Tag Archives: Mexico

Canadian Olympic men’s soccer hopes dashed by Mexico in Tokyo qualifier

Canada has fallen short in its bid for its first Olympic men’s soccer berth in 37 years.

Uriel Antuna and Johan Vasquez scored to lift mighty Mexico to a 2-0 victory over Canada in the do-or-die semifinals of the CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship Sunday.

The Mexicans, who won Olympic gold in 2012, clinched their 12th Olympic berth with the victory. The Canadian men, which haven’t played on the Olympic stage since 1984, are forced to wait another three years.

The Canadians knew they faced a mammoth battle against a CONCACAF giant that has never lost to Canada in a competitive match on its home soil. Canada came into the game 0-4-2 against Mexico at the under-23 level in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying since 1992.

WATCH | Canada loses in semis to Mexico:

Canada fell short of a spot at the Tokyo Olympics after losing 2-0 to Mexico at the CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship. 1:23

Canada’s defence was excellent in keeping Mexico off the scoreboard through 57 minutes before Mexico capitalized on a risky pass up the middle by goalie James Pantemis that went straight to the opponent.

Antuna, who’s scored eight goals in 16 appearances for Mexico’s full national side, was open just inside the box and one-timed a pass past Pantemis, who was otherwise solid all night.

Mexico delivered more heartbreak in the 64th minute when Vasquez out leapt Canadian defenders to get his head on a free kick.

The Mexicans outshot Canada 19-3, and 6-1 on target.

Canada had an early chance scuttled when Tajon Buchanan was taken down just outside Mexico’s box. Buchanan raised his arms in frustration when no foul was called.

Mexico outshot Canada 7-2 in the first half, including three on target, their first chance coming from a header off a corner kick in the 19th minute that sailed just wide of the net.

There were some scary moments midway through the first half when Pantemis appeared to hurt his right shoulder when he dove to deflect a shot from Antuna. Pantemis, a 24-year-old who plays for CF Montreal in Major League Soccer, grimaced in pain on the pitch for a couple of minutes but stayed in the game.

He was forced into action less than a minute later, diving to smother another attack from Antuna.

The half ended in a shoving match that brought Mexico’s substitutes off the bench.

Lucas Dias was a bright spot on the night in his first start for Canada. The 18-year-old displayed his skill early on, dribbling through three Mexicans in the midfield before being fouled. Dias, who plays in Lisbon for Sporting CP’s U23 squad, replaced previous team captain Derek Cornelius, who twisted a knee against Honduras and surely had a tough night watching from the bench.

Mexico remains undefeated

Canada finished second in Group B behind Honduras on goal difference after the teams played to a 1-1 draw on Thursday. Mexico went undefeated to win Group A.

Canada’s senior squad, meanwhile, watched the game from Bradenton, Fla., and sent a good luck message via video. The Canadians were slated to play the Cayman Islands on Sunday, but the game was delayed a day due to issues with pre-match COVID-19 tests taken by the Cayman Islands delegation, which did not meet FIFA requirements.

Canada’s women, the two-time reigning Olympic bronze medallists, have already clinched their Tokyo berth.

Mexico will play Honduras in the tournament final. The Americans will miss their third consecutive Olympics after a 2-1 loss to Honduras in the other semifinal Sunday.

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CBC | Soccer News

White House says it’s ‘carefully’ considering vaccine requests from Canada and Mexico

This story is part of Watching Washington, a regular dispatch from CBC News correspondents reporting on U.S. politics and developments that affect Canadians. 

A White House spokesperson says the United States is carefully considering requests to eventually ship that country’s excess supplies of COVID-19 vaccines across the border to its neighbours in Canada and Mexico.

But she cautions that nothing is confirmed at this point. 

The comments come amid mounting anticipation of what might happen to the stockpile of doses in the U.S. after that country has enough supply for all its residents, likely by late May.

This week, U.S. President Joe Biden said he was speaking with several countries — without naming any. On Wednesday, Bloomberg News reported that Canada and Mexico topped Biden’s list of priority export destinations, according to an administration official.

The issue was raised with White House spokesperson Jen Psaki, who replied with a warning that any shipments are not imminent. She said the U.S. still needs its vaccines, as 1,400 Americans are still dying of COVID-19 each day, and that the U.S. priority remains getting Americans vaccinated.

