MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the press conference of the High-Level Dialogue of Security between Mexico and the United States. Alicia Bárcena Ibarra, Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Mexico; Antony Blinken, Secretary of State of the United States; Rosa Icela Velázquez, Secretary of Security and Citizen Protection; Merrick Garland and Alejandro Mayorkas from the United States. We kindly ask Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, advisor to the White House, on the presidium, please.
The floor is yours.
FOREIGN SECRETARY BÁRCENA: (Via interpreter) Good afternoon. Dear representatives of the press, members of the press, thank you for joining us. We apologize for the delay. Our High-Level Dialogue on Security comes to an end this afternoon, and this is one of the mechanism existing between both countries and they describe the excellent state of our bilateral relationship. I wish to thank my colleague Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Merrick Garland, and Secretary Mayorkas, Liz Sherwood, and Rosa Icela Rodríguez.
This mechanism is part of the Bicentennial Framework. There’s yet another mechanism – the High-Level Economic Dialogue that took place last week, chaired by Secretary Blinken. It’s also an economic-related dialogue. Our conversation today involved the discovery of a specific situation. We need to embrace the extraordinary economic situation between the North American countries to build an actual binational and regional community that will allow us to consolidate and even improve bilateral trade that accounts for $850 billion as of today and investment of $15 billion since 2022. So we need to make the most of such a key moment, and we shouldn’t just stay on that type of rhetoric that is trying to divide or place us as adversaries instead of allies. In Mexico, we are betting on a powerful space, a powerful and economic – with social and environmental inclusion.
Throughout this meeting, we have exchanged relevant information and much of the actions conducted in such a productive time. We have invested in the border not only to speed up the transit but the people and goods and services, but also to bolster security. Fifteen billion pesos is the investment in modernization projects and customs throughout the borders, especially the land border, because reducing the crossing of the border by 10 minutes translates into almost $26 billion. So for the first time in this dialogue, we included migration as a topic.
And I want to thank Liz Sherwood for this productive conversation. I want to thank you, Secretary Blinken, Mayorkas, and Merrick Garland, because as neighboring countries, we have witnessed historic migration levels. The world – the entire world – is being witness of massive human migration. Yesterday, nine point – over – almost 10,000 crossings took place in the northern border of Mexico, almost 6,000 in the southern border, and 1,700 in the Darien. And the figures have gone down, because in the past weeks those number were of around 3,000 on a daily basis. So we discussed the measures on safe and regular mobility by using the mechanisms already in place. And we are grateful to the U.S. Government for opening the regulatory passings and crossings, reaching up to 930 people who have been able to cross legally to the United States.
President López Obrador has precisely instructed us to take a look at this phenomenon from the development perspective to see how the structural causes of migration can be addressed from several perspectives – inequality, poverty, violence are among them – to see how these topics can be addressed, taking into consideration that this is migration coming from the south. And he is highly interested in summoning the 11 countries from which most people migrate over to Mexico and subsequently to the United States, engaging a conversation about development and further actions.
We will continue to take strong actions and measures a few efforts already in place about assisted returns, coordinating the dismantlement of trafficking – human trafficking networks, which was one of the topics addressed here. And we have also requested to the U.S. to seriously consider the situation of the millions of Mexican migrants in the United States who have not had an opportunity to have papers and they continue to live undocumented.
When it comes to security, which was our central topic that will be addressed by our Secretary Rosa Icela, we will make significant progress. And I want to be clear that Mexico wishes to reinstate its commitment to further collaborate in drug trafficking and consumption of synthetic drugs, namely fentanyl, and to address the situation from all perspectives, from production and of course the entire chain – precursors, production, trafficking, and especially consumption – from the public health perspective, and do so with solidarity in a humanist nature.
We are acting with all sorts of measures and of course with the public health perspective. And we’re also part of the global coalition against synthetic drugs established by Secretary Blinken, and we are embracing all the actions conducted by Mexico. The secretariat of the navy made a specific proposal today to include to the global coalition a group that will also focus on an international coalition to follow up and trace chemical precursors, not only fentanyl but all types of drugs that are harmful for human health.
I wish to take this opportunity to also thank the United States for their strong commitment in supporting us in the fight against arms trafficking, because there is much to do in that direction. Today we acknowledge our relationship. We’re partners, we’re neighbors, we’re friends, and we are destined to solve our issues jointly. This is why we are facing major opportunities and challenges as well. So we hope that you, the media, will help us make strong advancements to this regard.
Antony Blinken, please – you can address the floor.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Alicia, thank you so much to you, to all of our colleagues. We are grateful to be here today. We had a very productive day, and let me reflect a little bit on that.
Actually, if you go back and look at the week that we’ve had, I think we’ve demonstrated the depth and breadth of our bilateral cooperation in virtually every area, from strengthening semiconductor supply chains to stemming the flow of illicit firearms and synthetic drugs, to addressing the migration challenges that we’re both facing, as is everyone else in the hemisphere. The presence of so many of us here in Mexico today and on this platform reflects the priority that the United States attaches to our relationship.
I have to tell you: More than ever before in my 30 years of being engaged in foreign policy, the United States and Mexico are working together as partners in common purpose. But the scale and scope of the challenges that we face is also unprecedented. And I think today we reflected on both of those facts: the unprecedented partnership but also the unprecedented challenges.
