CubaBrief: Biden Administration 2022 concessions to Cuban dictatorship didn’t reduce Cuban migration. Mexico’s AMLO after Alex Saab release, linking US border security to sanctions relief for Havana.

Havana continues to weaponize migration in order to obtain more concessions, and now with the help of the Mexican president they are seeking more. The Cuban dictatorship has reason to double down. The Biden Administration in May 2022 provided concessions in the hope of decreasing migration.At that point the number of Cubans who had entered the United States during the Biden Presidency was 180,020, and since then another 322,151 entered.  The number would have been even larger, but in 2023 the Biden Administration took some unorthodox steps to lower numbers.

The White House attempted to get control of the border in January 2023, stepping up deportations of migrants crossing the U.S. border, and specifically targeted Cubans, Haitians, and Venezuelans.These three groups were denied the right to seek asylum at the border. This led to a decline in Cubans entering, despite this numbers started to rise again in March 2023, and the rate increased further in September 2023.

Weakness invites more aggressive actions, and President Biden granting Alex Saab, an alleged money launderer linked to terrorism, drug trafficking, and corruption his freedom, together with clemency, without having his day in court sends once again a message of the terrible deals Washington is willing to make.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) is a longtime ally of the Castro dictatorship, who earlier this year announced a campaign against sanctions on Cuba, and defended the inclusion of a Russian military contingent in Mexico’s independence day parade in September 2023 is now linking security on the U.S.- Mexico border to providing additional concessions to the Cuban dictatorship.

“López Obrador confirmed that U.S. officials want Mexico to do more to block migrants at its southern border with Guatemala, or make it more difficult to move across Mexico by train or in trucks or buses, a policy known as “contention.”  But the president said that in exchange he wanted the United States to send more development aid to migrants’ home countries, and to reduce or eliminate sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela. “We are going to help, as we always do,” López Obrador said. “Mexico is helping reach agreements with other countries, in this case Venezuela.” “We also want something done about the (U.S.) differences with Cuba,” López Obrador said. “We have already proposed to President (Joe) Biden that a U.S.-Cuba bilateral dialogue be opened.” “That is what we are going to discuss, it is not just contention,” he said at his daily morning press briefing.”  

Associated Press, December 22, 2023

World News

Mexico’s president is willing to help with border migrant crush but wants US to open talks with Cuba

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s president said Friday that he is willing to help out with a surge of migrants that led to the closure of border crossings with the United States, but he wants the U.S. government to open talks with Cuba and send more development aid to migrants’ home countries.

The comments by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador came a day after the U.S. announced that a delegation of top U.S. officials would visit Mexico for talks on how to enforce immigration rules at the two countries’ shared border.

Also Friday, U.S. authorities reopened two cross-border railroad crossings in Texas, while keeping operations limited or suspended at other border crossings. And figures released Friday show arrests for crossing the U.S. border from Mexico nudged 1.2% higher in November from October, one of the latest signs of what Troy Miller, acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, described this week as “unprecedented” migration flows.

López Obrador confirmed that U.S. officials want Mexico to do more to block migrants at its southern border with Guatemala, or make it more difficult to move across Mexico by train or in trucks or buses, a policy known as “contention.”

But the president said that in exchange he wanted the United States to send more development aid to migrants’ home countries, and to reduce or eliminate sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela.

“We are going to help, as we always do,” López Obrador said. “Mexico is helping reach agreements with other countries, in this case Venezuela.”

“We also want something done about the (U.S.) differences with Cuba,” López Obrador said. “We have already proposed to President (Joe) Biden that a U.S.-Cuba bilateral dialogue be opened.”

“That is what we are going to discuss, it is not just contention,” he said at his daily morning press briefing.

Mexico is apparently offering to negotiate with Venezuela, whose people make up a large part of the surge of migrants at the U.S. southwestern border. That surge has led U.S. officials to pull immigration officers away from two Texas border rail crossings that are vital to Mexico’s economy.