Psaki added, however, that the administration also wants to be a contributing member of the global community in getting the pandemic under control, and that there are requests from around the world.

“We have received requests from both Mexico and Canada and are considering those requests carefully,” Psaki said.

“But I don’t have any update for you on whether they will be granted, and a timeline for that.” 

Some members of the U.S. Congress have said it should be a U.S. priority to vaccinate others on this continent next, in order to get land borders reopened, citing the economic and human ties Americans have with those two neighbouring countries. 

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CBC | World News

Where should U.S. vaccine production go next? Canada and Mexico, says one lawmaker

This story is part of Watching Washington, a regular dispatch from CBC News correspondents reporting on U.S. politics and developments that affect Canadians. 

What’s new

News Tuesday that the United States is racing ahead to mass-vaccination against COVID-19 months faster than expected is a big deal not only for Americans but could also have implications for Canada, which has so far been prevented from importing U.S.-made vaccines.

U.S. President Joe Biden tweeted Tuesday that the U.S. should have enough vaccines for all Americans by the end of May, two months sooner than the previously announced target.

So, where will massive American production volumes shift next?

One U.S. lawmaker’s suggestion: Canada and Mexico. 

Vicente Gonzalez, a member of the House of Representatives, says the U.S. must make it a priority to ship vaccines across the border to its neighbours once Americans are inoculated.

The Texas Democrat says he’s looking forward to when the U.S. can ease up on an export ban that has prevented foreign shipments of doses produced in the country.

Biden’s administration, like the Trump administration before it, has blocked exports and rebuffed requests from Canada and Mexico for supplies.

“The borders are closed in my district,” the Democratic lawmaker, whose district sits along part of the U.S.-Mexico border, told CNN Monday.

“Mexican nationals with visas who normally travel here or own second homes [or] come and do business here are not allowed across the border right now.

“So, we definitely need to immunize our friends across the border at some point, once we’re finished doing it here in our country.”

Gonzalez said the U.S. will only truly recover from the pandemic when its neighbours are safe, too.

Vicente Gonzalez, seen here at an August 2020 press conference, serves a Texas-Mexico border community in the House of Representatives, and says the U.S. should lift its ban on the export of COVID-19 vaccines. (Joel Martinez/The Monitor via AP)

“I think we have five vaccines for every American, so we certainly have some extra vaccines that we could share with other countries — especially somebody like Mexico or Canada, who we do a lot of business with … where a lot of commerce and tourism flow on a regular basis,” Gonzalez said in the interview. 

“So we don’t live in this world, isolated. It’s a global community, and certainly, North America is a very tight-knit community. We have relatives on both sides of the border, we do business on both sides of the border, whether it’s Canada or Mexico.”

What’s next

Gonzalez’s comments point to a question that will only intensify over the coming months about what happens to the big production capacity within the United States once export bans are lifted on plants such as Pfizer’s in Michigan and Moderna’s in New England.

The United States has vaccinated residents at quadruple the rate of Canada. Biden has said in the past that there should be enough vaccines for all Americans by the end of July before revising that to late May on Tuesday.

That puts the U.S. schedule several months ahead of Canada’s.

Biden says vaccines arriving faster than expected:

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CBC | World News

Tropical storm Zeta strengthens into hurricane as it heads for Mexico

Tropical storm Zeta strengthened to a hurricane on Monday afternoon as it continued on a track for Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula resorts and was forecast to possibly make U.S. landfall in the central Gulf Coast by midweek. 

Zeta, the earliest ever 27th named storm of the Atlantic season, was about 170 kilometres southeast of Cozumel island Monday afternoon, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. It had maximum sustained winds of around 128 km/h.

The hurricane was moving northwest at around 17 km/h after being nearly stationary over the weekend. Zeta was expected to move over the Yucatan Peninsula late Monday before heading into the Gulf of Mexico, where it would approach the U.S. Gulf Coast by Wednesday, forecasters said, though it could weaken by then.

Trees felled by Hurricane Delta barely three weeks earlier still litter parts of Cancun, stacked along roadsides and in parks. There is concern they could become projectiles when Zeta scrapes across the peninsula.

There are still a number of stoplights around the vacation destination that have not been repaired since Delta.

Local authorities are taking the storm seriously, but with a distinctly less alarmed tone than when Delta strengthened to a Category 4 storm off the coast.