Two years ago, United States and Mexico launched the Bicentennial Framework for Security, Public Health, and Safe Communities. And in doing this, we acknowledged a shared responsibility, a shared responsibility as neighbors to enhance the safety, the security, the well-being of our people.
We agreed to work as equal partners to tackle the challenges like illicit drugs, illegal firearms, human trafficking. And we committed to a comprehensive approach that includes bolstering the rule of law, fighting corruption, improving public health, and investing in broad-based economic opportunity.
Today, we had an opportunity to both review the progress that we’ve made, which is real and substantial, but also identified areas where we can and must do more.
We’re advancing our efforts to address the synthetic drug crisis, as you heard Alicia discuss, which continues to devastate families on both sides of our border. You’ve heard me say this before, but fentanyl is the number one killer of Americans aged 18 to 49, so we have an obligation to do everything in our power to combat the scourge.
We’re doing this together directly with Mexico. In March, U.S. and Mexican leaders in justice, law enforcement, public health met here in Mexico City to look for new ways to work together – for example, by better monitoring and tracing chemical precursors, by cooperating to dismantle clandestine drug labs, by sharing resources and best practices for treating addiction.
And together, we engaged more than 50 representatives of the Mexican private sector industries – from logistics, to transportation to pharmaceuticals – to help identify illicit activity in their supply chains and stop the diversion of precursor chemicals.
We’re also working with partners around the world because this is a global challenge. Mexico is making key contributions to the 100-plus country global coalition that the United States launched this summer to address the synthetic drug threat.
We continue to collaborate closely to pursue transnational criminal organizations by disrupting the flow of drugs, guns, money between our countries, and working to take down these networks.
We’re deepening cooperation on investigations, on arrests, and prosecutions, on interdictions. Mexican authorities are submitting 40 percent more firearms trace requests to the United States than they were six years ago, and that enables law enforcement to stop gun trafficking at its source.
Southbound firearm seizures in the United States have increased more than 65 percent since last year. And since last October, U.S. law enforcement has confiscated the equivalent of 279 million potentially fatal doses of fentanyl at our southwest border – and our Mexican partners are also seizing more drugs thanks in part to the collaboration that we have – training, equipment, even canines that we’ve provided.
We’re taking steps to aid the most vulnerable, those most vulnerable to organized crime, training nearly 200 Mexican immigration officials to better screen, identify, and assist potential human trafficking victims.
And as two of the 21 nations that have endorsed the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection, we are working to create the conditions for safe, orderly, humane migration.
As you heard, last night Secretary Bárcena and I joined a migration ministerial with our counterparts from Colombia and from Panama to advance these efforts. Today’s dialogue, as you heard as well, included migration for the first time. This is a recognition that the issue has profound national security implications for the entire hemisphere.
For our part, the United States is increasing refugee resettlement, and we’re expanding legal pathways – including launching our Safe Mobility initiative so that people can find out whether they’re eligible to come to the United States from their own countries without having to make the journey to our borders. We’re providing Temporary Protected Status to vulnerable displaced persons so that they can work legally in our country, meet labor shortages, contribute to our economy.
Throughout the region, other countries are taking critical steps along these lines. Mexico is increasing its repatriations of third-country nationals and tackling the root causes that drive people to leave behind their families, their communities, and put themselves in the hands of traffickers. Panama and Colombia are offering Temporary Protected Status to displaced individuals, including Venezuelans and other vulnerable populations.
But the scale of this challenge demands that we redouble our efforts. That we do more to improve and modernize border security. That we do more to increase legal migration pathways and protections, more to address root causes, and more to deter irregular migration – humanely – including through additional steps that you’ll be hearing about today.
With migration, as with all of our joint efforts, we’re working to uphold our commitment to human rights. That’s what our people expect. It aligns with the values that our nations share. It’s essential to building our citizens’ trust, which enables law enforcement and justice officials to more effectively prosecute criminal networks.
Each of us has no higher priority than keeping our people safe. By deepening our cooperation, we will continue to work toward that goal. Thank you.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Secretary Rosa Icela Rodríguez Velázquez.
SECURITY SECRETARY Rodríguez: (Via interpreter) Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I salute the U.S. delegation led by Secretary of State Antony Blinken. I also salute Attorney General Garland, Secretary Mayorkas, and of course the special envoy of President Biden, Liz Sherwood‑Randall. Your presence here is key, and we are neighbors. We are partners. We are allies.
A significant day of work is coming to an end. We’ve had our High-Level Dialogue on Security. So we followed on the Bicentennial Framework with a program to protect our people, to prevent criminal activities in the border, to prevent crimes. And today we had a special session on migration where the advancements as well as the challenges were presented.
We reached two agreements and comments were uttered as well. On some affairs, we are already working on some of those, but there are new proposals as well. We are going to advance the prevention on drug trafficking, especially fentanyl, with action and awareness campaigns. And we will also address the causes of violence through universal programs so the population, especially the youth, will have growth opportunities.
So we can also come to the deepest causes of economic growth and the trafficking of chemical precursors. Remember that Mexico is not a producer of fentanyl. Mexico is a country of transit. In Mexico, we have not detected fentanyl production laboratories.
