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Mexico wants to drop U.S. Merida Initiative for development plan

by Reuters
Tuesday, 7 May 2019 16:56 GMT

MEXICO CITY, May 7 (Reuters) - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Tuesday he wants the United States to work on a development plan aimed at stemming migration and ditch the Merida Initiative that deploys millions of dollars for security programs.

The flow of migrants trekking to the U.S. border through Mexico, mostly from Central America, has aggravated tensions between the United States and its southern neighbor.

U.S. President Donald Trump has lashed out at Mexico for not doing more to stop migration, calling for the construction of a border wall and threatening to close some crossing points altogether.

The decade-old Merida Initiative has directed some $3 billion to fight organized crime and drug trafficking in Mexico while training security forces and supporting justice programs.

"We don't want the so-called Merida Initiative," Lopez Obrador told his regular morning news conference. "The proposal that we're putting forward is for a development plan for the southeast and Central American countries."

"We don't want armed helicopters. We want production and work," he said, noting that Mexico would fund its own military.

In fiscal year 2019, the U.S. Congress set aside $145 million for Mexico under the initiative, aimed particularly at aiming to block opioids from reaching the United States, according to the U.S. Congressional Research Service.

When asked if the United States would accept a shift in strategy, Lopez Obrador said: "They're making progress," noting a recent U.S. pledge to invest in development in the region.

In December, U.S. and Mexican officials said Washington was committing $4.8 billion to Mexico through the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and another $5.8 billion to Central America. (Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon Editing by Susan Thomas)

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