Quintana Roo state suspended alcohol sales Monday and Governor Carlos Joaquin Gonzalez said everyone should be off the streets by Monday afternoon.

Beach hotel workers cover doors and windows with plywood as they prepare for the arrival of tropical storm Zeta in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. The state government said 71 shelters were being prepared for tourists or residents who might need them. (Tomas Stargardter/AP photo)

Residents were pulling their boats from the water, but the sort of panic buying seen in the run-up to Delta was not evident Monday. 

State officials reported nearly 60,000 tourists in the state as of midweek. The state government said 71 shelters were being readied for tourists or residents who might need them.

Joaquin said he hoped it would not be necessary in most cases to move guests out of their hotels.

The forecast track would have Zeta hitting Cozumel and striking the mainland just south of Playa del Carmen. Delta made landfall Oct. 7 between Playa del Carmen and Cancun with winds of up to 175 km/h.

The government was still handing out aid, including sheet roofing, to Yucatan residents hit by Hurricane Delta and tropical storm Gamma earlier this month.

Zeta had been dawdling Sunday because it was trapped between two strong high pressure systems to the east and west, said Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami.

The hurricane centre said Zeta could bring 10 to 20 centimetres of rain to Mexico, the Cayman Islands and parts of Cuba before drenching the central U.S. Gulf Coast.

The storm could make landfall anywhere from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle, forecasters said.

This satellite image provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows tropical storm Zeta on Sunday, Oct. 25. Zeta was trapped between two strong high pressure systems to the east and west over the weekend. (NOAA/NESDIS/STAR/The Associated Press)

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards urged citizens to monitor the storm as the state activated its Crisis Action Team.

Zeta broke the record for the previous earliest 27th Atlantic named storm that formed on Nov. 29, 2005, said Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach.

This year’s season has so many storms that the hurricane centre has turned to the Greek alphabet after running out of assigned names.

Zeta is the furthest into the Greek alphabet the Atlantic storm season has gone.

There was also a tropical storm Zeta in 2005, but that year had 28 storms because meteorologists later went back and found they missed one, which then became an “unnamed named storm,” Klotzbach said.

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CBC | World News

U.S. deaths soar as Mexico, South Africa report record new COVID-19 cases

The latest:

  • Ottawa delivers grim economic forecast in ‘fiscal snapshot.’
  • Officials warn threat of resurgence in Canada ‘not just hypothetical.’
  • Bolivia’s interim president, Venezuela’s No. 2 political leader test positive.
  • Resort island of Bali reopens after three-month lockdown.
  • Tokyo confirms over 220 new cases, exceeds record daily increase.

A number of U.S. states reported record COVID-19 deaths on Thursday, with officials warning numbers next week may be even worse.

The 105 deaths reported Thursday in Texas makes this the deadliest week of the pandemic in what has rapidly become one of the country’s virus hot zones. Texas reported a new high for hospitalizations for the 10th consecutive day.

Gov. Greg Abbott moved to free up more hospital beds by banning elective medical procedures in hospitals that serve more than 100 counties in Texas. There are now more than 9,600 coronavirus patients in Texas hospitals, twice as many as just two weeks ago.

Abbott told Houston television station KRIV that he thinks “the numbers are going to look worse as we go into next week.”

A health-care worker prepares to administer a COVID-19 test at a testing site in Houston on Thursday. (Mark Felix/AFP via Getty Images)

In Florida, health authorities reported 120 new deaths, the highest one-day total yet. The number of deaths reported Thursday surpassed the previous high of 113 set in early May. The cumulative death toll has now risen above 4,000, while confirmed cases climbed by nearly 9,000 to more than 229,000.

The state also reported the biggest 24-hour jump in hospitalizations, with 409 patients admitted. Intensive care units are quickly filling up, including those in some hospitals with the largest bed capacity, such as the University of Florida Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville and Tampa General Hospital. About 14 per cent of the state’s ICU beds were available Thursday.

ICU beds were also needed in Mississippi, where officials say the state’s five largest hospitals had none available for patients by midweek because of a surge in coronavirus cases. Four more hospitals had five per cent or less of ICU beds open.

Mississippi has one of the fastest-growing rates of new coronavirus cases in the U.S.