Just as our dear secretary of foreign affairs just mentioned, we will hold a meeting of countries that produce chemical precursors to regulate the market and to prevent illegal trafficking. This is how we are acting to protect our population’s health. This is a proposal coming from the secretary of the navy, and we will advance with a coalition in place by the United States. We will also reach an international agreement to benefit the population so chemical precursors are only purchased and sold with all rules in place and control of the places of destination. And we will continue to chase the criminal organizations that are currently buying and selling synthetic drugs.
Another point was the request of Mexico for support of the neighboring country to halt the traffic of high-power firearms. Mexico undertakes to fight human trafficking organizations. The common purpose of both actions is to re-establish peace and to bring back tranquility to our communities, which will only be possible if we work together in unity because we’re stronger when we are allies, and we can also be more efficient in solving our common issues. Thank you.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Thank you very much. Merrick Garland, Attorney General of the United States.
ATTORNEY GENERAL GARLAND: I want to thank our government counterparts and our law enforcement counterparts for welcoming us to Mexico City. We are here today because the shared challenges the United States and Mexico are facing could not be more urgent. I’m here to represent the men and women of the United States Department of Justice who are working tirelessly on three core challenges that we discussed today: fentanyl, firearms trafficking, and human smuggling.
First, we are taking on the dangerous drug trafficking cartels that are responsible for the deaths of both American and Mexican citizens. The fentanyl these cartels are producing and trafficking is the deadliest drug threat the United States has ever faced. To fight it, we are going after every link in the cartels’ fentanyl trafficking networks at every stage and in every part of the world. That is why, earlier this week, I announced charges against eight companies based in China and 12 of their executives for crimes relating to the production, distribution, and importation of fentanyl, other synthetic opioids, methamphetamines, and their precursor chemicals. We know that the global fentanyl supply chain, which ends with the death of Americans, often starts with chemical companies in China.
Earlier this year I announced charges against 23 Sinaloa Cartel members, associates, and leaders for their role in running the largest, most violent, and most prolific fentanyl production and trafficking operation in the world. Just three weeks ago, Ovidio Guzmán López, a leader of the Sinaloa Cartel and the son of El Chapo, was extradited from Mexico to the United States. He is one of more than a dozen cartel leaders we have indicted and who have been extradited to the United States. He will not be the last. We are grateful to our Mexican counterparts for that extradition. We recognize that these cartels are terrorizing Mexican communities, and we recognize that this action would not have been possible without the sacrifice of Mexican law enforcement and military service members who gave their lives in pursuit of justice.
And just last week our countries’ work together also resulted in another critical arrest. Last Thursday, we charged a defendant in connection with the horrific fentanyl poisoning of four children at a daycare center in New York. One of those children, who was just a year old, tragically died. Our counterparts in Mexican law enforcement helped us ensure that the defendant will face justice in the United States. Our agents and prosecutors at the Justice Department are working every day to get fentanyl out of our communities and bring to justice those who put it there.
Second, the Justice Department is fighting the firearms trafficking from the United States to Mexico that we know helps arm these cartels. We are putting to use new authorities granted to us by the United States Congress to prosecute gun traffickers and seize illegal guns. Under those provisions, just last month we charged and arrested seven defendants in Texas for buying over 100 guns later trafficked to Mexico. The month before, we charged five defendants in North Carolina in a conspiracy to smuggle guns illegally into Mexico, including AK-47-style rifles. In July, a defendant was sentenced to federal prison for attempting to smuggle thousands of rounds of ammunition from the United States to Mexico. And we are continuing to disrupt firearms trafficking through our Operation Southbound; that operation includes nine multiagency firearms trafficking task forces all along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Third, we are disrupting the human smuggling operations that put people’s lives at risk for profit and violate our laws. In 2021, I directed the formation of Joint Task Force Alpha, a collaboration between the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security to target the most prolific and dangerous human smuggling groups. Since then, we have made over 260 domestic and international arrests and secured more than 150 convictions on human smuggling charges.
All of us recognize that these challenges are of the utmost importance and urgency for the citizens of both of our countries. I look forward to intensifying our efforts to meet them. Thank you.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Thank you. Next, Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security of the United States.
SECRETARY MAYORKAS: The United States and Mexico are close and strong partners. Secretary Blinken, Attorney General Garland, Homeland Security Advisor Sherwood-Randall, and I and our entire delegation have joined Ambassador Salazar here in Mexico to reaffirm our commitment to that partnership.
Together with the Government of Mexico, we are working to disrupt and dismantle the human smuggling networks that prey on the vulnerable. Together we are increasing our border and port security to facilitate lawful trade and travel and protect our people from dangerous contraband such as firearms and fentanyl. Together we are working to ensure people throughout the region can live without fear of crime and violence. In our dialogue today, we spoke of the commitments we have made today, earlier today, and we also have spoken of the successes that we have achieved and upon which we will build.
A few examples:
In the area of arms trafficking, we are now going to be sharing with our Mexican partners a monthly report of the movement of firearms, the intended movement of firearms to the south, not only to track the progress of our interdiction efforts but also to facilitate in advance our joint operations and investigations. With respect to firearms, Operation Without a Trace – over the past less than 12 months, our interdiction of firearms has increased more than 44 percent; we have seized 100 percent more than we did last year.
