President Donald Trump on Wednesday hailed his “outstanding relationship” with his Mexican counterpart Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador as he welcomed him to the White House for the leaders’ first one-on-one meeting.
“We’ve had a very outstanding relationship… The relationship between the United States and Mexico has never been closer than it is right now,” said the billionaire Republican, who was elected in 2016 after campaigning heavily on a promise to build a wall on the border with Mexico.
At the time he branded Latino immigrants “bad hombres” and accused the Mexican government of sending criminals and rapists to the United States.
“Each of us was elected on the pledge to fight corruption, return power to the people and put the interests of our countries first,” he told Lopez Obrador, who was elected president in 2018. “I do that and you do that,” he added.
For his part, Lopez Obrador adopted a particularly conciliatory tone towards Trump.
“I want to thank you for your understanding,” he said, adding that there was no reason for the “very good political relations” between the two countries to deteriorate.
He noted that the US had not tried to treat Mexico “as a colony,” instead honoring its status as an independent nation.
“That’s why I’m here. To express to the people of the United States that their president has behaved with us with kindness and respect,” Lopez Obrador said.
The Oval Office event, their first face-to-face meeting, was officially a celebration of the newly-launched US-Mexico-Canada Agreement trade deal.
Authorities in Mexico found 14 bodies dumped on the side of a road in northern Zacatecas state, where notorious criminal gangs operate, the regional government said on Friday.
Images on local media showed the bodies by the side of a road, wrapped in blankets and tied with adhesive tape.
Zacatecas public prosecutor, Francisco Murillo told the press that four of the bodies had been identified and were from Juan Aldama, a town 150 kilometers (90 miles) to the north of Fresnillo, where they were found.
“They are people who disappeared from that region a few days ago,” said Murillo.
Zacatecas is on one of the main drug trafficking routes into the United States and, according to experts, the territory is being fought over by at least three local criminal gangs with links to the two most powerful drug cartels in Mexico: Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation.
On Wednesday a battle between rival Sinaloa factions left 16 people dead in this northwestern state.
Earlier on Friday, Mexico City’s security chief, Omar Garcia Harfuch, was wounded and two of his bodyguards killed in an ambush by gunmen. A woman who was driving past the scene was also killed.
Garcia Harfuch blamed the attack, in which he was hit by three bullets, on the Jalisco New Generation cartel.
Since December 2006 when the then-government launched a military operation against drug trafficking criminal gangs, more than 290,000 people have been murdered, according to official figures.
Experts believe this strategy split up the cartels into smaller and more violent cells.
Despite large parts of Mexico being semi-paralyzed by coronavirus lockdown measures, violence has not abated.
March was the second most violent month since records began in 1997 with 3,000 murders in the country of 127 million.
A powerful 7.4 magnitude earthquake struck southern Mexico on Tuesday, leaving one person dead but an initial tsunami warning was later reversed.
The epicenter was near Crucecita, in the southeastern state of Oaxaca, with shock waves felt as far away as Mexico City, some 700 kilometers (430 miles) distant, where it sent frightened residents rushing into the streets.
The US Geological Survey reported that the quake struck with a magnitude of 7.4, at a depth of 23 kilometers. After initially publishing a reading of 7.1, the Mexican Seismological Service revised its figure to 7.5.
“It’s confirmed it was a 7.5 magnitude. Fortunately there’s no damage, in any case we’re going to continue to call for caution as there may be aftershocks and we must all take care without worrying,” said President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in a video published on social media.
“Strategic installations didn’t suffer any damage, that is to say, ports, airports, refineries, hydroelectric plants, everything is in a good condition,” said Lopez Obrador after speaking to David Leon, the national coordinator of Mexico’s Civil Protection force.
Oaxaca Governor Alejandro Murat told Milenio TV station that “there was a small collapse, one person was injured and another died,” adding that the state suffered minor damage.
Mexican Oil said its refinery in Salina Cruz, Oaxaca had been shut down as a precaution after a fire broke out “that was immediately stifled.”
One person was injured while other refineries in the state are operating as normal.
The US Pacific Tsunami warning center initially said hazardous waves as high as three meters could strike anywhere within 1,000 kilometers of the quake’s epicenter, affecting the Pacific coast of Mexico and Central and South America.
However, a few hours later it said the threat had “largely passed.”