Dr. Clay Hays, president of the Mississippi State Medical Association, sits before a chart showing the state’s spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations during a news conference in the School of Medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson on Thursday. (Rogelio V. Solis/The Associated Press)

Gov. Tate Reeves said Thursday that starting early next week, he will require people to wear masks in public places in the 13 counties showing the greatest recent increases in cases. Business owners in those counties will be asked to screen employees for infections.

Reeves says he also will limit gatherings to 10 people indoors and 20 outdoors in the 13 counties. The current statewide limit is 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.

What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada

As of 8 p.m. ET on Thursday, Canada had 106,805 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 70,574 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 8,788.

The federal government delivered Wednesday a grim economic forecast to Canadians in its “fiscal snapshot.”

WATCH | Bill Morneau on $ 343B deficit, post-pandemic recovery:

Finance Minister Bill Morneau talks to CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton about the $ 343-billion deficit largely created by emergency spending during the COVID-19 pandemic and how the government plans to recover. 3:53

The pandemic has sent the deficit soaring to a historic $ 343.2 billion, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said. Nearly two million Canadian workers could remain unemployed this year.

Morneau said one of his priorities is to fix the social and economic gaps that left women, young people and racialized Canadians to suffer the biggest economic blows from the coronavirus crisis.

In Ontario where there have been 36,348 confirmed cases, the second highest in the country after Quebec, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said on Thursday the Ontario government prefers a return to in-class learning for students this September.

Lecce’s statement comes weeks after the province told school boards to prepare for an array of options, including a return to regular class learning, online learning or a combination of both. He says Ontario wants to have all students in class, but health officials must approve.

WATCH | Ontario education minister eyes in-class return for students this fall:

While not fully committing to it, Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce says the government hopes to have conventional, five-day per week classroom learning this fall. 2:42

Here’s what’s happening around the world

According to Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases was over 12.2 million as of 8 p.m. ET on Thursday. Over 553,000 people have died, while almost 6.7 million have recovered. The U.S. and Brazil lead case numbers, with a combined total of more than 4.8 million.

In the Americas, the interim president of Bolivia Jeanine Anez and Venezuela’s No. 2 political leader Diosdado Cabello have both announced they are infected with the coronavirus.

Mexico posted a fresh record for new cases reported on a single day, with 7,280 cases.

In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro is turning himself into a test case for hydroxychloroquine live before millions as he swallows pills on social media and encourages others to do the same.

Members of the armed forces disinfect the entrance of the Alvorada Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, on Thursday. (Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)

In Asia, the Japanese capital confirmed more than 220 new cases Thursday, exceeding its record daily increase from mid-April and prompting concerns of widening infections. Tokyo’s more than 7,000 cases are about one-third of the nation’s total.

The resort island of Bali in Indonesia reopened Thursday after a three-month virus lockdown, allowing local people and stranded foreign tourists to resume public activities before foreign arrivals resume in September.

India reported nearly 25,000 new coronavirus infections Thursday, and its transmission rate is increasing for the first time since March.

WATCH | Indian cook creates flatbreads shaped like masks:

The flatbread or ‘parotta’ made in the shape of a face mask is a small reminder to follow public health guidelines in the city of Madurai, which is in a part of southern India that is seeing a surge in cases of COVID-19. 0:26

In Europe, Serbian authorities on Thursday banned gatherings of more than 10 people in the capital Belgrade, after two nights of violent clashes between police and thousands of demonstrators protesting coronavirus lockdown measures.

Serbia’s government crisis team said the restrictions were intended to prevent the virus’s further spread following the clashes, where physical distancing was barely observed and few people wore face masks.

In addition to limiting gatherings, businesses in closed spaces, such as cafés, shopping malls or shops, have been ordered to operate shorter hours. Although the new government measures don’t include an originally planned weekend curfew, the limit on gatherings effectively means a ban on protests.

People wearing personal protective equipment protest in front of the Serbian Parliament building in Belgrade on Thursday. (Darko Vojinovic/The Associated Press)

In Africa, South Africa announced Thursday its highest daily number of confirmed coronavirus cases with 13,674.

Africa’s most developed country is now a hot spot in the pandemic with 238,339 confirmed cases. Gauteng province, which contains Johannesburg and the executive capital, Pretoria, is home to more than a third of the total cases.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said South Africa could run out of available hospital beds within the month.

The African continent has more than 523,000 confirmed cases after having passed the half-million mark on Wednesday. But shortages in testing materials mean the true number is unknown.

