The trek from Central America to U.S. soil has always been perilous, but a massacre with many victims from one corner of Guatemala has shaken that country.
They leave behind homes, families, everything they have known, taking their chances on a dangerous trek north toward an uncertain future, driven by poverty, lack of opportunity and the hope of something better.
For most migrants who leave Central America, like those from the municipality of Comitancillo, in the mountains of western Guatemala, the goal is to reach the United States, find work, save some money and send some back home, put down roots, maybe even find love and start a family. Usually, the biggest obstacle is crossing the increasingly fortified American border without being caught.
A group of 13 migrants who left Comitancillo in January didn’t even get the chance. Their bodies were found, along with those of six other victims, shot and burned; the corpses were piled in the back of a pickup truck that had been set on fire and abandoned in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, just shy of the U.S. border. A dozen state police officers have been arrested in connection with the massacre.
The migrants’ remains made the return trip on Friday, March 12, each in a coffin draped with the Guatemalan flag, flown to a military airport in Guatemala City. A somber repatriation ceremony there, with an address by President Alejandro Giammattei, was shown live on national television. Relatives, friends and neighbors in Comitancillo watched the broadcast in their homes as they made final preparations for the arrival of the bodies and for the wakes and burials to follow.
a raid on the factory where he worked. He was held in detention for most of a year, trying to fight deportation.
He stayed in touch with Reverend Medina. “He was always trying to organize groups to pray and have faith and keep strong,” the priest recalled.
Mr. López finally lost his legal battle, however, and was deported to Guatemala in 2020, Reverend Medina said. Desperately missing his family, he decided in January to try his luck again and migrate north for a third time, the reverend said.
Last Saturday, relatives attended a wake for Mr. López in his parents’ home. The funeral service was held in a church in the village of Chicajalaj, the construction of which he had helped fund by raising money among the Guatemalan diaspora in Mississippi.
Above, relatives held wake for Mr. López. During a procession, below, carrying Mr. López’s remains to the church and then to a cemetery, his cousin, Sebastián López, 75, clutched a framed portrait of his dead relative.
Mr. López’s daughter, Evelin López, left a can of Coca-Cola, a favorite drink of his, as a tribute inside his tomb. It was her first trip to Guatemala.
In the home of Santa Cristina García Pérez, 20, another massacre victim, family members had adorned an altar with framed photos, flowers and a bottle of water — so that Ms. García’s spirit did not suffer from thirst on its journey to the next life, her father, Ricardo García Pérez, explained.
Before she migrated, Mr. García said, his daughter had been living for three years in the city of Zacapa, on the other side of the country, holding a series of low-paying jobs, including as a house cleaner and as a saleswoman in stores.
One of 11 siblings, Ms. García hoped to make enough money in the United States to cover the cost of an operation for her one-year-old sister, Angela Idalia, who was born with a cleft lip, her father said.
She wanted to save Ángela Idalia from what she thought would be a life of ridicule, relatives said.
Ms. García had hoped to make it to Miami, where a friend was living, “but unfortunately her life was cut short on the way,” her father said.
“The saddest thing in life,” he continued. “There’s no explanation.”
Relatives gathered at the mass for Ms. García and two other victims, Iván Gudiel Pablo Tomás and Rivaldo Danilo Jiménez, all of them from the village of Tuilelén.
Below, Ricardo García Pérez and Olga Pérez Guzmán de García, Ms. García’s parents, during her wake.
The killings have stunned the community, spurred a wave of international media attention on Comitancillo and an outpouring of financial support for the victim’s families. Among other acts of largess, donations from nearby communities in the region and from the Guatemalan diaspora have paid for Ángela Idalia’s first surgery to repair her cleft lip and have enabled the García family to build a new house.
Yet local residents predict that despite the massacre, migration from Comitancillo to the United States will not ebb.
Residents said that President Biden’s election and his promise of a more humane approach to migration policy had inspired many young Comitecos to set off for the United States in the past few months. Many others are thinking about leaving soon, residents said.
The options for employment in Guatemala are too scarce, Ms. Aguilón said, and the lure of possibility in the United States too great.
“For us, it was a very big blow,” she said of the massacre. “But this won’t prevent the people from migrating.”
Relatives and neighbors attending the funeral of Ms. García, Mr. Pablo and Mr. Jiménez.
Mr. Jiménez’s coffin being carried to Tuilelén cemetery, above, and friends and relatives carrying the coffin of Mr. Pablo.
MUMBAI — India is racing to contain a second wave of the coronavirus, but its vaccination campaign is running into doubters like Akbar Mohamed Patel.
A resident of Mumbai’s densely populated slum area of Dharavi, Mr. Patel survived a severe bout of the coronavirus in May. The first wave prompted Mumbai officials to seal off his housing complex, confining thousands of people for nearly two months.
