U.S. and Mexican presidents talk migration, coronavirus after nagging tensions

Migrants from Central America cross into El Paso, Texas, U.S., to turn themselves in to request for asylum, as seen from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he and his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden discussed migration, the COVID-19 pandemic and bilateral cooperation on Friday during their first phone call since the American assumed the presidency this week.

The afternoon call was “pleasant and respectful” Lopez Obrador said in a brief Twitter post, in which he appeared in a photo smiling, seated at a table with Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard and former presidential chief of staff Alfonso Romo.

“Everything indicates relations will be good and for the benefit of our people and nations,” Lopez Obrador said.

Mexico has a major role to play in Biden’s plans for immigration reform. Earlier this month, Mexico helped coordinate efforts in Central America to contain a large caravan of migrants heading for the United States.

Nevertheless, Biden’s inauguration comes at a time of simmering tension over a now-dropped U.S. investigation into former Mexican defense minister Salvador Cienfuegos.

During the call, Lopez Obrador celebrated the legacy of Mexican migrants in the United States and reiterated that the best way to manage migration was to promote development in the places that fuel the phenomenon, Mexico’s foreign ministry said.

Lopez Obrador said Mexico wanted to work with Washington on their “broad bilateral agenda,” the ministry said.

The two leaders agreed that teams from both countries would work together to craft a common approach to development, and underlined the need for joint cooperation to combat the pandemic, the ministry said in a statement.

Separately, the ministry said the U.S. government had approved the appointment of Esteban Moctezuma as Mexico’s ambassador to the United States. Moctezuma must still be ratified by Mexico’s Senate, which should be a formality.

Mexico’s government also said it had begun talks with Washington about a coronavirus-related order signed by Biden to impose sanitary requirements on people entering U.S. territory.

Earlier on Friday, Lopez Obrador urged the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to mount an internal probe into how it built its case against Cienfuegos.

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