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CBC | World News

24 killed in attack on drug rehab centre in Mexico

Gunmen burst into an unregistered drug rehabilitation centre in central Mexico and opened fire Wednesday, killing 24 people and wounding seven, authorities said.

Police in the north-central state of Guanajuato said the attack occurred in the city of Irapuato. Three of the seven wounded were reported in serious condition.

Apparently the attackers shot everyone at the rehab centre. State police said nobody was abducted. Photos purporting to show the scene suggest those at the centre were lying down when they were sprayed with bullets.

Guanajuato is the scene of a bloody turf battle between the Jalisco cartel and a local gang, and the state has become the most violent in Mexico.

No motive was given in the attack, but Gov. Diego Sinhue Rodriguez Vallejo said drug gangs appeared to have been involved.

“I deeply regret and condemn the events in Irapuato this afternoon,” Sinhue wrote. “The violence generated by organized crime not only takes the lives of the young, but it takes the peace from families in Guanajuato.”

Previous attacks on rehab centres

Mexican drug gangs have killed suspected street-level dealers from rival gangs sheltering at such facilities in the past. It was one of the deadliest attacks on a rehab centre since 19 people were killed in 2010 in Chihuahua city in northern Mexico. More than a dozen attacks on such facilities have occurred since then.

Mexico has long had problems with rehab centres because most are privately run, underfunded and often commit abuses against recovering addicts. The government spends relatively little money on rehabilitation, often making the unregistered centres the only option available for poor families.

In addition, addicts and dealers who face attacks from rivals on the streets sometimes take refuge at the rehab clinics, making the clinics themselves targets for attack. Still other gangs have been accused of forcibly recruiting recovering addicts at the centres as dealers, and killing them if they refused.

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CBC | World News

Mexico City police chief injured in deadly shooting blamed on cartel

Mexico City’s chief of police was shot and injured and two of his bodyguards killed in a dramatic assassination attempt early on Friday that he quickly blamed on one of Mexico’s most powerful drug gangs, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG).

The city’s public security chief Omar Garcia Harfuch suffered three bullet wounds as he and bodyguards came under heavy fire around dawn in an upscale Mexico City neighbourhood, where the attack was captured on security cameras.

Some three hours later, apparently from his hospital bed, Garcia sent out a message on Twitter blaming his injuries and the death of two bodyguards on a “cowardly attack” by the CJNG, a gang notorious as one of the most violent in Mexico.

A 26-year-old woman travelling in a car with relatives to sell street food nearby was also killed in the gunfire that ripped through the Lomas de Chapultepec neighbourhood. The area is home to many wealthy people and has ambassadorial residences.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said the attack showed that authorities were putting pressure on criminal gangs in the capital, which has rarely witnessed such brazen outbreaks of violence.

A forensic investigator collects cartridges at the scene where the Mexican capital’s police chief was attacked by gunmen in Mexico City on Friday. (Rebecca Blackwell/The Associated Press)

“There will be no turning back,” Sheinbaum told a news conference.

Grainy security camera footage broadcast on Mexican television showed a group of heavily armed men in an open-backed truck disguised as a work vehicle, and an SUV blocking off a road to open fire on Garcia’s automobile.

Separately, fast-arriving police could be seen shouting and moving toward the high-calibre gunfire that rang out for several minutes just after 6.30 a.m. local time.

Television footage of what was apparently Garcia’s armoured SUV showed a vehicle riddled with bullets roped off by police.

Garcia was wounded in the shoulder, collarbone and the knee, Security Minister Alfonso Durazo told a news conference.

Relatives of a passerby killed in Friday’s shooting mourn at the crime scene in Mexico City. (Pedro Pardo/AFP via Getty Images)

The assassination attempt served as a warning that “nobody is off limits” and was reminiscent of previous attacks on officials during Mexico’s drug war, said Gladys McCormick, a security analyst at Syracuse University in New York.

It fit the CJNG’s modus operandi “to a T” and had the hallmark of the cartel staking out its turf, she said.

Led by a former police officer and based in the western state of Jalisco, the CJNG has been blamed for fuelling record levels of violence in Mexico during its battles to eliminate rivals for control of drug trafficking and crime rackets.