López Obrador has long opposed U.S. sanctions on Cuba, whose migrants are also streaming to the U.S. border. And the Mexican president has long pressed the United States to contribute to a tree-planting program and to youth scholarship and apprentice programs that he has been pushing for Central America.

López Obrador said the development aid will help stem residents’ need to migrate.

The Mexico-U.S. meetings come as Republican and Democratic lawmakers are debating border policy changes as part of a larger conversation over U.S. assistance for Ukraine and Israel, which are top foreign policy priorities for the White House.

Pressure mounted on Mexico following the closure of two railroad crossings in Texas earlier this week. U.S. officials said personnel assigned to the locations needed to be redeployed to help with large numbers of migrants illegally crossing the border. Mexican businesses warned the closures were hampering trade.

The Texas rail crossings in Eagle Pass and El Paso reopened Friday after widespread backlash from U.S. and Mexican businesses, but a border crossing remained closed in Lukeville, Arizona, and operations were partially suspended in San Diego and Nogales, Arizona. The closures were done to reassign officials to help with processing migrants.

López Obrador spoke by telephone with Biden on Thursday and agreed that additional border enforcement was needed so the crossings can be reopened, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said.

Kirby said Biden asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and White House Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall to travel to Mexico for talks with López Obrador and his team.

A U.S. official said the trip would likely happen the Wednesday after Christmas.

“Their visit will really be about getting at the migratory flows and talking to President López Obrador and his team about what more we can do together,” Kirby said at a White House briefing.

In November, the Border Patrol made 191,113 arrests for illegal border crossings from Mexico, or a daily average of 6,370, its parent agency announced. That’s down 8% from November 2022 but the fourth monthly increase since July. U.S. authorities have reported surging numbers in December, with arrests above 10,000 some days.

Mexicans were the largest nationality in November arrests, followed by Guatemalans, Venezuelans, Hondurans and Colombians. Nearly 4,800 Chinese were arrested, largely in the San Diego area.

https://apnews.com/article/mexico-border-crossings-migrants-venezuela-cuba-6844e96d09bee286964e9bac15d06fba

Associated Press, September 18, 2023

World News

Mexican president defends inclusion of Russian military contingent in Independence parade

September 18, 2023

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s president on Monday defended the participation of a contingent of Russian soldiers in a military parade over the weekend.

The presence of the Russian contingent in the Independence parade Saturday drew criticism because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Mexico has condemned the invasion but has adopted a policy of neutrality and has refused to participate in sanctions as it continues to buy 2020-vintage COVID vaccines from Russia.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador noted that a contingent from China also participated, and said that all the countries Mexico has diplomatic relations with were invited.

López Obrador acknowledged the issue became “a scandal,” but attributed it to his ongoing spat with the news media, which he believes is against him.

“The Chinese were also in the parade, and there wasn’t so much outcry,” López Obrador said, noting a Russian contingent had participated in the past, although at times when that country was not actively invading its neighbor.

“All the countries that Mexico has diplomatic relations with were invited,” he said.

However, Ukraine’s Ambassador to Mexico, Oksana Dramaretska, wrote in her social media accounts that “The civic-military parade in Mexico City was stained by the participation of a Russian regiment; the boots and hands of these war criminals are stained with blood.”

Some members of López Obrador’s Morena party have publicly expressed affection for Russia even after the invasion, and López Obrador has frequently criticized the United States for sending arms to Ukraine.

López Obrador’s administration has continued to buy Russia’s Sputnik COVID vaccine and intends to use it as a booster shot later this year, along with Cuba’s Abdala vaccine.

Experts have questioned the use of those vaccines, along with Mexico’s own Patria vaccine, as a booster for new variants, because all of them were designed in 2020 to combat variants circulating at the time.

https://apnews.com/article/mexico-russia-soldiers-military-parade-6eb8345ba6827282ec40bf33891d6f22