With respect to our ports of entry, our gateways for economic prosperity, lawful trade, and travel, we are harnessing technology to secure the people and goods who pass between our two countries in both directions. Just recently we procured seven mobile nonintrusive inspection technology devices that will facilitate our two countries.
With respect to fentanyl, about which my colleagues have spoken, since October 1 of last year, we have arrested 4,893 people; we have seized $15,201,981 in fentanyl-related properties; we have seized 44,915 pounds of fentanyl; and we have also seized 3,132 pill presses, the machines that are used in their manufacture. And we will not stop there.
We are proud of the progress we have made, yet our continued progress will depend on our shared commitment to even greater collaboration between our two countries as well as with our partners throughout the region. As we enter another year under the Bicentennial Framework, we are redoubling our efforts to meet the difficult challenges we together confront.
In addition, as has been said earlier, for the first time, today’s High-Level Security Dialogue included migration as part of its agenda. Our two countries are being challenged by an unprecedented level of migration throughout our hemisphere. The United States is committed to continuing to work closely with Mexico as we implement the model that pairs the historic expansion of safe, orderly, and lawful pathways for migrants to come directly to the United States or elsewhere to obtain humanitarian relief outside the grip of the smugglers with strict consequences for those who do not use those lawful means to enter our country. Those consequences include swift repatriation, the swift return of migrants, and a ban on their re‑entry. Just today, the United States announced its agreement with the country of Venezuela to repatriate Venezuelan nationals who do not take advantage of the lawful pathways and instead arrive irregularly at our southern border and do not qualify for relief.
The work we do together would not be possible without the close collaboration we enjoy with our partners in Mexico and with our colleagues throughout the 21 countries across this hemisphere who are party to the Los Angeles Declaration. We will continue this work together.
I want to address today’s reporting relating to a border wall and be absolutely clear: There is no new administration policy with respect to the border wall. Allow me to repeat that: There is no new administration policy with respect to the border wall. From day one, this administration has made clear that a border wall is not the answer. That remains our position, and our position has never wavered. The language in the Federal Register notice is being taken out of context and it does not signify any change in policy whatsoever. The construction project reported today was appropriated, funded during the prior administration, in 2019, and the law requires the government to use these funds for this purpose, which we announced earlier this year – in June, to be precise. We have repeatedly asked Congress to rescind this money, but it has not done so and we are compelled to follow the law.
This administration believes that effective border security requires a smarter and more comprehensive approach, including state-of-the-art border surveillance technology and modernized ports of entry. We need Congress to give us the funds to implement these proven tools.
Secretaries Bárcena and Rodríguez and Attorney General Gertz, thank you for your partnership and for your hospitality today. I look forward to our continued work in the months and years ahead to keep our two countries and our entire region safe and secure for all. Thank you.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Next, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, internal advisor to the White House.
ADVISOR SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Thank you very much. I had not anticipated speaking. I’ll begin first by thanking our hosts, President López Obrador, Secretary Alicia Bárcena, and Secretary Rosa Icela Rodríguez. We value our partnership tremendously. I think our Secretary of State, Tony Blinken, has said this perfectly: Together we are facing unprecedented challenges in the hemisphere and indeed in the world, and we are able to tackle these challenges together based on the unprecedented partnership that we have built between our two countries. And we are grateful for this partnership because we cannot solve these problems alone. We are stronger when we stand together.
And as you have heard in the comments of my colleagues, our cabinet members here in Mexico and our cabinet members in the United States, we are doing so much important work together on behalf of our people. We are working to enhance the health of our people, we are working to enhance the safety of our people, and we are working to enhance the security of our people. Those are our three fundamental responsibilities as public servants, and it is our privilege to be here in Mexico to work to advance those three goals together.
We have made progress on multiple topics on our agenda, as you have heard already. First of all, we have discussed the importance of developing approaches that enable us to tackle the human crisis of irregular migration that is both a humanitarian challenge, a public health challenge, an environmental challenge, and a security challenge for the entire hemisphere, and especially for our two countries, which are experiencing the enormous surge at our borders.
Second, we are working together to tackle the fentanyl problem and, more generally, the synthetic opioid problem that is killing so many Americans and so many others as well, and to ensure that we do everything in our power to stop the shipping into Mexico of precursor chemicals and pill presses and the shipping into the United States of these deadly drugs that are causing the loss of so many people and especially our young people.
Third, we are working very hard together to reduce the arms trafficking that is coming principally from the north to the south and do everything in our power to reduce that flow, which is also creating great risk for our peoples.
And fourth, we are working together to tackle the challenge of transnational organized crime, which is, of course, related to the two prior topics, both arms trafficking and drug trafficking, and use every tool in our toolbox to reduce the threat that that presents to our peoples.
With that, again, I thank you for your hospitality and your partnership and look forward to continuing our important work together for many months to come.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Thank you. Next we will start with the questions and answers. Sarahí Méndez from Televisa News.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Hello, good afternoon. A question for the Mexican delegation. Yesterday, before landing to Mexico, Secretary Mayorkas announced that President Biden said that the – a wall was lifted in Texas. It hadn’t happened since President Trump. So what is the Mexicans’ perspective?