Omar Garcia Harfuch is seen during a news conference at the Mexican embassy in Guatemala City in April 2017. (Moises Castillo/The Associated Press)

Lopez Obrador took office 19 months ago vowing to pacify the country, but homicides hit a new high last year and are on track to be higher still in 2020.

The shooters fled. Mexico City attorney general Ernestina Godoy said 12 suspects were arrested.

Police recovered military-grade long guns including a Barrett rifle from the crime scene, authorities said.

Videos posted on the internet by the CJNG have featured gunmen brandishing high-performance weapons used by the gang in its bloody feuds with other outfits, notably the Sinaloa Cartel of captured kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

That the CJNG may have carried out the attack was one of various lines of investigation, Security Minister Durazo said. A week ago, threats were made against some security officials and authorities would see if they were linked to Friday, he said.

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CBC | World News

Mexico to resume sending farm workers to Canada after COVID-19 safety agreement

Mexico will resume sending temporary farm workers to Canada after the two countries reached an agreement on improved safety protections for labourers on Canadian farms during the coronavirus pandemic, the Mexican government said on Sunday.

Mexico said last Tuesday it would pause sending workers to farms with coronavirus infections after Mexican nationals died from COVID-19 after outbreaks on 17 Canadian farms.

The announcement came as health officials in southern Ontario on Sunday confirmed a third migrant worker from Mexico had died.

The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit said that the worker was with Scotlynn Group — a large-scale farming operation in Vittoria, Ont. — that currently has 217 positive cases involving migrant workers and farm employees.

Canadian farmers rely on 60,000 short-term foreign workers, predominantly from Latin America and the Caribbean, to plant and harvest crops.

Mexico’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the Temporary Agricultural Workers Program (PTAT) had “entered into operation once again after a temporary pause.”

The two nations “reached an agreement to improve the sanitary conditions of the nationals who work on farms,” the statement added.

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CBC | World News

Mexico joins Canada, notifies U.S. it’s ready to implement new NAFTA

The Mexican government notified Canada and the U.S. late Friday that it is ready to implement the revised North American trade agreement, leaving it up to the Americans now to decide when the deal should take effect.

Jesús Seade, Mexico’s chief negotiator, announced the news on Twitter overnight, saying in Spanish that “with this, we will have a modern instrument that will strengthen the competitiveness of the region and energize the trilateral relationship.”

Juan José Gómez Camacho, Mexico’s ambassador to Canada, followed that tweet with one of his own on Saturday morning, adding that “this new instrument will strengthen the North American region and provide new dynamism to our economies.”

Canada was the first to notify its NAFTA partners Thursday that it was ready to set a date for the revised deal to take effect.

All eyes are now on the U.S. government to decide when it wants to proceed.

All three countries have ratified the deal.

The text of the agreement says it will take effect on the first day of the third month after all three partners have notified the others they’ve changed their relevant laws, regulations and other administrative systems and are ready to comply.

If the U.S. gives its notice before the end of April, the earliest the new measures could take hold is July 1. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Saturday that Canada will continue to work with Mexico and the U.S. on implementing the new NAFTA, but he said the deal is taking a back seat to the response to COVID-19.

“The people who usually work very, very hard on ratification of trade deals are — like most people in government — very much focused on our response to COVID-19, and that needs to be our priority right now,” said Trudeau.

In the meantime, Trudeau said, the previous NAFTA agreement remains in place.

Coronavirus disrupting implementation

It’s not clear how soon the U.S. will act.

The Trump administration had wanted the deal in place before June 1. But that was before COVID-19 substantially disrupted the North American economy and dramatically altered cross-border travel and trade. 

On Monday, a bipartisan group of American senators called for a delay, saying “a long experience of incomplete and inadequate implementation by trade agreement partners has taught us that the United States must do this work on the front end to ensure that the words on paper deliver genuine benefits to Americans.”

Key industries that have to make substantial changes as a result of the deal, such as the automotive sector, have been siginificantly disrupted by the coronavirus, with some facilities no longer able to focus on re-evaluating their North American supply chains for compliance, as they retool instead to make urgently needed medical equipment.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted governments, businesses, workers, and farmers globally, leaving little, if any, time and resources to prepare for a smooth transition to [the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement],” the senators’ letter to United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said. “USMCA should not enter into force prematurely.”

