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Migrant Justice: Mexico president to visit Central America for migration, development talks

Mexico City (AFP) – Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will embark Thursday on a tour of Central America and Cuba, as his country braces for increased flows of US-bound migrants from the region.

Lopez Obrador is expected to use the rare foreign trip to promote his vision of regional economic development.

The four-day tour will include stops in three of the main countries where migrant caravans originate: Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

The Mexican leader has urged the United States to invest in economic development in Central America to generate jobs so people do not need to flee poverty.

US President Joe Biden "agrees that the causes must be addressed," Lopez Obrador told reporters after they spoke by phone on Friday.

But Central America is still waiting for several billion dollars pledged by Washington, he added.

Migrant flows could further increase if Biden succeeds in ending a pandemic-era rule known as Title 42 used to quickly expel migrants, purportedly on health grounds.

Opponents see the rule as no longer justified, but Republicans and even some in Biden's own Democratic Party warn that lifting the measure will trigger an uncontrolled surge across the border.

Title 42 was set to expire May 23, but a court order means it remains in place for now.

In 2021 alone, Mexican authorities detected more than 300,000 irregular migrants.

US Customs and Border Protection have registered 7,800 undocumented migrants a day along the border with Mexico in recent weeks -- almost five times the average in 2014-2019.

"It's a serious mistake to think that everything is reduced to unemployment," since migration has other causes such as criminal violence and climate change," said Gerardo Gonzalez, a researcher at Mexico's Colegio de la Frontera Sur.

"The flow's unstoppable. They can deploy police and the military -- migrants always find a route."

The situation has generated friction with Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who is running for re-election in November.

Abbott reached an agreement on anti-immigration measures with several Mexican counterparts after tightening controls on cargo traffic at the border -- moves Mexico's Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard branded "extortion."

In Cuba, Lopez Obrador hopes to replicate his "Sembrando Vida" (Sowing Life) program, which provides economic grants to agricultural producers.

With the island facing its worst economic crisis in decades, Mexico's president has repeatedly urged the United States to end its trade embargo.