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Mexican president slams US during tour of Central America

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) – Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador started a five-day tour to four Central American countries and Cuba on Thursday by lashing out at the United States (US) government.

López Obrador criticised American officials sharply for being quick to send billions to Ukraine, while dragging their feet on development aid to Central America.

On his first stop in neighbouring Guatemala, López Obrador demanded US aid to stem the poverty and joblessness that sends tens of thousands of Guatemalans north to the US border.

The Mexican leader had been angered that the US rebuffed his calls to help expand his tree-planting programme.

“They are different things and they shouldn’t be compared categorically, but they have already approved USD30 billion for the war in Ukraine, while we have been waiting since President Donald Trump, asking they donate USD4 billion, and as of today, nothing, absolutely nothing,” López Obrador said.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador shakes hands with his Guatemalan counterpart Alejandro Giammattei. PHOTO: AFP

“Honestly, it seems inexplicable,” he added. “For our part, we are going to continue to respectfully insist on the need for the US to collaborate.”

López Obrador’s pet programme, known as “Planting Life”, pays farmers a monthly wage to plant and care for fruit and lumber trees on their farms.

Mexico has asked the US government to help fund the programme, something that so far hasn’t happened. Mexico is also touting another programme that apprentices young people to companies. Critics said both programmes lack accountability.

Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard wrote in his social media accounts that meetings with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei and other officials focussed on development, migration and strengthening bilateral ties.

Ebrard said Mexico was starting the tree programme in Guatemala’s Chimaltenango province.

The tour is an opportunity for Mexico to reassert itself as a leader in Latin America and will be welcomed by some leaders under pressure from the US government and others for their alleged anti-democratic tendencies.

The US government has been trying to build consensus ahead of the June Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles to cement a regional approach to managing migration flows.

In recent years large numbers of Central Americans, but also Haitians, Cubans, Venezuelans, Colombians and migrants from other continents, have made their way up through the Americas.

The visit is an opportunity for López Obrador to show some independence from the US.

López Obrador has criticised the US economic blockade of Cuba and he said that he told US officials that no country should be excluded from the Summit of the Americas.

The Biden administration has signalled that Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua would not be invited.