Quake adding to virus woes
Mexico City mayor Claudia Sheinbaum also activated response protocols, although she said there had been “no major incidents” reported.
The earthquake was felt in several parts of the capital of 8.8 million people which in 2017 was hit by a 7.1 magnitude quake that left 360 people dead throughout the country.
That same year, 96 people died after an 8.1 magnitude quake struck the south of the country, with Oaxaca the worst affected state.
The quake has hit at a time when Mexico is already reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.
It has suffered more than 22,500 COVID-19 deaths — the second most in Latin America — and 185,000 cases.
Medical staff were evacuated from some hospitals in the capital alongside patients, although those suffering from the coronavirus remained isolated inside the buildings, alongside their carers.
“All those that are in an area with COVID patients remain inside, only those of us who weren’t there at the time” have come out, said Jaime Gomez, a nurse at a hospital caring for coronavirus patients.
Many of the people that fled into the streets of the capital were wearing face masks.
“With all the virus problems and now the tremors, and I’ve just lost one child and the other is ill, so imagine (how I’m feeling),” a tearful Maria Teresa Duran, 80, told AFP.
The quake took many people by surprise in the capital, including some working from home due to virus lockdown measures.
“We were working in our pyjamas, finishing off breakfast and then we had to get out like this,” said 29-year-old Sonia Flores Cano.
At least 16 bodies and more than two-dozen bags full of human remains have been found outside the Mexican city of Guadalajara, state prosecutors said.
The gruesome discoveries — announced Thursday — were made over the last ten days, in four different regions in the country’s west.
The remains of 14 people were found on the border with the central state of Guanajuato — one of the country’s most violent because of petrol-smuggling criminal groups.
The bodies of three men were found outside a tin mine along with a woman “whose hands and feet were tied,” the prosecutor said, while the bones of nine men and a woman were discovered on a small ranch.
Human remains packed into 26 bags were also found in Guadalajara — one of Mexico’s largest cities, authorities said, though it is not clear how many people that represents.
“The Institute of Forensic Sciences will determine the number of bodies,” said Jalisco state prosecutor Gerardo Solis.
In 2006 then-president Felipe Calderon launched a controversial military offensive against organized crime gangs that experts and human rights groups say is one of the main causes of an escalation of violence in Mexico.
Official figures show almost 287,000 murders have been committed in Mexico since then, though it is unclear how many are directly linked to drug cartel violence
Three police officers have been arrested in the Mexican state of Jalisco over the death of a man taken into custody for allegedly breaking coronavirus restrictions, authorities said Friday.
Among those placed under arrest over the death of 30-year-old Giovanni Lopez last month is a municipal police chief in Guadalajara and another middle-ranking officer, state prosecutor Gerardo Solis told reporters.
The arrests follow riots in the state capital Guadalajara after protesters had gathered to demand justice over Lopez’s death.
At least 28 people were arrested after protesters set police vehicles alight and attacked the headquarters of the state government. One police officer suffered burns.
Authorities said Lopez had been detained for “administrative misconduct.”
They denied claims he had been arrested for not wearing a mask in public.
Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador mourned the death of the construction worker on Friday and said his government condemned “authoritarian actions.”
“I regret the facts because I am in favor of solving problems through dialogue and without the use of force,” he said in his usual morning press conference.
The president urged Mexico’s national human rights commission to join the investigations into Lopez’s death.
Amnesty International on Friday condemned the incident and said Lopez’s “death in police custody is a serious symptom of the misuse of force used by the authorities and the widespread use of torture.”
Mexican film director Guillermo del Toro, who is from Guadalajara, also condemned the killing.
Jalisco governor Enrique Alfaro accused the federal government of being behind the disturbances on Thursday, but Lopez Obrador denied the allegation.
“If the governor has proof, let him bring it to light,” the president said.
Mexico has recorded over 105,000 infections from the coronavirus with nearly 13,000 deaths.
Mexico on Wednesday recorded more than 1,000 coronavirus-related deaths in a 24-hour period for the first time, the office of the health secretary announced.
The daily death toll of 1,092 was more than double the 470 fatalities reported the day before. Health undersecretary Hugh Lopez-Gatell explained the stark jump by saying that some of the deaths recorded on Wednesday had occurred more than two weeks earlier.
The country has now recorded 101,238 cases, the office said.