And for the United States, what specific actions will the U.S. Government take to detain legal trafficking of firearms to Mexico and to sanction pharmaceutical companies and entities responsible for creating the opioid epidemic in the country? Thank you.
FOREIGN SECRETARY BÁRCENA: (Via interpreter) Please. Thank you so much for the question and for your interest. The Mexican Government is, of course, reluctant and opposed to any types of walls. We have acknowledged President Biden’s leadership of not broadening the building of the border wall. These days’ dialogues have been successful to that regard because we are convinced that we are building bridges and not walls. We reject fences and we have had the cooperation of the United States, especially with the issue of the buoys in the Rio Grande, and we have the support of the U.S. Federal Government because they filed a complaint before the Department of Justice to remove the buoys.
And most definitely I believe that Secretary Mayorkas has properly, in my opinion, clarified the events. And unfortunately, that announcement coincides with their visit. But as far as I understand, what happened is that this is not a new policy, it’s not a new political decision; this is not an announcement of yet a new barrier, but it’s part of their allotted budget and therefore they need to process, they need to execute. And I understand it will not be done through walls but through technology, but through other types of installations in order to detect and to build roads.
And I believe that is what Secretary Mayorkas has clarified today, because we also shared our concern with him. So on my side, I’m telling you that, of course, we are not in favor of anything of the sort. We believe in bridges, not in walls.
SECRETARY MAYORKAS: I am happy to repeat what I said earlier so that there is no lack of clarity. From day one, the policy of this administration has been that there will be no more wall construction. That remains our policy and we have never wavered from it. The action that we took was action that we took in June that we memorialized recently in accordance with legal process. The action that we took, we had no choice; it was mandated by law. We requested that Congress rescind the direction. It did not do so. We, of course, must follow the law.
Our policy remains as it was since day one. We are opposed to the construction of the wall.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I think you – I’m sorry, you had the question about the sanctioning of those who are engaged in the trafficking of arms or also in the trafficking of chemical precursors for fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. And I think as I – I think the Attorney General has already said, we are going after both and doing so very vigorously. You’ve seen in the United States an increased number of investigations, prosecutions, and interdictions of firearms heading south toward Mexico. Last year, we seized a record number of firearms, a record number of ammunition, but – and I’ll turn to the Attorney General – we’re also prosecuting those who are involved and trying to get to the source of this supply of weapons so that we can stop it.
And that also goes to the work that we’re doing directly with Mexico. The eTrace program, where a gun that turns up in Mexico is then traced to its point of origin, that allows us to actually get at those who are sending the guns southward.
And with regard to the pharmaceuticals, the chemicals, I think again, as the Attorney General laid out, we have vigorously worked to prosecute those who are engaged in the illicit diversion of chemical precursors that turn into fentanyl or other synthetic opioids, and I think he laid out just this week a number of additional steps we’ve taken to prosecute those who are involved in those kinds of activities.
ATTORNEY GENERAL GARLAND: Let me just say we in the United States well understand the dangers of the military-grade weapons that are being trafficked to Mexico. They are a serious danger to the United States and a serious danger to Mexico because they defend the cartels. So we will do everything in our power to stop the unlawful trafficking of weapons to the drug traffickers as part of our fight to break up every link of the chain of the drug traffickers.
And along those chains, it begins with the precursor chemical companies in China; it goes into the Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels here in Mexico who are producing the fentanyl and trafficking it; it goes into the passage across our borders and it goes into cartel-related trafficking organizations in the United States. And we are doing everything we can together with our Mexican counterparts to dismantle every stage of that distribution link.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Thank you for the question. Eileen Sullivan, The New York Times, please take the microphone.
QUESTION: Thank you. I wanted to go back to the deportations for Venezuelans that you announced today. Could you explain what changed in the U.S.’s outlook about Venezuela? Is the country safer now to accept and repatriate their citizens, and has that changed diplomatically as well? Do you have different relations with them?
SECRETARY MAYORKAS: Eileen, thank you very much. As you well know and I will share with those who do not, that we granted Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelan nationals who were in the United States as of – in other words, on or before – July 31st of this year. We have made a determination that it is safe to return Venezuelan nationals who’ve arrived in the United States subsequent to July 31st and do not have a legal basis to remain here.
And we have now successfully negotiated an agreement with the country of Venezuela to repatriate those Venezuelan nationals who have arrived subsequent to July 31st and do not have a basis to remain in the United States. We are a nation of immigrants and we are a nation of laws.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: And Eileen, just to add a footnote to that, we have an ironclad commitment to provide protection for those who qualify. That remains paramount in everything we’re doing. And by the way, we also look to all the other countries in the hemisphere to do the same thing, to make sure that they’re making good on their own obligations. Safe, orderly, humane migration requires the ability to identify individuals and provide protection for those who qualify.
