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.