Still, the current campaign has been marred by a slow initial government rollout, as well as skepticism and apathy from people like Mr. Patel and his neighbors. “On social media we come to know this is all a big game to make money,” Mr. Patel said. Of the vaccine, he said, “many things have been hidden.”
The coronavirus, once seemingly in retreat, is again rippling across India. Confirmed infections have risen to about 31,600 daily from a low of about 9,800 in February. In a recent two-week period, deaths shot up 82 percent.
dramatic nationwide lockdown and resulting economic recession.
“I am very categorical that we should stop it, contain it, just here,” said Dr. Rahul Pandit, a critical care physician at a private hospital in Mumbai and a member of the Maharashtra Covid-19 task force.
India’s vaccination campaign could have global consequences.
nearly monthlong delay in delivery of five million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine being manufactured in India. The reasons for the delay are not clear, but the manufacturer, Serum Institute of India, has said shipments will depend in part on domestic Indian needs.
tens of millions of doses to other countries, even as it struggles to vaccinate its own people. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, the foreign minister, has said that the availability of vaccines in India will determine how many doses go overseas.
While vaccinations were initially available only in public hospitals, India is now giving jabs in private clinics and enormous makeshift vaccination centers, and it is considering making them available in pharmacies, too. Vaccination hours have been extended, and those eligible can register in person and receive a shot the same day, bypassing an online scheduling system.
The Indian government is playing catch-up. Since it launched a nationwide vaccination drive two months ago, uptake has been disappointing. Less than 3 percent of the population has received a jab, including about half of health care workers. At the current rate, it will take India about a decade to vaccinate 70 percent of its people, according to one estimate. By comparison, roughly a quarter of the population of the United States has had at least one jab.
Not everybody in India has the internet access needed to register for a shot online. But the campaign has also been plagued by public skepticism. The government approved a domestically developed vaccine, called Covaxin, before its safety and efficacy trials were even over, though preliminary findings since then have suggested it works.
The other jab available in India is the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which was suspended in some countries after a number of patients reported blood clots and strokes, though scientists haven’t found a link between the shots and the afflictions.
Some of the tepid response may come down to apathy. A nationwide study released in February found that one in five Indian people were likely to have already had Covid-19. Surveys in cities show even higher prevalence rates. The disease is just one among many that people in India worry about, joining tuberculosis, dengue fever and avian flu. Many people are struggling to recover from the huge financial hit of India’s lockdown last year and can’t afford to take time off work to stand in line for a shot.
“These are hand-to-mouth people. Bread, butter depends on their daily work. They can’t sit back and relax and wait for the wave to go,” said Kiran Dighavkar, the assistant commissioner of the Mumbai ward that includes Dharavi. “They can’t afford quarantine, so the only option is to vaccinate these people as early as possible.”
Health experts are prodding Mr. Modi to do more, including making the vaccine available to more people. Older adults, health-care and frontline workers and some people with medical conditions are currently eligible for shots.
“I would try to put the injection in the arm of every Indian that is 18 years and above, and I would do it now,” said Dr. N.K. Ganguly, the president of a medical research institute in New Delhi.
Persuading the 800,000 residents of Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum, to get vaccinated is seen as critical. Residents travel for work to every corner of the city of 20 million. Officials are reintroducing what earlier in the pandemic they called the Dharavi model: If the disease can be contained there, transmission can be curbed citywide and even further afield.
It won’t be easy, even though just three miles away, a jumbo vaccination center is administering about 15,000 shots a day, free of charge.
Day and night, Dharavi is teeming with life. People overflow from thin, corrugated metal houses, stacked on top of each other like matchboxes, onto crowded, mostly unpaved lanes strung with loose electrical wire. Animals skitter between parked motorcycles and piles of debris. Shops, tanneries and factories are squeezed next to houses of worship and community toilets.
“We have been OK all this while,” Abdul Razad Rakim, a 61-year-old diabetic, said from a foldout chair in front of the tiny apartment he shares with his wife, Shamim. “Why do we have to go?”
A short walk away, Janabai Shinde, a former janitor for the city health department, was squatting on her front step, rising every few minutes to spit red tobacco juice into a drain.
“I take walks in this lane. I sit here for fresh air. I have not stepped out much since the lockdown,” Ms. Shinde said. Her son, who works for the city, has already registered her for a turn at a vaccination center. She said she hoped her neighbors would join her.
“It’s for our good,” she said.
The Mumbai government has enlisted aid groups to set up help desks in Dharavi, where residents can ask questions and complete online registration to make an appointment for a free shot.
Plans are underway to set up a vaccination center within the confines of the slum, and to reopen an institutional quarantine center with thousands of beds, according to Mr. Dighavkar, the assistant commissioner.
Last week, as Maharashtra recorded its highest new case numbers since September, the chief executive of a disaster relief group delivered a pep talk at Gold Filled Heights, an apartment complex largely occupied by members of the Jain religious group, who run many of the jewelry businesses in Dharavi.
