Top Trump

Pompeo says visit shows U.S. wants im­proved re­la­tions

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Tracy Wilkin­son

ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pompeo, went to Mex­ico on Fri­day to meet with Pres­i­den­t­elect An­dres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

MEX­ICO CITY — A team of top Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials trav­eled to Mex­ico on Fri­day to meet its next pres­i­dent and try to re­pair strained re­la­tions in a largely sym­bolic visit af­ter nearly two years of diplo­matic dis­cord.

Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pompeo met with Mex­ico’s pres­i­dent-elect, An­dres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a left-lean­ing pop­ulist who won the July 1 vote in a land­slide.

He also planned to meet out­go­ing Pres­i­dent En­rique Pena Ni­eto, who has seen his pop­u­lar­ity plum­met in re­cent months in part for his fail­ure to chal­lenge Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump more force­fully.

Pompeo was joined by Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Kirst­jen Nielsen, Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin and Jared Kush­ner, Trump’s son-in-law and se­nior ad­viser, who has Mex­ico in his port­fo­lio of re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

The del­e­ga­tion also in­cluded Carl Risch, head of con­sular af­fairs at the State Depart­ment, a sign of the pri­or­ity on im­mi­gra­tion.

In their meet­ing with Lopez Obrador, Pompeo said the pres­ence of “four of our most se­nior peo­ple” showed that Trump was se­ri­ous about im­prov­ing ties with one of Amer­ica’s clos­est al­lies af­ter bit­ter clashes over bor­der se­cu­rity, trade and other dis­putes.

“We wanted to come down here to let you know that Pres­i­dent Trump cares deeply for the suc­cess of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween our two coun­tries,” Pompeo said. “Our pres­ence here to­day sig­nals that to you,” he said. “We know there have been bumps in the road be­tween our two coun­tries, but Pres­i­dent Trump is deter­mined to make the re­la­tion­ship be­tween our peo­ples bet­ter and stronger.”

The day­long trip, which Pompeo un­der­took hours af­ter re­turn­ing to Wash­ing­ton from the NATO sum­mit in Brus­sels and be­fore he heads to Helsinki for Trump’s meet­ing Mon­day with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, comes af­ter months of ran­cor be­tween Trump and Mex­ico.

Trump has re­ferred to Mex­i­cans as crim­i­nals, de­manded Mex­ico pay for a bor­der wall it doesn’t want and in­sulted Pena Ni­eto.

Trump has been kinder to Lopez Obrador, in­clud­ing what both gov­ern­ments la­beled a pos­i­tive and cor­dial half-hour phone call af­ter his elec­tion. Trump has pledged to work with the new Mex­i­can leader af­ter he takes of­fice Dec. 1.

Pena Ni­eto was not el­i­gi­ble to run be­cause the Mex­i­can con­sti­tu­tion pro­hibits re-elec­tion. The pres­i­den­tial can­di­date for his In­sti­tu­tional Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Party came in a dis­tant third.

For all the ini­tial rap­proche­ment, Trump and Lopez Obrador al­most cer­tainly will clash on both sub­stance and style.

“It’s a good start, but there are still a lot of is­sues that will be ar­eas (of dis­agree­ment),” said Roberta Ja­cob­son, who un­til May served as U.S. am­bas­sador to Mex­ico. Trump “needs to stop vil­i­fy­ing Mex­i­cans and blam­ing them for so many of the United States’ prob­lems.”

De­spite Trump’s claims, the Pena Ni­eto gov­ern­ment has taken nu­mer­ous steps to stem il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion.

Funded in part by the United States, Mex­ico has re­in­forced its south­ern bor­der with Gu­atemala and de­ported nearly 150,000 Cen­tral Amer­i­cans in the last year. But those poli­cies are un­pop­u­lar.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion also has sought to per­suade Mex­ico to ac­cept the sta­tus of “safe third na­tion,” which would make it eas­ier for Mex­ico to ac­cept asy­lum ap­pli­cants flee­ing vi­o­lence or per­se­cu­tion at home — and stop them from con­tin­u­ing north to the United States to seek refuge.

Mex­ico has long re­sisted the pro­posal. Al­though Mex­ico has ac­cepted sig­nif­i­cantly more asy­lum ap­pli­cants, it is re­luc­tant to shoul­der a bur­den likely to be many times greater.


Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pompeo, left, has as­sured Mex­i­can of­fi­cial Luis Vide­garay of bet­ter U.S.-Mex­ico re­la­tions.

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