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Pompeo and Mexican counterpart welcome reduced flow of migrants

File photo of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Photograph:( Reuters )

AFP Mexico City, Mexico Jul 22, 2019, 09.02 AM (IST)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday thanked his Mexican counterpart for increased immigration enforcement by the country, which he said is leading to fewer migrants entering the United States.

The meeting confirmed a considerably calmer tone in US-Mexican relations than in early June when President Donald Trump had threatened stiff new trade tariffs against the United States' southern neighbour unless it acted forcefully to slow the migrant flow. 

Pompeo met Sunday in Mexico City with Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard on a regional trip that began in Argentina and Ecuador and later took him to El Salvador.

"Secretary Pompeo thanked Foreign Minister Ebrard for Mexico's increased immigration enforcement efforts," the State Department said.

Speaking in El Salvador, Pompeo said that Mexico has "made real progress" on migration.

"The numbers are good... There are fewer apprehensions taking place today along our southern border, but we've got a long way to go yet -- there's still much more work to do," he told a news conference in San Salvador.

The meeting between Ebrard and Pompeo, while focused primarily on migration, also included talks on recovering the wealth of notorious drug trafficker Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman -- sentenced to life imprisonment in the US -- as well as the status of the not-yet-ratified North American trade agreement, the Mexican Foreign Ministry said. 

The Mexican statement said Pompeo had recognised "significant advances" by Mexico on slowing migration since a high-stakes June 7 meeting in Washington held amid a growing migration crisis.

Drug fortune

That accord -- reached under the shadow of Trump's trade threats -- stipulated that failure by Mexico to rein in cross-border migration within 45 days could result in the need to negotiate a tougher arrangement.

But the Mexican statement said that "in light of these advances," Ebrard "does not consider it necessary to initiate" such negotiations.

At the meeting Sunday, Ebrard said Mexico's strategy to "ensure orderly, safe and regular migrant flows will continue for the next 45 days," the statement said. 

The Mexican government in June deployed thousands of soldiers and police officers, both near the southern border with Guatemala and the US border in the north, to slow the migrant flow, which has come principally from impoverished and crime-ridden Central American countries.

Official Mexican figures say the number of migrants coming into Mexico from those countries fell from 144,000 in May to 100,000 in June.

Pompeo and Ebrard also discussed the fortune amassed by drug kingpin Guzman. 

The US judge who sentenced him to life in prison last week ordered Guzman to forfeit $12.6 billion, but Mexico wants the money to stay in that country.

The two diplomats discussed creating a binational group to study the matter. 

Pompeo then travelled to El Salvador and met with President Nayib Bukele.

"We support his plans to stimulate economic growth and reduce illegal migration and believe his vision to build a strong, self-reliant #ElSalvador will lead to a bright future," Pompeo tweeted.