Under the Los Angeles Declaration, the declaration agreed to by virtually all of the countries in our hemisphere at the last Summit of the Americas, we’re charged with taking coordinated actions to try to stabilize flows, to expand regular pathways, to humanely manage all of our borders. Repatriations are a key piece to this balanced approach and that’s what we followed through with today. And I must say we remain grateful for the efforts of nations in the hemisphere to find ways to work together in dealing with historic mass migration that is very much what we’ve been doing here in Mexico; it’s what we were doing last night when we got together with our colleagues from Colombia and Panama; it’s what Mexico will be doing later this month when it brings together some of the key countries in terms of countries of origin and countries of transit to work through, again, very practical steps that all of us need to take to manage the challenge of migration.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Now, Arturo Páramo Rojas, Grupo Imagen journalists.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Thank you so much. Good afternoon. For the Mexican delegation, there’s – I don’t – I don’t know if it’s a contradiction of what Secretary Rosa Icela just commented and what Mr. Garland and Mayorkas are saying in terms of precursors that are transferred or brought from China to Mexico for synthetic drugs. Rosa Icela was telling us that in Mexico, fentanyl is not produced. However, the position of the U.S. delegation is that those precursors arrive in Mexico; fentanyl is – they are processed into fentanyl, and they’re sent to the United States at a certain point. Is there a contradiction or there’s no contradiction whatsoever? Or what is the position of both teams? What is this process about in terms of the generation of synthetic drugs – the fentanyl – because it seems that we are talking about different things?
And Secretary Rosa Icela, we saw the meeting – Audomaro was in the meeting this morning, and today exchange of intelligence between both countries. A lot has been said on how we have to guarantee the sovereignty of both countries. However, this exchange of information, are you going to have more of that? Is it going to be more detailed information and the exchange of it to prosecute cartels and money flows?
And lastly, for the U.S. delegation, did you set a goal for firearms trafficking from the U.S. to Mexico how much to seize or which groups to seize from or which groups to attack? How many people are planning, for instance – I don’t know – to detain, to arrest, et cetera? Have you set a goal, a physical goal, a measurable goal for this demand of the Mexican Government to the U.S. administration?
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Secretary Rosa Icela, you have the floor, madam.
SECURITY SECRETARY RODRÍGUEZ: Yes, in effect. The clarification that there is no contradiction in the U.S. position and the Mexican position. In Mexico, we do not produce – I insist – chemical precursors. Those chemical precursors come from Asia – generally from different countries. And in Mexico we have labs, kitchens where – in most of the cases, where they produce methamphetamine. There are some – there should be some type of arrival into Mexico of fentanyl. And, yes, in effect, it goes to the United States, but I insist in Mexico – Mexico does not produce fentanyl.
And I want to say this very clearly: I will not go into detail, but fentanyl production means that you have to have something which is a special type of laboratory. I mean, this is a real type of laboratory. So a kilogram or half a kilogram or some grams of fentanyl that arrive in Mexico, and those grams – those very few grams of fentanyl coming from other countries because in Mexico we not – we do not produce fentanyl – then they go through the border and in effect mix the blend with other chemical precursors is made and this produces all the damage, all the harm for a population – for the population there.
I want to insist on this because there’s no lab in Mexico which is legally – we can say that it legally has fentanyl production. We do have companies in other – companies in other countries from which we import fentanyl for medical uses and fentanyl is also imported by criminal groups. So there’s no contradiction.
What was your other question, sir?
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Yes, the numerical goal. Yes, the – any numerical goal? Have you set any goal? I mean, fighting arms trafficking from the U.S. to Mexico. I apologize, Secretary, but something else here. There – is there commitment with the U.S. administration to extradite a criminal related to organized crime, someone who is in prison in Mexico that’s going to be transferred to the United States through the legal mechanism for that purpose? Or is there any type of demand from the U.S. administration to detain someone specifically and take that person to the United States through the extradition process?
SECURITY SECRETARY RODRÍGUEZ: (Via interpreter) Well, yes, in terms of what you’re saying on extraditions, the Attorney General’s office – the public prosecutor’s office and its counterpart, the Attorney General’s office in the U.S., they’re in charge of the different processes. And this, of course, includes the legal part of it all. And the foreign affairs ministry is legally included. And generally speaking, these are procedures, formalities that are normally done, and we are always more than willing to comply with legality of those procedures. But those are things – all the extraditions, I mean – that are done every day in our country. And on the other hand, we also have people arriving who are extradited from the United States and other countries.
So let’s say that these are everyday procedures that are being implemented with different criminals, and we are always more than willing at – ready to do this when we are complying with absolute legality. So the extraditions will continue according to the law with a legal foundation to them. I do not know if our foreign minister would like to intervene on this issue. Please.
FOREIGN SECRETARY BÁRCENA: (Via interpreter) Two little things very fast – let me clarify a couple of things here. Mexico does not produce fentanyl precursors. They arrive, especially through the ports, and logically some precursors arrive – dual-use precursors. Those are the precursors that come legally, and they’re legally used for pharmaceutical products, et cetera. And of course there’s a pathway of illegality. This is exactly what we’re working strongly on definitely with the United States and with other countries as well. And that’s where the navy ministry of Mexico proposed something very important: an international coalition for the follow-up and traceability of chemical precursors, not only for fentanyl but also for all types of synthetic drugs. That’s one issue.
Obviously, there are no legal laboratories for the production of fentanyl in Mexico. I mean, that’s all we would need. Of course there are illegal laboratories; that’s what we have found. And of course we have seized clandestine laboratories, and that’s exactly where we’re collaborating.
