US Vice President Kamala Harris has asked President López Obrador to allow non-governmental organizations to carry out their work without government interference, according to the EFE news agency, which spoke with Harris on Thursday.
But a spokeswoman for the first woman vice president of the United States reconsidered her reported comments, telling EFE that Harris had only made the request to Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, whom she had met before she met. travel to Mexico City for talks with López Obrador on Tuesday.
“… Harris only referred to Guatemala, not Mexico, in comments she made on civil society and NGOs this Thursday in an exclusive interview with EFE, her office assured. after the said interview, “said the Spanish news agency.
EFE first reported that Harris expressed deep concern about government interference in NGO work in Guatemala and Mexico, where López Obrador criticized organizations such as Mexicans for corruption and impunity ( MCCI) and Freedom of the Press Section 19, and their funding by the United States government.
(The White House announced last week that it would in fact increase its support for international partners engaged in eliminating corruption despite the Mexican president calling on the US government to stop funding what he described. like political groups disguising themselves as NGOs.)
“This is a question that concerns me deeply because we want to make sure that there is independence, an independent judiciary. [and] an independent press, and that non-profit organizations, NGOs, can do their work without interference. I said it very clearly, ”said Harris.
His remarks came in response to a question in which López Obrador’s demand for the United States to cut funding to certain NGOs (the ones that have criticized his government) was mentioned.
The vice president also told EFE that she was “very frank” with López Obrador and Giammattei, explaining that she had told the two leaders that she was concerned about corruption and impunity in their countries.
“I have been very direct with each of them regarding these concerns,” she said.
Harris said she believes the Guatemalan president and López Obrador, who has made fighting corruption and impunity the central focus of his administration, both value his frankness.
EFE also asked the Vice President about the blunt message she sent to potential migrants during her visit to Guatemala.
“I want to be clear with the people of this region who are considering taking this dangerous trip to the US-Mexico border: don’t come. Don’t come. The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border, ”Harris said Monday.
In response to EFE’s question: what do you say to people who are fleeing their country for their lives or who have other legitimate reasons to seek asylum? Do you also tell them “don’t come”? – the vice president said: “Let me be very clear, I am committed to ensuring that we provide safe refuge for asylum seekers, period.”
The softening of her language came after she was criticized by some members of the Democratic Party, including Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who called the vice president’s remarks “disappointing.”
“First, seeking asylum at any US border is a 100% legal method of arrival,” Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter. “Second, the United States has spent decades contributing to regime change and destabilization in Latin America. We can’t help but set someone’s house on fire and then blame them for running away.
Harris also told EFE that the Biden administration wanted to “expand legal avenues for immigration” to the United States.
“We are also rebuilding our immigration system, as it deteriorated under the Trump administration, but we also need to address the root causes of migration, and that is why I went to Guatemala, then to Mexico, ”she said.
During his visit to Mexico City, Mexican and American officials signed a memorandum of understanding to establish a strategic partnership to address the lack of economic opportunities in northern Central America, namely Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, a country from which large numbers of migrants have fled. recently to seek asylum in the United States.
The White House said in a statement that the United States and Mexico “will work together to foster agricultural development and youth empowerment programs” in these three countries and “will co-create and co-manage a partnership program that allows them to better provide, measure and communicate aid to the region.
López Obrador, who was criticized for misinterpreting Harris’s title when he greeted her at the National Palace and appearing to have mispronounced her first name, said his meeting with the vice president was “important, beneficial to our people and very nice “.