The Joe Biden government plans to send 2.5 million AstraZeneca vaccines to Mexico in exchange for that country tightening its control of illegal immigration on its border with Guatemala. That seems to be Washington’s response to the wave of undocumented immigrants. on its southern border, where in the last week 100,441 people have been arrested or expelled, the highest number in more than a year. The increase in the number of immigrants appears to be due to the proliferation of false news in Central America about the alleged lifting of immigration restrictions imposed by the Washington government, which threatens to create the largest immigration crisis in the United States in 20 years, according to the statement. on Tuesday the Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas. In reality, Joe Biden’s team has not altered Donald Trump’s immigration policy, beyond the suspension of the construction of the controversial wall that the previous president made one of the hallmarks of his policy.
The announcement of this policy of vaccines in exchange for immigration control is also a continuation of Donald Trump’s. The only difference is that the previous president used threats more than incentives. With Trump, the equation that Washington proposed to Mexico was tariffs if there is no immigration control. Faced with the threat that the US would create tariff barriers to Mexican exports, the left-wing populist government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador decided to send the Mexican National Guard to the southern border, with Guatemala, to contain the immigration flows that originate from the so-called Northern Triangle. (Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras) cross Mexico and arrive in the United States.
The result of this policy was that Mexico became the country that controlled immigration to the United States. The decision was complicated for López Obrador, who, as part of his policy of changing the Mexican state from top to bottom, had created the National Guard to replace the Federal Police, which had generated all kinds of logistical and administrative complications.
The Biden government also plans to send units of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Canada, at the request of that country’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The administration of vaccines in the northern neighbor of the United States is being very slow, more or less at the level that in Europe, so Washington can also play the card of vaccine diplomacy. Interestingly, AstraZeneca’s vaccine is licensed in Mexico and Canada, but not in the United States, where regulators have allowed the use of Pfizer and BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson. AstraZeneca is still conducting clinical trials in the US, where authorities are expected to decide on it in April, around the same time they will decide whether the US company Novavax’s vaccine is licensed.
Biden’s vaccine diplomacy thus places the United States at the level of other powers that are using this pharmaceutical product to expand their influence. The most obvious case is that of Russia and China, two countries in which the vaccination of their respective populations is still very slow, but which are delivering these pharmaceutical products to many countries, including, precisely, Mexico. Last week, Israel announced the shipment of 5,000 vaccines to Honduras and Guatemala, respectively, although a few hours later the Prime Minister of that country, Benjamin Netanyahu, backed off. The presence of a large evangelical and strongly pro-Israel population in those countries could have been the cause of the decision, according to Israel’s political analyst Gabriel Ben-Tagal.
Mexico is, according to official figures, the third country with the most deaths from Covid-19 in the world, only behind the United States and Brazil. The authorities have recognized the death of more than 170,000 people from the virus, although, according to independent sources, the real figure could be triple. The crisis unleashed by Covid-19, likewise, could have expelled ten million Mexicans, 8% of the population, into poverty.
In recent days, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has insisted on requesting vaccines from the United States. Relations between the two countries are at a low moment after López Obrador took several weeks to recognize Joe Biden’s victory in the November 3 elections.
López Obrador’s economic policy, aimed at expelling private companies from the electricity and oil sectors, threatens to create new tensions between the two countries since they could be a violation of the free trade agreement signed between the US, Mexico, and Canada 2020. Finally, unlike the government of Donald Trump, that of Biden has among its priorities the strengthening of democratic systems and the rule of law of its allies, which threatens to create serious tensions with López Obrador, a populist who it has cloned political allies in various regulatory bodies of the State and launches daily attacks on the judicial system in the media.