On Monday, January 9, the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Canada will travel to Mexico for the start of the North American Leaders’ Summit. The meeting marks the first visit to Latin America by a US president since 2014.
The ‘three amigos’ will cross paths amid turmoil caused by the war on drugs and an exacerbated migration crisis. The summit will take place just four days after the arrest of Ovidio Guzmán – the son of El Chapo Guzmán – whose henchmen have since set fire and sowed chaos across Culiacán, the capital of the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa.
Much of the discussion will focus on combating undocumented immigration and drug trafficking, although the agenda will also include topics such as the environment, inflation, healthcare and poverty reduction.
On Sunday, Biden will land at the Felipe Ángeles International Airport, after taking a tour of the US-Mexico border for the first time since he was sworn into office. Border control has been a major point of contention in the United States, with the Republican Party repeatedly using undocumented immigration as an attack on Biden’s administration. Biden will lead a delegation that includes Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, along with other senior members of his cabinet and top US diplomats stationed in Mexico and Canada.
Biden will first meet his Mexican counterpart at the National Palace for a closed-door meeting. Trudeau is scheduled to arrive around 2:40 p.m. on Monday, upon which the summit between the three leaders will begin. Biden is bringing a portfolio to his fellow North American leaders that includes a wide array of issues, such as climate change, global supply chains and immigration. The initial conversation between the three men is scheduled to last for 90 minutes.
The fight against fentanyl trafficking – a drug that has claimed the lives of more than 70,000 Americans in 2022 alone – will be one of Biden’s top priorities. Every day, nearly 200 Americans die from an overdose of the drug, which is principally manufactured in Mexico with chemicals originating from China.
López Obrador knows that he will be pressed on migration and security topics, but he will also be demanding greater economic integration within North America. The bilateral meeting comes just days after the White House announced an agreement with Mexico, which will require the Obrador administration to increase control of the border. In exchange, the US will begin offering new avenues of legal immigration to citizens of Haiti, Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.
Around 3:30 p.m., there will be a message to the media delivered by the three leaders. A joint declaration is expected, which will formalize various agreements between Canada, Mexico and the United States across six different areas: diversity; equity and inclusion; environment and climate change; competitiveness with the rest of the world; migration and development, as well as health and security. Announcements on separate bilateral issues are also scheduled.
Biden will fly back to Washington that same afternoon. Trudeau and López Obrador, meanwhile, will meet again on Wednesday morning. The diplomatic marathon will close with the signing of a memorandum of understanding to recognize the legacy of the Indigenous peoples in Canada and Mexico.
At a White House press conference by John Kirby – spokesman for the US National Security Council – it was stressed that the leaders’ talks will prioritize the fight against the rising supply of fentanyl and the ongoing opioid crisis. Mexico, Kirby stressed, has taken some “significant steps” in the fight against this scourge. He alluded, specifically, to the capture this week of Ovidio Guzmán, arrested on Thursday in an operation that came about after six months of work by the Mexican authorities.
The violent fall of El Chapo’s son – whose father is serving a life sentence in a US prison – has highlighted the issue of insecurity in Mexico. President López Obrador has denied that Washington played any collaborative role in the arrest, which left 29 people dead, including 10 soldiers. When asked about this, Kirby pivoted:
“It is not an insignificant achievement by the Mexican authorities… we have to continue collaborating with them in a synchronized manner.”
Still, Washington expects more results in terms of fighting crime and developing new public health strategies for drug prevention, treatment and recovery. To achieve results, the American government has offered Mexico more carrots than sticks, with…
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