WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s first calls to foreign leaders went to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador at a strained moment for the U.S. relationship with its North American neighbors.
Mexico’s president said Saturday that Biden told him the U.S. would send $4 billion to help development in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala — nations whose hardships have spawned tides of migration through Mexico toward the United States.
López Obrador, who spoke Friday with Biden by phone, said the two discussed immigration and the need to address the root causes of why people migrate.
Mexico has stopped recent attempts by caravans of Central American migrants to cross Mexico.
Biden’s call to Trudeau, also on Friday, came after the Canadian prime minister this week publicly expressed disappointment over Biden’s decision to issue an executive order halting construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The long-disputed project was projected to carry some 800,000 barrels of oil a day from the tar sands of Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast, passing through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma.
Biden told Trudeau that by issuing the order he was following through on a campaign pledge to stop construction of the pipeline, a senior Canadian government official told The Associated Press. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private conversation.
The White House said in a statement that Biden acknowledged Trudeau’s disappointment with his Keystone decision.
Biden’s call with López Obrador also came at a tense moment — days after the Mexican president accused the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration of fabricating drug trafficking charges against the country’s former defense secretary.
While Mexico continues to pledge to block mass movements of Central American migrants toward the U.S. border, there has been no shortage of potential flashpoints between the two countries.
Mexico demanded the return of former Defense Secretary Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos after he was arrested in Los Angeles in October, threatening to restrict U.S. agents in Mexico if he wasn’t returned. U.S. prosecutors agreed to drop charges and return Cienfuegos to Mexico.
But Mexico passed a law restricting foreign agents and removing their immunity anyway, and went on to publish the U.S. case file against Cienfuegos, whom Mexican prosecutors quickly cleared of any charges.
López Obrador said in a statement Friday that the conversation with Biden was “friendly and respectful.”
The White House said Biden mentioned “reversing the previous administration’s draconian immigration policies.”