Pompeo assures that Ebrard asked to hide that the Mexican government had accepted the ‘Stay in Mexico’ program

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Trump’s Secretary of State offers his version of how the negotiations were in the face of during the 2018 immigration crisis. Ebrard responds that it is “a campaign based on anti-Mexican ideas” that seek to present Mexico “as a threat against for which we must build a wall”

Former United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has published this week Never Give An Inch (Broadside Books), his book of memories. Among some scandalous statements that appear in these lines, those that speak of the foreign policy that the Donald Trump Administration maintained with Mexico stand out. Specifically in the negotiations for the migration crisis in 2018, one of the largest that the region has gone through in history. On this subject, Pompeo recounts a conversation in which Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard accepted the terms imposed by the Stay in Mexico program, through which migrants arriving in the United States were returned at will, but Ebrard asked him to not be made public to not to tarnish the image of the Government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador. In response, Ebrard has assured that it is “a campaign based on anti-Mexican ideas” that seek to present Mexico “as a threat against for which a wall must be built.”

The first to communicate the Stay in Mexico program to the Government of López Obrador was Pompeo, according to his memoirs, who did so in a secret meeting in Houston, Texas, on November 15, 2018, two weeks before the new Mexican Administration took office. In that meeting, the then Secretary of State told Ebrard, with whom “he had already established a good relationship,” that they would accept the asylum seekers at the border, but that U.S. would return them to Mexico, to await their process in that side.

“Marcelo was visibly agitated,” Pompeo says in his book. “He insisted that his government could not agree to these terms, pointing out the obvious fact that his people would be very unhappy to have thousands of illegal aliens staying in their country.” Whoever was one of Trump’s executive arms replied that that was the very reason why they could not receive them in the United States. What worried Ebrard, says Pompeo, was that the program could be carried out, even though it was not allowed by Mexican law, and that it would be done as soon as the six-year term began.

The foreign minister has assured that the negotiation for the Mexican government was focused on not accepting a safe Third Country agreement, that is, “that would permanently and inflexibly force the granting of asylum or deporting all foreigners who sought protection in the US.” For Ebrard, having avoided this measure has been “an achievement of President López Obrador,” according to what he said in a statement. The Foreign Secretary does not deny having asked to hide the agreement from Pompeo, but assures that the meetings that are held with foreign officials are disclosed to public opinion. However, the meeting held in Houston, which the foreign minister confirmed in the statement, had been a secret in several voices that attracted the press from both countries.

In those days, the massive migrant caravans that left Central America for the United States was a matter of great concern to the US and Mexican political class. The negotiations that were held behind closed doors suggested that López Obrador had given in on his immigration policy. Pompeo now recounts that Trump’s message was: either we return each migrant to Mexico or we completely close the border between the two neighboring countries, with the economic impact that this could have. “Marcelo did what every good diplomat does in a situation like this. He promised to take the matter to his boss but warned that it would not work, ”says the book.

To that comment, Pompeo warned Ebrard: “We don’t need your permission to do this. We want this to be cooperative, but it is not a requirement. In 14 days, these immigrants will not stay in the United States. We’ve done our part to make sure of that.” After that message, the Mexican foreign minister asked the then Secretary of State if they had to inform the people about the agreement or if his government could publicly say that he was opposed even though it was not true, according to the statements. “Whatever helps you internally, that stays with you,” he adds. Pompeo promised him in return help to stop the passage of migrants at the border with Guatemala and to care for those who had been stranded in the north of the country.

Already as foreign minister, Ebrard, whom Pompeo describes as “brilliant”, “very Marxist” and “pragmatic”, had several difficulties regarding policy with the United States. The first, says the former secretary, was to manage the speech so that it does not appear that López Obrador had succumbed to Trump’s wishes. The second, he comments, was his own ambassador in Washington, Martha Bárcena – who finally left office in February 2021 after a tense relationship with Ebrard. “She was radically opposed to even thinking about a concept like this [of Stay in Mexico],” says the former Secretary of State. “We did everything we could during our negotiations to keep her in the dark.”

For days they thought about how to announce the deal. According to Pompeo, Trump wanted to glorify himself in his achievement, while López Obrador “would not admit” that the United States pressured him. Two days before the final deadline they reached an agreement. “Marcelo’s plan was simple: Mexico would privately agree to allow the United States to return each migrant,” he says. The only conditions were that “he would not sign anything and there would be no public announcement of this measure.” This last point was the subject of discussion, and the two parties decided to issue a flat statement. The result for Pompeo “was magnificent.” They got what they were looking for without having to close the border. “The Mexican government saved its face too. They were free to complain about our policy and act as if he had never agreed to it ”, he concludes.

Source: El Pais