October 21, 2021

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Secretary Antony J. Blinken With Alejandro Dominguez of Milenio TV

16 min read

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Mexico City, Mexico

Sofitel Hotel

QUESTION:  Secretary, thank you for your time.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Good to be with you.

QUESTION:  I want to start us with you.  When do you expect all these committments that you achieved today in this dialogue will translate into actions and results?  As results, I mean reducing the rates of homicides or reducing the rates of arms trafficking.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, I think the first thing that’s important is that as partners with shared responsibility, Mexico and the United States have adopted a new approach to dealing with security, security that affects the lives of citizens on both sides of the border, both of our countries.  And we’ve taken a much more holistic and comprehensive approach, making sure that we’re also – besides putting into effect the most effective possible law enforcement, that we’re also making sure that people have opportunity; that we’re also making sure that we’re dealing with the demand for drugs, the trafficking in weapons that are crossing the border, in this case from north to south; that we’re dealing with the criminal enterprises and networks, including financial flows.  All of that is part of what we’re doing.

So to answer your question more specifically, what we – we’ve adopted this new approach together.  Between now and December we’re going to be putting together an action plan, the very concrete steps that we agree on to move the plan forward, and then we’ll start to put those steps into effect.  This will play out over time.  I think it’s going to take some —

QUESTION:  And the goal is that, to reduce and to decrease these rates of homicides and arms trafficking?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  The fundamental goal is to protect our citizens.  The number one responsibility that we have as governments, Mexico and the United States, is to protect our citizens, to protect their safety, to protect their well-being.  And that has to translate in concrete ways.  We’re actually also going to have clear measures and metrics, so that we can hold ourselves accountable to see if we’re making progress.

QUESTION:  As a shared matter, which is security, how does the U.S. Government see what Mexico is doing?  Is Mexico effectively fighting organized crime, for example, dealing with all these criminals and all these drug dealers?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  It’s a big challenge for both of us.  But I think what you’re – what we’re seeing through this very, very deep and sustained collaboration is a commitment on both of our parts to deal with this.  And so for the United States, we have to continue to do more to reduce the demand for drugs, which feeds crime.  We have —

QUESTION:  But it’s enough – with a policy as “hugs, not bullets” – that the Mexican Government has?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I think what we’re – what we’ve agreed on is, as I said, a comprehensive approach that has both, which is to say that we have to have modern, effective law enforcement, but we also have to make sure that we’re doing things that take away some of the underlying drivers that lead to crime, that lead to insecurity, that lead to trafficking.

QUESTION:  Did you make any specific requirement to the Mexican Government, for example, to achieve the extradition of some drug lords who are detained here and that have pending charges in the United States of America?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  We cooperate on extraditions on a regular basis, so there’s nothing new.  But I think there’s a strong commitment on the part of both of our countries to do what’s necessary together to advance the prospect of strengthening security for all of our citizens.  Extradition is a part of that.

QUESTION:  In the case of DEA agents, do you discuss this topic of granting the visas for them?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  We talked about all of these things, but I’m not going to get into operational details about how we’re doing things.

QUESTION:  Okay.  But Mexico blocked some of them.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Again, I’m not going to get into operational details.  But what’s so important about what we did today is we had the – we had the Merida Initiative for 13 years.  But every strategy has to be reviewed, renewed, revised.  And we’ve taken now, as I say, a much more comprehensive approach to the challenges of citizen security that we both strongly agree on.

QUESTION:  In this new stage of the Merida Initiative that has another name, what does Mexico is asking to the United States instead of arms, instead of helicopters, instead of this kind of support?  Do you understand it?  Is it money, or what is?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So I think there are a few things.  One is a recognition, which we share, that we also have to be investing in finding opportunity for our citizens, because if they don’t have that opportunity then some of them may be driven to crime, to drugs, et cetera.  That’s a part of it.  We had a very successful High-Level Economic Dialogue about a month ago in Washington, where we have very concrete plans for doing that, for increasing investment, increasing trade, and increasing investment especially in underserved communities.  So that’s one part of it.

