VP Kamala Harris, Mexican president discuss COVID-19 vaccines, reopening of border


EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The president of Mexico says he’ll ask Vice President Kamala Harris this afternoon for additional COVID-19 vaccines and an Aug. 21 complete reopening of the border.

Speaking at a military facility in south Juarez this morning, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said the United States could offer up to 3.5 million vaccines, which would enable his administration to vaccine almost all adults in Mexico by October. That, he says, will make a case for a prompt rollback of non-essential land travel restrictions in place between the two countries since March 2020.

“August 21 (target date) will depend a lot on the talks today and in coming days to see if we can get there,” Lopez Obrador said during a news conference broadcast on YouTube. “We have to consider that in the United States and Mexico there are (new) infections; the difference is that we have fewer hospitalizations and fewer deaths because the vaccine is helping a lot.”

The call will be at 5 p.m. Eastern Time, he said.

The travel restrictions have hit hard hundreds of U.S. merchants along the border who depend on Mexican customers for a large portion of their sales. Under the restrictions, Mexicans cannot come across the border for shopping.

Lopez Obrador says there’s a tentative offer from the Biden administration for a new donation of up to 3.5 million vaccines, though he said he wasn’t sure about the exact number or brand of vaccine.

The president has been in Juarez since Friday night to inaugurate new National Guard barracks in northern Chihuahua and to pitch his social welfare programs. Mexican border cities like Tijuana, Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa and Matamoros are suffering the effects of drug trafficking activity in the form of increased murders and sporadic shoot-outs. Lopez Obrador says he won’t “make the mistake” of previous Mexican leaders of offering an enforcement-only response to criminal activity. He also mentioned the violence is often fueled by illegal imports of U.S.-made guns.

“There is no intent of dealing with (crime) only using force. There is no militarization, there is no war. That was an erroneous policy that did not work, that cause a lot of harm and that will not be repeated,” the president said.

He was referring to the Felipe Calderon administration of the mid-2000s that went after drug cartel leaders but was met with a furious response, precipitated the breakup of some groups but led to the rise of many others and a large spike in homicides.

A day earlier, also in Juarez, Lopez Obrador said he was trying to create jobs, boost social welfare programs and provide scholarships for young Mexicans so they wouldn’t join drug gangs.

Asked about Mexico’s lawsuit in U.S. courts against American gun manufacturers, the president said he just wants to stop wholesale illegal exports of guns and machine guns to his country that are adding to the carnage.

“Those weapons are infiltrated to Mexico for murder, including the murder of foreigners. We are asking for (more) control on the sale of weapons (in the United States). Weapons of great (destructive) power are sold as if in the supermarket, through the internet. It can’t be possible that a person buys five machine guns at a time and the next week 10 more and the following week another 20,” Lopez Obrador said. “How can they not know (at the store) that those weapons are going to criminals?”

 He said one of the reasons he plans to place soldiers at all shared ports of entry with the United States is so they can stop weapons contraband.

Lopez Obrador also said he’s considering a broad amnesty for owners of vehicles illegally imported from the United States. People in Tijuana refer to these as “chocolate” cars, while in Juarez they’re known as “crooked” cars.

“We are analyzing this. In Tijuana, there will be a regularization of these vehicles, first for public safety because cars that are not registered are the ones used to commit crimes. We also have to consider that a lot of people cannot afford to buy a car from a dealer and (they need a car) to move about, to take their kids to school. It is a necessary means” of transportation, he said.

The president said the amnesty, or regularization, would begin as early as next month.

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