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Appeal court blocks Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ program for migrants seeking asylum

A U.S. federal appeals court on Friday temporarily halted a Trump administration policy to make asylum seekers wait in Mexico while their cases wind through U.S. immigration courts.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on the two policies that are central to President Donald Trump’s asylum crackdown, dealing the administration a major setback, even if it proves temporary.

The question before the judges was whether to let the policy take effect during legal challenges.

The Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program is one of the most dramatic immigration policy changes enacted by the Trump administration, which has made asylum an increasingly remote possibility. The “Remain in Mexico” measure, as it has been colloquially referred to, took effect in January 2019 and nearly 60,000 people have been sent back to wait for hearings.

The panel concluded that plaintiffs in the case, which included 11 asylum seekers and several immigration advocacy groups, “had shown a likelihood of success on their claim that the MPP does not comply with the United States’ treaty-based non-refoulement obligations.”

Non-refoulement is a principle in international law which says asylum seekers should not be returned to places where they face danger. The administration had argued migrants could tell officials at any point in the process they had a fear of returning to Mexico.

The ruling only applies only to California and Arizona, the border states in the appeals court’s jurisdiction. New Mexico and Texas also share borders with Mexico.

Justice Department lawyers asserted that Trump was within his rights to impose the policies without Congress’s approval and that they would help deter asylum claims that lack merit.

Opponents, including the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that the administration violated U.S. law and obligations to international treaties by turning back people who will likely be persecuted because of their race, religion, nationality or political beliefs.

Reports of harm to asylum seekers

Supporters of the “Remain in Mexico” policy note it has prevented asylum seekers from being released in the United States with notices to appear in court, which they consider a major incentive for people to come.

The Homeland Security Department called it “an indispensable tool” in an Oct. 28 report. U.S. Customs and Border Protection arrests reached a 13-year high in May, officials said, before dropping in great numbers.

Trump has argued the surge during his term qualifies as a national emergency, and the Pentagon has diverted some funds in its budget to construct a border wall. However, the number of apprehensions in Trump’s term is still considerably less than what was seen in the 1990s and the first few years of this century.

Opponents say MPP has exposed asylum seekers to extreme danger in violent Mexican border cities while they wait for U.S. court hearings. Human Rights First, an advocacy group that has criticized the policy, said in January that there were more than 800 public reports of rape, kidnapping, torture, and other violent crimes against asylum seekers who have been sent back to Mexico.

The policy was introduced at the border crossing in San Diego in January and initially focused on asylum seekers from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

In this Aug. 30, 2019 file photo, migrants, many who were returned to Mexico under the Trump administration’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ program, wait in line to get a meal in an encampment near the Gateway International Bridge in Matamoros, which borders Texas. Friday’s ruling is likely not the last word from the courts on the program. (Veronica Cardenas/The Associated Press)

It expanded to crossings in Calexico, Calif., and the Texas cities of El Paso, Eagle Pass, Laredo and Brownsville, and included more people from Spanish-speaking countries.

The administration on Nov. 22 began busing asylum seekers who crossed the border in Arizona from Tucson to El Paso, to be returned from Mexico from there, extending the policy across every major corridor for illegal border crossings.

In Laredo and Brownsville, asylum seekers appear for hearings in tents on U.S. Customs and Border Protection property, connected by video to judges in other locations.

Mexicans are exempt, as are unaccompanied children.

Northern Triangle plans also challenged

In a separate ruling on Friday, the 9th Circuit left in place a lower court’s block on a Trump administration regulation that barred migrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border between ports of entry from seeking asylum.

It also had drawn pointed questions from the judges during arguments. They asked whether the policy violated U.S. law that says it doesn’t matter how people enter the country.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to lift a ruling blocking the ban.

Immigration and refugee advocates have also cried foul over a program that started in November and through mid-February had seen 683 asylum seekers shipped to Guatemala, more than double the number of asylum seekers processed by Guatemala in all of 2018.

Washington has made similar agreements with Honduras and El Salvador, and the U.S. plans to begin transfers of asylum seekers to those countries as well. 

Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador constitute Central America’s so-called Northern Triangle countries that have been responsible for most of the migrants arriving at the United States’ southwest border in recent years.

Last month, a coalition of groups led by the American Civil Liberties Union sued the U.S. government over the agreements. They argue that Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador do not have the capacity to properly assess asylum cases and lack the resources to protect and support those who do seek asylum there.

Refugee advocates also say they do not qualify as safe third countries, given their crime rates.

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