Let me clarify something here. One of the issues, a central issue in the United States, is that consumption of fentanyl in youth, in young people, many times this is consumption. I mean, they themselves don’t even know they’re consuming fentanyl because it comes in a mixed or blended format of drugs. So they think they’re just consuming one drug, and in that drug they’ve added fentanyl. And that’s what we called mixed or blended drugs. We don’t have those in Mexico, but clandestine laboratories, of course, and that’s precisely what we’re prosecuting through this – going after these criminal groups.
Now, in terms of extraditions, we have a procedure in Mexico, logically, and Attorney General Garland knows this. Our general attorney of Mexico also knows this. Each country requests extradition of certain criminals who are prosecuted in their own courts. I mean, of course we have some requests made by the United States from the courts in Washington, Texas, et cetera. And they – we are assessing, valuing, evaluating, and they are being assessed by the attorney general’s office in Mexico, by the public prosecutor of Mexico. We are assessing those cases. I cannot – this is not the point to reveal those cases right now, but of course we have requests.
We also make requests of the extradition to the United States, Israel as well, and other countries. Argentina, for instance, yes, we have made very concrete requests of people who have committed crimes in Mexico; therefore, we are asking them to be extradited to Mexico so that they can be tried in our country. The same happens with the United States. I mean, they’ve been asking us to prosecute, to detain people in Mexico who’ve committed crimes. For instance, arming a – health crimes, and we are being asked to extradite them. This is normal. I mean, I hope it didn’t have to happen, but this is a procedure all countries follow, and of course, undoubtedly, we are collaborating in that.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Thank you very much, Foreign Minister. Thank you, Secretary Rodríguez. To close this press conference, first of all we want to thank you for all the representatives of the – representatives of the media here. Yes, thank you. L.A. Times, yes. Madam Wilkinson, you have the floor.
QUESTION: Hi, thanks. Returning again to fentanyl for just a second, Secretary Blinken, you have talked about how important this is, top of the agenda, and both you and Secretary Bárcena have outlined a lot of very important steps. But as you know, President López Obrador was very slow in recognizing the extent of Mexico’s role in this crisis, and even now we’re hearing a little bit of denial about whether it’s produced here or not. So my question is if you come away now thinking you have a strong, firm, solid commitment from the president to really do all it takes to combat the production and transport of fentanyl.
And then my second question – you also have spoken a couple times today about the importance of human rights within the context of law enforcement. In Mexico, under this government, the military has taken on extraordinary powers – economic powers, political powers, and in law enforcement. So my – and as you know, its human rights record is quite notorious. So my question is to what extent does that role, the dominance of the military, complicate U.S. efforts to work with Mexican law enforcement? Thank you.
FOREIGN SECRETARY BÁRCENA: Your question is asked to Mexico or to the U.S., or to both?
QUESTION: Mostly to Blinken, but feel free to join in.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Feel free, please.
FOREIGN SECRETARY BÁRCENA: No, no, no, please. Por favor. No, I wanted to ask you who the question was directed to. Perdón, perdón.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I’m happy to cede, Tracy, to —
FOREIGN SECRETARY BÁRCENA: No, no, absolutamente.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: First, let me start by saying this. We were very appreciative of President López Obrador for the time that he gave us this morning, and we had an extremely positive, productive conversation. I think it reflects the fact that President López Obrador and President Biden, from day one, have set a common direction for the relations between our countries, and our job has been to carry that out and try to make it real.
And when it comes to fentanyl, synthetic opioids, I have no doubt about Mexico’s commitment to working collaboratively to deal with this huge challenge that we both face because it’s affecting people in Mexico just as it’s affecting so many Americans. And it’s not simply a commitment of words, as important as that is. It’s a commitment in deeds. You’ve heard us talk already about the work that we’ve been doing in collaboration, in partnership, working together to seize and investigate clandestine labs for the production of fentanyl; preventing the diversion of the precursor chemicals – in fact, Mexico came up with a very important initiative today that we’re going to follow through on. I think it will be incorporated, as the foreign minister said, in the work of the global coalition against synthetic opioids that we established this summer to get at the diversion of chemical precursors.
We were working just a few weeks ago with – here in Mexico with our Canadian counterparts as part of the North America Leaders Summit, again on this question of how to effectively control chemical precursors, including by doing things collaboratively together on information sharing, on labeling, on having companies that are engaged in selling or transferring precursors know who their customers are. This is hugely important because what tends to happen is a company may be engaged, as Alicia said, in absolutely legal trade of a chemical that’s used for pharmaceutical purposes, and then it gets diverted to an entity that uses it for the production of a synthetic opioid.
So the protocols that we’re working to establish together and have a common standard with our three countries, and then through the global coalition with countries around the world, will help prevent the diversion. We’ve been already increasing information sharing among law enforcement on synthetic drugs and on precursors, and as you’ve heard already today, work that Mexico is doing to strengthen security at its ports, both maritime and land ports of entry, is very significant. Ninety-five percent of the fentanyl that we’re seizing that’s coming into the United States is coming through legal ports of entry. So the work that we’re doing together to strengthen security there, to strengthen screening, all of that is being done in close collaboration.
