Mexico’s president on Thursday said that he would hold a “unity” rally on the border in Tijuana two days before the US is set to impose tariffs on all Mexican imports.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announced that a demonstration would be held today to defend Mexico’s “dignity” amid a looming threat from US President Donald Trump, who has pledged to impose 5 percent tariffs on Mexican products unless the country prevents Central American migrants from traveling through its territory to the US.
Lopez Obrador expressed confidence that an agreement could be reached as talks continued on Thursday, but did not offer any specifics beyond rejecting the use of force against migrants.
“I am calling together the people of Mexico ... for a rally to defend the dignity of Mexico, and in favor of friendship with the people of the United States,” said Lopez Obrador, who has held a multitude of demonstrations while in public office over the past 20 years.
He has said repeatedly that his goal is to avoid any confrontation with Trump, and he on Thursday stressed that “US authorities have behaved very well, because they have not cut off the dialogue.”
He also confirmed Mexican prosecutors had taken two immigration activists into custody, but denied that the arrests were carried out to please the US government.
“We do not act against anybody to please any foreign government,” Lopez Obrador said.
Rights groups said that one of those arrested is Irineo Mujica, who has coordinated logistics and strategies for some of the migrant caravans that have crossed Mexico in the past few months.
Mujica, of the migrant rights group Pueblo Sin Fronteras, appears to hold dual US and Mexican citizenship and has had brushes in the past with Mexican police related to protests in favor of migrants.
The latest action by Lopez Obrador came amid growing anger on the part of Trump, who has railed against a huge increase in the number of migrants from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador who cross Mexico to reach the US border.
While Mexico has been discouraging the kind of large-scale caravans that it saw last year and the first few months of this year, Trump wants Mexico to do more.
On Thursday, Mexico’s financial intelligence agency announced that it had frozen the bank accounts of 26 people who it claimed “have presumably participated in migrant smuggling and the organization of illegal migrant caravans.”
The agency said that it had detected money transfers from central Mexico to six Mexican border cities presumably related to the caravans.
Mexicans know tariffs could seriously damage their economy and they largely support Lopez Obrador’s conciliatory approach.
“This is a terrible thing this man [Trump] is doing,” said Enrique del Moral, who works at a restaurant in Mexico City. “He has no reason to mix immigration with the economy. He is playing with the economies of two countries, and that is not right.”
Mexico has rejected any “third safe country” agreement with Washington that would require migrants to apply for asylum in Mexico rather than the US.
However, the Mexican government has allowed the US to return migrants from other countries and have them wait in Mexico while their US asylum requests are processed.
Still, Mexico might be willing to do more to secure its porous southern border with Guatemala.
Mexican Secretary of the Interior Olga Sanchez Cordero hinted at that on Thursday, referring to “a violent incursion” by migrants on the border bridge between Mexico and Guatemala.
“No one can violate our laws and our sovereignty in our country the way they are doing, coming in, in some cases, in an aggressive way,” Sanchez Cordero said.
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