Mexico City: President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador promised $7.5 billion for youth job training and aid to the elderly Wednesday, keystone programs that could make Mexico’s business sector one of the biggest beneficiaries of his first year in office.
Lopez Obrador pledged the government would pay the salaries of apprentices employed by Mexican companies as part of a $5 billion package of scholarships and job training. The once-fiery leftist met with Mexican businessmen on Wednesday in a surprisingly chummy encounter where he sealed the job-training deal in a handshake with business chamber leader Juan Pablo Castanon.
The programs for the elderly and youths will be the cornerstones of Lopez Obrador’s first year in office, which starts when he takes office Dec. 1. “We will have to come up with this funding … even if we are left without a shirt on our backs,” Lopez Obrador vowed. The president-elect — whose victory must still be certified by electoral authorities and the courts — implied that most of his other campaign promises will be left to later years in office. Lopez Obrador was elected in a landslide Sunday.
Lopez Obrador pledged $2 billion to extend and increase old-age supplementary payments to the elderly so that every Mexican over 68 will receive at least the equivalent of $2.25 per day. The elderly payments initially started in Mexico City when Lopez Obrador was mayor in the early 2000s, but he has now pledged to fund them at the same level as in the capital — currently about $60 per month — nationwide. But the youth program appeared to be a big gift to the business sector: Companies will get much of the $5 billion to pay salaries to youths; the remainder will apparently go to technical colleges and universities or to scholarships.
The firms will give their apprentices certificates of competence, but apparently won’t be required to hire them after their apprenticeships. The program is aimed at reducing the number of unemployed youths recruited by drug cartels, or as Lopez Obrador put it in a campaign slogan “Students on scholarships, not cartel hit men.”
Juan Pardinas, director of the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness, said plans for apprenticeship programs already exist in the private sector, but it is important that the government is getting on board. The opportunity of a paid apprenticeship could keep many young people from beginning to work in the informal economy as they do now and hopefully set them on a path for better earnings.
Pakistan rules out India’s role in Afghan peace process
Islamabad: Pakistan has ruled out any role for India in the Afghan peace process, the media reported on Friday.
“India has no role in Afghanistan,” Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said at the weekly media briefing on Thursday while responding to a query about Islamabad’s position on New Delhi’s part in the reconciliation process.
Faisal acknowledged that Pakistan has a difficult relationship with India, saying that despite Pakistan’s efforts for normalisation, no concrete progress could be achieved in ties with India, Dawn news reported.
“You all know that India is not willing to engage with Pakistan,” he reminded.
Faisal’s remarks were in sharp contrast to what Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had told the National Assembly last month.
“Since India is present in Afghanistan, its cooperation in this regard (facilitating a negotiated settlement of the Afghan conflict) will also be required,” he had told legislators.
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump’s Special Envoy on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Pakistan on Thursday to discuss with the senior civil and military leadership the latest efforts to bring peace to the war-torn country.
Khalilzad, who met Taliban representatives last month in Abu Dhabi, is leading an inter-agency delegation to India, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan from January 8-21 to “facilitate a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan”.
US, India in talks over strategic missile defence cooperation: Pentagon
Washington: The Trump administration has discussed a potential missile defence cooperation with India as part of its effort to deepen the bilateral strategic partnership, the Pentagon has said, asserting that New Delhi is a “key element” in America’s Indo-Pacific strategy.
The Pentagon’s announcement in the 81-page ”Missile Defence Review” report released by President Donald Trump gains significance in view of India placing a USD 5 billion order to purchase S-400 air defence system from Russia, for which the US had publicly expressed its displeasure.
Noting that the threats posed by offensive missile capabilities are no longer limited to a few regions around the world, the Pentagon in its report said there were now a number of countries in South Asia that are developing an advanced and diverse range of ballistic and cruise missile capabilities.
“Within this context, the United States has discussed potential missile defence cooperation with India. This is a natural outgrowth of India’s status as a Major Defence Partner and key element of our Indo-Pacific Strategy,” said the Pentagon report on Thursday.
The report, which identifies missile development projects by Russia and China as major threats to the US, did not give any further details about its potential missile defence cooperation with India.
The US has shown reluctance to offer its missile defence system to India.
Given the tough neighbourhood that India is in, New Delhi several years ago had approached US and expressed its desire to acquire a missile defence system from it, particularly the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system popular as THAAD.
The previous Obama administration was not very forthcoming in sharing its advance missile defence system with India, following which New Delhi went ahead to procure it from Russia.
As part of its Indo-Pacific strategy, the Trump administration now seems to be more than inclined to let India procure its missile defence system with talks between the two countries having already started.
“We will deepen our strategic partnership with India and support its leadership role in Indian Ocean security and throughout the broader region,” said the 2017 National Security Strategy of the US, which has been mentioned in the Pentagon report.
The Missile Defence Review report said that the cornerstone of US’ security and diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific region is its strong bilateral alliances with Japan, South Korea and Australia, and emerging security relationships with others such as India.
Japan and South Korea are working with the US to build missile defence systems that are increasingly interoperable with American defences and increasingly capable against regional offensive missile threats and coercion.
This cooperation includes bilateral missile defence training exercises with the US.
Australia participates in a trilateral discussion on missile defence with the US and Japan. The US and Australia meet annually to discuss bilateral missile defence cooperation. New areas of focus include joint examination of the challenges posed by advanced missile threats, it said.
400 migrants detained after crossing under fence into US
Washington: Nearly 400 migrants burrowed under a fence on the US-Mexico border earlier this week and crossed into the US, informed sources told CNN. US Border Patrol officers stationed in Yuma, Arizona, took about 375 migrants into custody after they had made it into the US, the officials said on Thursday, calling it an unusually large apprehension.
It was not immediately clear if the migrants voluntarily surrendered to Border Patrol officials or if they were caught after attempting to evade authorities. The “vast majority” of the group were family members arriving from Guatemala, said National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd.
“It`s the largest I`ve ever heard of,” said Judd when asked if this was a significant number for a single group. There are often groups of 20 to 30 people, sometimes as large as 100, apprehended in the Yuma area, according to a Customs and Border Protection official.
The incident comes as President Donald Trump continues to demand funding for new barrier construction on the US-Mexico border as the government shutdown entered its 27th day , saying there was a “crisis” at the border that can only be solved with the construction of new border walls or fencing.
In November, a group of around 80 migrants from Guatemala — primarily families — were apprehended by Border Patrol after climbing over the legacy landing mat border wall east of the San Luis Port of Entry.
Hours later, another group of around 80 people entered the US by digging a shallow hole underneath the same portion of the wall, according to CBP. There has been a recent spike in total Border Patrol apprehensions in Yuma, up from 2,117 in fiscal year 2017 to 26,244 last year.