migrants crossing Rio Grande

Venezuelan migrants cross the Rio Grande from Mexico into the United States in Eagle Pass, Texas on September 30, 2023.

(Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

Mexican President Urges US to Stop Fueling Migration With Sanctions on Cuba, Venezuela

"We're going to keep insisting on addressing the root causes of migration," said Andrés Manuel López Obrador. "Sanctions and blockades cannot be maintained."

Stressing the need for "addressing the root causes of migration," Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Monday blamed U.S. sanctions against countries including Cuba and Venezuela for driving the surge of migrants crossing his country to seek better lives in the United States.

Speaking at his daily press briefing, López Obrador said that 10,000 migrants per day make their way to Mexico's border with the United States. The president lamented the deaths of nine Cuban women and one girl who, after entering Mexico from Guatemala, were hiding in an overloaded cargo truck that crashed in the southern state of Chiapas on Sunday. Seventeen other migrants were injured in the crash.

López Obrador linked the migrants' deaths to the internationally condemned U.S. embargo of Cuba, which according to a 2018 report by a United Nations commission has cost the small island nation at least $130 billion over the past seven decades.

"That's why we're going to keep insisting on addressing the root causes of migration, the origins" he said. "Get to the core and stop politicking, think human rights over ideology. Sanctions and blockades cannot be maintained. We must help... the countries with the most poverty. There must be universal brotherhood."

López Obrador repeated his criticism of ongoing U.S. military aid to Ukraine in the face of so much poverty and suffering closer to home.

"How much have they destined to the war in Ukraine, $30 or $50 billion for the war, which is the most irrational thing there can be, and harmful," he said.

At last Friday's press briefing, López Obrador noted that the U.S. is spending "a lot more... for the war in Ukraine than what they give to help with poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean."

The president urged the U.S. "to remove blockades and stop harassing independent and free countries" and to implement "an integrated plan for cooperation so the Venezuelans, Cubans, Nicaraguans, and Ecuadorans, Guatemalans, and Hondurans wouldn't be forced to emigrate."

"Remove blockades and stop harassing independent and free countries."

López Obrador's remarks—which came as senior Biden administration officials including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and Attorney General Merrick Garland prepared to visit Mexicothis week—echo recent comments by Colombian President Gustavo Petro.

"The blockade against Venezuela has had a boomerang-type response, now hitting the very United States, which is the one who decided to impose the blockade. So, knocking at their door is the population that they drove into poverty," Petro—Colombia's first leftist president—toldDemocracy Now! on September 21.

"Many [Venezuelans] have left, and now what they want is to make it to the United States," he said. "How can one partially reduce the exodus? Well, lift the blockade against Venezuela."

"The scars of history, the invasions from before, the old imperialism, the old domination continue to weigh against humanity," Petro added. "That is why a government such as the Biden administration should... let the scars heal. They're not going to go away, but let them heal. End blockades and open up a plural dialogue, which I think would benefit all of us, both in North America and in South America."

Under U.S. pressure, Mexico has cracked down on migrants in an effort to stop refugees, asylum-seekers, and those looking for better economic conditions from reaching the countries' shared border. Checkpoints, discrimination, and alleged human rights crimes—including shootings with live ammunition and rapes—have increased in parts of Mexico, especially near its southern and northern borders.

Meanwhile, human rights defenders have documented continued "frequent and severe" abuse of migrants and some American citizens allegedly perpetrated by U.S. Department of Homeland Security personnel at the southern border.

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