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Mexican leader criticises US on tour of Central America

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Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has started a five-day tour to four Central American countries and Cuba by lashing out at the US government.

Mr Lopez Obrador criticised American officials sharply for being quick to send billions to Ukraine, while dragging their feet on development aid to Central America.

On his first stop in neighbouring Guatemala, Mr Lopez Obrador demanded US aid to stem the poverty and joblessness that sends tens of thousands of Guatemalans north to the American border.

The Mexican leader had been angered that the United States rebuffed his calls to help expand his tree-planting programme to Central America.

“They are different things and they shouldn’t be compared categorically, but they have already approved 30 billion dollars (£24 billion) for the war in Ukraine, while we have been waiting since president Donald Trump, asking they donate four billion dollars (£3.21 billion), and as of today, nothing, absolutely nothing,” Mr Lopez Obrador said.

“Honestly, it seems inexplicable,” he added. “For our part, we are going to continue to respectfully insist on the need for the United States to collaborate.”

Mr Lopez Obrador’s pet programme, known as “Planting Life”, pays farmers a monthly wage to plant and care for fruit and lumber trees on their farms.

Mexico has asked the US government to help fund the programme, but no money has been forthcoming.

Mexico is also touting another scheme that apprentices young people to companies. Critics say both programmes lack accountability.

Mexican foreign relations secretary Marcelo Ebrard wrote in his social media accounts that meetings with Guatemalan president Alejandro Giammattei and other officials focused on development, migration and strengthening bilateral ties.

Mr Ebrard said Mexico was starting the tree program in the Guatemalan province of Chimaltenango.

It is only the third overseas trip in more than three years for Mr Lopez Obrador, who is fond of saying that the best foreign policy is good domestic policy.

The tour is an opportunity for Mexico to reassert itself as a leader in Latin America and will be welcomed by some leaders under pressure from the US government and others for their alleged anti-democratic tendencies.

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