Mexico says Guatemala to adopt its job creation schemes

·2-min read

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) -Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Tuesday that Guatemala will adopt two social programs promoted by his government, as part of efforts to create jobs and stem Central American migration to the United States.

On an official visit to Mexico, Guatemalan president Alejandro Giammattei inked agreements to adopt Mexico's "Sembrando Vida" tree-planting scheme and "Jóvenes Construyendo el Futuro," a jobs program for 18-to-29-year-olds.

"The meeting with President Alejandro Giammattei was beneficial. The brotherhood between our peoples has been strengthened," Lopez Obrador said on Twitter.

Lopez Obrador's tree planting program pays farmers to plant trees for fruit or timber on small plots of land, with the aim of creating an industry in deprived rural areas.

The plan is currently planting 700,000 trees. The Mexican president has called it "possibly the largest reforestation effort in the world" which aims to create 1.2 million jobs and plant 3 billion additional trees through expansion into southeastern Mexico and Central America.

Lopez Obrador has defended his social programs and has suggested the U.S. government offer temporary work visas and eventually citizenship to those who take part in the vast tree-planting program.

Asked for the U.S. position on Lopez Obrador's desire to extend his tree-planting initiative into Central America, a senior White House official told Reuters on Monday: "If that's something the Mexican president wants to do. I think that's great. What we want to talk about is a much broader plan."

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is slated to speak with Lopez Obrador on May 7 about his proposal to expand Sembrando Vida to Central America as way to reduce poverty and migration.

Guatemalan Foreign Minister Pedro Brolo talking about the Jóvenes Construyendo el Futuro jobs program said it "will be extremely important, especially to be able to serve young adults to give them that push towards being able to create small businesses or to join the job market."

Brolo told Reuters the jobs program is "an incentive so they can stay in their communities, receiving benefits or money monthly so that they don't have to emigrate."

Guatemala's government will work directly with the private sector to implement the program, he said.

(Reporting by Frank Jack Daniel, Raul Cortes and Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City; Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick in Washington; Writing by Anthony Esposito and Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Michael Perry)