And I think there are some steps that Mexico has announced recently, including expanding the criminal watch list to 69 new chemicals; that’s very significant because we’ve seen how these particular chemicals are often diverted into illicit use. Revamping the import-export system – and by the way, Mexico’s actually a leading country in the way that it very carefully works to regulate chemicals coming in to Mexico. And as we’ve mentioned, seizing hundreds of tons of precursor chemicals, all of this under the administration of President López Obrador. So we have a very strong partner, and today we actually strengthened that partnership even more.
With regard to the military, I think, as we see it, the military is one of the most trusted institutions in Mexico. It’s played a critical role, along with other law enforcement organizations, in dealing with organized crime, transnational criminal enterprises, drugs, arms trafficking. And as the Attorney General said, just recently, with the extradition of a notorious criminal, they lost lives in bringing him to justice before he was extradited.
We also discussed today the importance in everything we do, whether it’s the military, whether it’s law enforcement, in all of our organizations, the imperative and the centrality of human rights. Because first of all, it reflects the values that we share. Second, it’s so important to make sure that we have and hold the trust of our citizens, and upholding and respecting human rights is critical to that. And those citizens and those communities are essential partners in actually advancing law enforcement and dealing with all of the challenges that we talked about, especially everything that goes with these criminal enterprises that are engaged in trafficking of one thing or another: guns, drugs, people.
So I think there was a very important discussion of that today, and again, I think it reflects our common values and common commitment.
FOREIGN SECRETARY BÁRCENA: (Via interpreter) Let me respond. You made two statements that I want to defer on. First of all, President Andrés Manual López Obrador has given his very precise instructions, and that is that we should be supporting and collaborating in everything that has to do with the production, trafficking, consumption of fentanyl. So then, no, there’s no negation, no denial on his part.
What is true is that what mainly exists in Mexico is methamphetamine, so we’re facing a different problem, especially in terms of consumption. Consumption of fentanyl in Mexico hasn’t arrived in the proportions it has arrived in the United States. That’s a reality and that’s what the president is saying. And why? Why? Because in reality, this is exactly – what he’s also saying is that this is a matter of approaching this issue from a perspective of public health, of addictions, to see how we can combat causes, really, of why people are consuming drugs, generally speaking I mean.
And clearly, those drugs, as I’ve said, in the United States especially but also in Europe, in countries – the destination of those drugs – they come with those mixes, and that’s where the young people or people in general are confused. And I mean, what happens is that one thing is the effect of fentanyl and the effect of other drugs is two different things altogether. This is what we are experiencing together. You can see this pencil; you see how this pencil – just this much of fentanyl can kill so many people. One pill can kill. This is a campaign you have in the United States. This is the first thing.
The second thing is that you have to recognize that in the case of Mexico, the national defense ministry is playing a very important role, especially in the border – at the border. They’re in charge of, I would say – I mean, we have 60 border crossings between Mexico and the U.S., land and maritime. So having control of those crossings, this is fundamental. And the national defense and the national guard play an extremely important role, and that not only in the north but also in the south. So then this is something we have to say, and the same happens with the navy ministry of Mexico that has the – has taken control over ports. Because in the past, this was done through other companies, even tertiary process, and a lot of corruption was there.
So what we’re seeking is to regularize, to legalize, to do things with order, with technology, with collaboration. And that right now is something under the responsibility precisely of the national defense and the navy ministries.
And let me also tell you that, of course, that (inaudible) collaboration at the foreign affairs ministry, really the collaboration from them has been extremely positive. I don’t know if Rosa Icela wants to say anything.
SECURITY SECRETARY RODRÍGUEZ: (Via interpreter) Please, yes, very briefly here. I just wanted to say, to tell you rather, something on numbers first. In this administration we have seized 1,435.6 tons of chemical precursors, and we have seized 470 tons of methamphetamine. And due to the work of the armed forces, we’ve seized 184 tons of cocaine, and fentanyl, 7.6 tons.
So then, I just wanted to give you those figures, those numbers, yes, so that, I mean – you can see the difference, and the almost 2,000 laboratories that we spoke about this morning that have been destroyed. They are part of those crimes committed by criminals who process this type of drugs, and that’s an important thing to point out.
And then the other thing is that we have a total cooperation with the U.S. administration. This is – these are the instructions we have received from the president, and we are going to continue combatting the cartels and we are going to continue in our commitment of not having impunity in this disease, in this illness among youth. This is something that’s contaminating our young people. Of course, we are continuing to work in this type of task.
And of course, we – I mean we do not have two different discourses. We have the discourse of continuing working the way we work every day in the security cabinet. That’s what I wanted to say in my intervention. Thank you.
FOREIGN SECRETARY BÁRCENA: (Via interpreter) Thank you so much. Ladies and gentlemen of the media, thank you so much. Communicators, we hope this has been useful to you. We want to thank the presence of our friends from the United States. I also want to thank our team of the foreign affairs ministry, such an important role. And of course, Roberto Velasco, his team; ambassador of Mexico to the United States Moctezuma, Esteban Moctezuma, rather. And then we have financial intelligence, which is very important. Yes, the – no, rather, I’m sorry – Arturo Medina. Sorry, sorry, sorry. Arturo Medina is here with us. And we haven’t mentioned that, but we’re working in illicit financial flows. This is something we have to stop. We have to stop where the money goes. The route of the money, we have to stop that.
Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. Have a wonderful afternoon. (Applause.)