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Pompeo touts Mexico's progress

Officials hope to stave off U.S. ‘safe third country’ policy by AMY GUTHRIE and PETER ORSI The Associated Press | July 22, 2019 at 2:37 a.m. | Updated July 22, 2019 at 2:37 a.m.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (left) meets Sunday with El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele during a stop at the Presidential House in San Salvador, El Salvador, after earlier meeting with Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard.

MEXICO CITY -- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday told his Mexican counterpart that Mexico has made significant progress on migration enforcement.

Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said in a statement that because of these advances, Mexico sees no need to negotiate a "safe third country" agreement with Washington that would require migrants to apply for asylum in Mexico rather than in the U.S.

Sunday's meeting between Pompeo and Ebrard came at the halfway point of a 90-day span during which Mexico has agreed to reduce migration through its territory toward the U.S. border. In exchange, Mexico would head off tariffs on Mexican goods threatened by U.S. President Donald Trump.

Since then, Mexico has stepped up immigration enforcement, while the United States has expanded to two more border points a program sending asylum seekers back to Mexico to await the outcome of their claims.

Mexican officials say they have increased migration enforcement along the southern and northern borders, while deporting hundreds of Central Americans each week by plane. Mexico is also allowing applicants for asylum in the U.S. to await their hearings from Mexico.

The foreign ministry also said that Ebrard suggested that the U.S. and Mexico work together to recover the assets of Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, who was sentenced to life in prison last week, and that Ebrard asked for help to stem the flow of weapons trafficked into Mexico from the U.S.

Pompeo arrived Sunday morning at the ministry in central Mexico City. He left about an hour later without making public comments, though the department released photos and soundless video of the two men shaking hands and talking at a table. The meeting was not open to journalists.

As the motorcade carrying Pompeo departed, a lawyer for Guzman jumped in front of a vehicle with a hand-painted sign that read: "Chapo's Money, No USA, Yes Mexico."

A U.S. judge ordered Guzman to pay $12.6 billion as part of his U.S. life sentence announced Wednesday. The money is the estimated value of the drugs Guzman is believed to have trafficked into the U.S., and it is unclear whether he actually has that much money or what assets could be seized to pay the judgment.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Thursday the money is Mexican, and that he will seek its return to the country by legal means, if necessary.

The driver of a black Suburban tapped Guzman's lawyer three times with the front grill of the SUV before a Mexican official pulled the lawyer away.

Speaking to reporters, lawyer Jose Luis Gonzalez said Guzman wants his money to be distributed among Mexico's poor, rather than confiscated by the U.S. government. The lawyer is also fighting for Guzman's extradition back to Mexico.

Pompeo arrived in El Salvador later Sunday for a meeting with President Nayib Bukele.

Bukele said last week that his country is trying to reduce irregular migration and fight crime and drug trafficking, and deserves to be considered differently than neighboring Guatemala and Honduras.

Those three countries make up Central America's so-called Northern Triangle, the source of most of a wave of migrants and asylum seekers who have sought to make it to the United States this year, fleeing violence and poverty back home.

A Section on 07/22/2019

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