EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — The U.S. ambassador to Mexico was in Chihuahua on Friday talking about trade opportunities and safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ambassador Christopher Landau met with Gov. Javier Corral and visited an automotive-components plant that employs 2,500 workers in the state capital, Corral’s office said. The ambassador was also scheduled to tour one of Chihuahua’s budding aerospace maquiladoras.
“My message is simple: This will not be resolved from one day to the next. And we cannot allow the health crisis to spark a worse economic crisis. Let’s work with precautions!” Landau tweeted.
During a Friday evening speech at the business complex of Incora, an aerospace and automotive supplier, Landau said this was his first trip outside of Mexico City since the pandemic began.
“I’m here for three reasons. One is to stress we cannot let this health crisis bring about a worse economic crisis,” he said. “It’s very important to restart economic activity protecting, of course, the health of the workers. […] It is possible to do this observing safe distancing, wearing masks, taking temperatures” and applying other prevention measures.
He said his aides counseled against the trip but added that his rank carries symbolism. “It would be hypocritical for me to promote the reopening while staying confined at home in Mexico City,” he said.
Landau said he also wanted to highlight the integration of the Mexican and U.S. economies and the need to bring supply chains from China and Eastern Europe closer to home in North America.
The visit to the factories was to highlight the “great efforts by U.S. companies to keep their workers safe and keep up productivity during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the release said.
Corral later said the two submitted to quick COVID-19 antibody tests when they visited the Delphi automotive plant. “It’s a safety protocol that is applied to all workers and visitors. It’s an exemplary policy that that should be duplicated by businesses in Chihuahua to abate contagion,” Corral said later.
The ambassador began his visit by laying flowers on a memorial at the Governor’s Palace to former Chihuahua Health Secretary Jesus Enrique Grajeda, who died of COVID-19 this month.
Chihuahua at center of protests over water debt to U.S.
There was no word on whether Landau addressed a thorny binational water situation with the governor of Chihuahua.
A few days ago, farmers in Parral, Chihuahua, set fire to vehicles and a federal government building in anger over curtailed water rights. Mexico has fallen behind in the amount of water it must send north from its dams under a 1944 treaty, and the United States has been pushing for compliance.
Farmers have clashed repeatedly with federal authorities and blocked access to the Presidio, Texas port of entry for three days in protest. They left when the Mexican government sent National Guard troops to reopen the border crossing.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador publicly blamed opposition politicians for fostering resistance. Corral is a member of the right-of-center National Action Party, or PAN; Lopez Obrador belongs to the populist MORENA coalition.
The president has said there’s enough water to comply with the treaty and support local crops.
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