Eight footballers from top-flight Mexican team Santos Laguna have tested positive for the coronavirus, the club said Wednesday, jeopardising attempts to restart the national league after two months of suspension.
A decision on the possible resumption of the Mexican league, the Liga MX, had been expected by the end of the week, and the tests were carried out with a view to resuming training.
“This particular situation makes resuming the league more complicated,” Santos Laguna’s owner, Alejandro Irarragorri, told TV sports channel TUDN.
He also hinted that the situation at Santos Laguna could be even worse, because so far only 22 results have come back out of 48 tests on players and coaches.
Liga MX said the players with COVID-19, whose identities have not been revealed, were asymptomatic.
Two other clubs, Guadalajara and Monterrey, are also carrying out screening for the disease. Monterrey said it had not identified any positive cases.
Some 21 people have died and 13 others have been seriously injured in the Mexican state of Jalisco after ingesting contaminated liquor, regional authorities said Wednesday.
In total, 56 people have been affected in two municipalities in the western state since Saturday, state health official Huge Esparza said during a press conference, including the 21 who have died and 29 who have become ill.
The 13 who became seriously ill were transported via helicopter to hospitals in Guadalajara, the capital of Jalisco, while the rest were discharged, Esparza said.
Mexico reported its first coronavirus death — a 41-year-old man with diabetes who died Wednesday in Mexico City. Mexico has 118 confirmed cases of infection.
Latin America has so far recorded 1,921 cases and 18 deaths.
– Chile stimulus plan-
Chile’s stimulus plan “will strengthen our ability to face the health, economic and social needs that the coronavirus pandemic is signifying and that will probably tend to worsen in the future,” President Sebastian Pinera told a press conference.
Health Minister Jaime Manalich announced a lockdown of Chile’s Easter Island, saying no one could enter or leave the remote Pacific island for the next two weeks.
Manalich said that though none of the island’s 7,000 population had the disease, many people from the island were trying to return and risked carrying the virus back with them.
Chile has registered 342 cases of the virus to date.
Colombia will block all international flights from Monday for 30 days, President Ivan Duque announced Thursday.
“As of 00:00 hours on March 23, the arrival of all international passenger flights to the country’s airports is prohibited,” the president wrote on Twitter.
Duque said the shutout was necessary because some people who had entered the country had tried to avoid mandatory quarantine regulations.
Colombia closed its land and sea borders on Tuesday.
– Bogota confinement –
Bogota city hall said the capital’s seven million people would face confinement from Friday to Monday as part of a trial run for a probable future quarantine.
Other cities across Colombia, which has more than 100 cases of the coronavirus, were also under nighttime curfews.
Brazil said its 15-day border closure would affect all neighboring countries, with the exception of Uruguay to the south.
It shut its border with Venezuela on Tuesday.
Senior Brazilian officials, such as Chamber of Deputies speaker Rodrigo Maia, had called for a total border shutdown.
Latin America’s largest country, with a population of 210 million, has so far registered 428 cases of the coronavirus, with four deaths.
Eduardo Bolsonaro, the lawmaker son of the Brazil’s president, joined US President Donald Trump in criticizing China over the pandemic, prompting demands from Beijing for an apology.
China’s embassy accused Bolsonaro of perpetuating the anti-China stance of Trump, who repeatedly refers to the “Chinese virus.”
“We are familiar with your irresponsible words. You imitate your dear (American) friends. On your return from Miami, you unfortunately caught a mental virus, which infected the friendship between our peoples,” the embassy said in a tweet.
After the gang shot at them, the agents returned fire and requested backup.
Dozens of police and elements of the army supported by two helicopters were deployed to begin a house to house search for the attackers.
A woman who asked to remain anonymous said the man who was killed in the street was her 43-year-old brother who had gone to visit his daughter.
“They shot him in the heart, but he had nothing to do with it. He was already dead when I arrived,” she said.
Around 300 assault rifle shells were scattered at the scene.
Neighbors described moments of panic during the shooting and the search operation.
“They banged on the door, the windows were broken. We weren’t given a chance to go and open the door,” a neighbor who identified herself as Gabriela told AFP, adding that officers went up on the rooftops.
In a nearby kindergarten, teachers followed safety protocols to protect the children.
“They grabbed the children and then laid them down on the ground, they had them all protected,” Josefina, 40, told AFP.