U.S.-Mexico Cooperative Disaster Relief Efforts in Mexico and Central America
Increased U.S.-Mexico cooperation has been a key element in the recovery from the devastating effects of Hurricane Mitch. President Zedillo provided strong early leadership by providing Mexican troops and aircraft to Central America to assist in initial rescue and relief operations. He also alerted President Clinton, other world leaders and multilateral donor agencies to the severity of the damage, and strongly encouraged international aid to the region. Mexico contributed substantially to Central American relief efforts by providing $50 million in official assistance, while private citizens contributed another $10 million. That assistance included making ships and helicopters available to deliver humanitarian aid, including food, medical personnel and supplies.
In order to build upon our existing disaster relief cooperation, the United States and Mexico will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) during the President's visit designed to enhance development and reconstruction cooperation on behalf of Central America and elsewhere. The agreement expresses an intent to collaborate in areas including sustainable development, natural resource management, economic integration, and health.
In addition, following up on U.S. efforts to help in fighting Mexico's devastating wildfires in early 1998, an MOU will also be signed providing for $1.2 million in incremental funding under last year's wildfires agreement. As a companion to that MOU, we will announce 100 new training courses in land reclamation jointly funded by USAID and the Mexican Ministry of Environment. Central American governments, which also have to contend with wildfires every year, will be invited to participate in the courses.
Finally, senior U.S., Mexican, and Canadian officials met in January to discuss aid projects on which they might jointly cooperate. Of common concern was the need for international assistance to Central America that focused on job creation in order to form a safe harbor for the massive number of people who were displaced from homes and jobs in the region as a result of recent natural disasters. They have promised to continue that collaboration until effective and humane solutions can be devised.
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