâs history it has often been the military which has stepped in to âmanage a peaceful transition.â
That stung the Venezuelan government, whose soldiers have reportedly been going hungry like much of the rest of the population.
Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez went on state television Friday, flanked by a half-dozen military officers in uniform, to denounce Tillersonâs comments. He said Venezuelaâs military is united and would never succumb to the influence of a foreign power.
âYou donât know what you are doing,â he said. âI invite you to correct yourself.â
Venezuelan officials accused Tillerson of using his current trip to increase pressure on governments around the region to join the U.S. in âa perverse plan of aggressions against Venezuela.â
AP writer Christine Armario contributed to this report from Bogota, Colombia
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