But again, as I said, we – I think this works both ways.  The demand for drugs in the United States is a problem that fuels much of the crime.  We’re focused on that.  The weapons coming across the border from north to south is part of the problem.  We had with us today the Attorney General of the United States, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, and we had our – our Mexican counterparts were there.  And this shows that this was – this is a comprehensive effort across both of our governments, because each of these elements is part of the strategy.

QUESTION:  So it’s cooperation and maybe investing in social programs?  (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yes, absolutely.

QUESTION:  Okay.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  It is investing in social programs.  And this is something that President Lopez Obrador feels very strongly about, and we agree with him.

QUESTION:  Finally, in the immigration topic, do you believe these – what we are seeing in camps of immigrants, the treatment that we give them in Mexico and the United States and other countries, is that humane treatment for them?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  We are facing together, I think, a unique circumstance when it comes to irregular migration.  Not only do we have the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, we have Venezuela, Haiti – both from Haiti itself, but also from other countries in Latin America where Haitians have been living for many years.  Much of this is driven by economic crisis, which has been made worse by COVID.  And so all of these things are coming together.

We have two things that we’re – three things, I should say, that we’re – Mexico and the United States are working very closely together.  One is dealing with the immediate challenge, including very regular cooperation when it comes to our border, the northern border, but also Mexican southern – Mexico’s southern border.  We’re working together in both ways.

But we both recognize this:  There are two things that we also need to do, even as we’re dealing with the immediate challenge and cooperating very closely on that.  We have to be investing in ways that deal with the drivers of irregular migration, and we have a commitment to do that, and we’re doing that increasingly in coordination with Mexico.  The other thing we have to do – and again, we both agree that we’ll be leading efforts on this – is to make sure that there is greater regional responsibility, coordination, cooperation among all countries in the region.  Everyone has to have a sense of responsibility when it comes to this.  We’ll be working together to do that.

QUESTION:  Is there any chance to – for these people to seek asylum in their country or in the country where they are, right now in Mexico, even some from Chile (inaudible)?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, there are a number of things going on.  But one of the things we’re working on in the United States is to strengthen our own asylum system, because it needs resources, it needs investment, but it also needs time so that we can process more rapidly, effectively people making asylum claims.  And if the claim is justified, we will follow our traditions and obligations under the law.  On the other hand, if it’s not justified, people will have to return to the countries that they came from.

But it’s not enough for any one country to do these things.  We’ll also be expanding legal pathways to migration.  But it’s not enough for any one country to do that.  There has to be much greater cooperation and coordination with every country meeting its responsibilities.

For example, we have Haitians who have been living in Chile and Brazil for many, many years. Well, they’ve been misinformed about the ability to come to the United States now, because this summer we granted what’s called temporary protective status to Haitians who were already in the United States.

QUESTION:  But —

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  But it doesn’t apply to people who come after the declaration of that status.  People have been misinformed – more than misinformed, they’ve been lied to – into believing they can come to the United States and get temporary protective status and be able to stay.  That is not the case.

But if they try to do that, then if they’re coming from Chile or Brazil, for example, where they’ve been long established, they should be able to return there.  So – but all of this demands cooperation and coordination, and countries need to support each other, because this is a unique situation.  And over time, I think we can build a better system, and in our case one that is safe, that is orderly, and that’s humane and that meets our traditions.

QUESTION:  So returning them to their country where they do have a chance to achieve a better life?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, this is why it’s so important to also look and invest in dealing with the drivers of irregular migration, because you’re exactly right.  If people feel that they have absolutely no choice, that they’re prepared to give up everything they know – their families, their communities, their language, their culture – to take an incredibly hazardous journey, to put their lives in danger, and then to come and also not be able to get to the United States, it’s because there’s tremendous pressure on them.  And they have to feel that they have a chance to earn a living, to provide for their families, to have a future.  So we have  – but it takes time to do this.  But Mexico and the United States together understand this, and together we’re going to be working on this and making some of these investments.

We have to have governments that we can work with effectively.  We have to deal with challenges like corruption and insecurity.  But we understand that there are – this is a long-term solution, but we also have to have some short-term answers to the immediate problem.

QUESTION:  Thank you very much for your time here, sir.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you very much.  Good to be with you.

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