Mexico’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, has criticized the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, over his crackdown at the US-Mexico border. Last week, the Republican politician ordered state inspections on commercial vehicles entering from Mexico, a move that caused major disruptions, as trucks and buses were forced to wait in mile-long lines in order to cross the border. The inspections, which coincided with Easter week, also led to protests and acts of vandalism, with several trailers set on fire in the city of Tamaulipas.
Abbott effectively ended the policy on Friday after reaching deals with the four Mexican states that share a border with Texas: Nuevo León, Tamaulipas, Chihuahua and Coahuila. But in an interview with the Mexican newspaper Milenio on Sunday, Ebrard described the Texan governor’s actions as “extortion.”
“It’s extortion. I close the border and you have to sign what I say,” he said, in reference to the agreements signed with the Mexican states. “That’s not a deal.”
The comments were made ahead of Ebrard’s visit to Washington, where he is set to discuss ways to the situation at the border. Mexico’s position is that the migrant crisis is not a national problem, but a regional one that especially affects the United States. Since Joe Biden was elected US president, the two countries have sought to address the problem through dialogue. On Friday, Biden and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador spoke on the phone for an hour about how to effectively reduce irregular immigration at the border in a way that respects human rights.
This marks a change from the former administration of Donald Trump, who used the threat of tariffs on Mexican goods to push forward his border policies. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the former Republican president also introduced an emergency measure called Title 42, which facilitates fast-track deportations on the grounds of health concerns. Biden announced in April that he would lift the controversial policy, but he has come up against tough opposition. A total of 21 Republican-led states, including Texas, filed a lawsuit to temporarily stop any move to end Title 42. A court approved the temporary restraining order, and the US government has said it will comply with the ruling.
Meanwhile, López Obrador has planned a series of visits to the so-called “Northern Triangle” – a term which refers to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador – to discuss the issue of migrant caravans. Since 2020, the number of these groups, which travel up from Central America to the Mexico-US border, has multiplied.