Mexico to regulate migrant flow to US

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Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador at his inauguration as president on December 1. Xinhua

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico will help to regulate the flow of Central American migrants passing through its territory to the United States, but the root causes behind the phenomenon must be tackled, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Monday.

Speaking after US President Donald Trump on Friday threatened to close the US southern border if Mexico did not halt illegal immigration immediately, Mr Lopez Obrador said he would not have a confrontation with the United States.

“I prefer love and peace,” Mr Lopez Obrador told reporters at his regular morning news conference.

The leftist president has consistently refused to get drawn into a war of words with Mr Trump over the border.

A senior Mexican trade official warned later that closing down the US-Mexico border would cause pain on “both sides.”

Most of the people caught at the frontier trying to enter the United States illegally come from three violent and impoverished countries: Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

Mr Lopez Obrador has tried to persuade Mr Trump to address the problem by fostering economic development in Central America. But on Saturday the US State Department said it was cutting off aid to those three countries.

Detentions at the US border have surged in recent months, angering Mr Trump and putting pressure on Mr Lopez Obrador to find a solution .

Mexico began issuing temporary humanitarian visas to some members of a migrant caravan in southern Mexico, giving priority to children and the elderly, the National Migration Institute said Monday.

It said it would provide transport back to Central American countries, Cuba and Haiti, on a voluntary basis.

Earlier this year, Mexico handed out humanitarian visas liberally, but reined in the programme after a surge in applications.

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