“We can’t let the virus spread again,” said the chief executive, Shantilal Muttha. “If it spreads in Dharavi, it becomes a threat for the entire Mumbai and Maharashtra.”
HUMSA, West Bank — Until last November, Fadwa Abu Awad’s mornings followed a familiar rhythm: The 42-year-old Palestinian herder would rise at 4 a.m., pray, and milk her family’s sheep. Then she would add an enzyme to the pails of milk and stir them for hours to make a salty, rubbery, halloumi-like cheese.
But that routine changed overnight in November, when the Israeli Army demolished her hamlet, Humsa, in the West Bank. When the 13 families who live there resurrected their homes, the army returned in early February to knock them down again. By the end of February, parts of Humsa had been dismantled and rebuilt six times in three months because the Israelis viewed them as illegal structures.
“Before, life was about waking up and milking and making cheese,” Ms. Abu Awad said in a recent interview. “Now we’re just waiting for the army.”
The vigor with which the Israeli Army has tried to demolish Humsa has turned this small Palestinian encampment into an embodiment of the battle for the future of the occupied territories.
formally annex last year. The government suspended that plan in September as part of a deal to normalize relations with the United Arab Emirates.
The army has since destroyed more than 200 structures there, saying they were built without legal permits.
“We’re not shooting from the hip here,” said Mark Regev, a senior adviser to the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. “We’re going through with the implementation of the court’s decision. There is no doubt that due process has been served.”
18 percent of the West Bank that Israel has designated a military training zone. And they argue that the herders arrived there at least a decade after the military zone was established in 1972, in the early years of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.
Today, Humsa does not look like much, strewn with the debris of successive demolitions — a broken pink toy, an upturned stove, a smashed solar panel. Even before it was first demolished, it was a community of just 85 people living in a few dozen tents, spread across a remote hillside.
The residents say the Israeli arguments miss a wider injustice.
“We’re the original inhabitants of this land,” said Ansar Abu Akbash, a 29-year-old herder in Humsa. “They didn’t have this land originally — they’re settlers.”
Israel captured the land in the Arab-Israeli war of 1967. The first herders moved to Humsa in the 1980s because they say they had already been displaced by Israeli activity elsewhere in the West Bank.
The slopes where the herders live and graze their 10,000 sheep are still owned by Palestinians living in a nearby town, to whom they pay rent.
For the herders, the solution is not as simple as moving to the location suggested by the army: They say there is not enough land there for their sheep to roam.
“This is the only place where we can continue our way of life,” Ms. Abu Awad said. “We live through these sheep, and they live through us.”
The Israeli authorities rejected the herders’ applications to retroactively approve their modest encampment, said Tawfiq Jabareen, a lawyer representing the villagers.
That is a familiar dynamic in Area C. Between 2016 and 2018, Israel approved 56 of 1,485 permit applications for Palestinian construction in Area C, according to data obtained by Bimkom,an independent Israeli organization that advocates Palestinian planning rights.
And while the Israeli authorities have targeted Humsa, they have turned a blind eye to unauthorized Israeli construction in the same military zone as the herding community, Mr. Jabareen said.
The army has left untouched several Israeli structures built inside the military zone in 2018 and 2019, even though those structures were also under demolition orders, he said.
“These parallel tracks for dealing with Palestinian and settler communities are a stark illustration of discrimination,” he said.
The government agency that oversees demolitions declined to comment on this issue.
The nearby Israeli settlement of Roi, a village of 200 people built in the 1970s, was designed to fit within a narrow gap between two Israeli military training zones, in compliance with Israeli law.
The residents of Roi appear to have little sympathy for their neighbors. Some said it was the Palestinians who were the interlopers on the land and the Israelis who redeemed it from a barren wasteland.
“Look at what we did here in 40 years and you will understand,” said Uri Schlomi von Strauss, 70, one of Roi’s earliest settlers. “We built the land, we plowed the land, and this gives us the right to the land,” he added. “Why should I have sympathy?”
Across the valley, the herders of Humsa were counting the cost of the most recent demolition. The army had confiscated their water tanks, which the military considers unsanctioned structures. That reduced the water they had to drink and wash with, let alone to give their sheep or prepare the cheese.
One woman had lost all her embroidery, another her prized coat.
Aid groups had given them new tents, but not enough to house their sheep. So the sheep were sleeping in the cold, which the herders said meant they were producing less milk — which in turn meant less cheese to sell at the market.
“I’ve become a very angry and anxious person,” Ms. Abu Akbash said. “I’m overcome with stress.”
As an Israeli-registered car slowly approached the Abu Akbash family tent, the children ran to scoop up their toys, fearing another demolition was imminent.
“Every car they see,” Ms. Abu Akbash said, “they think it’s the army.”
ANCHORAGE, Alaska—High-level talks between the Biden administration and Beijing that veered into acrimony put the U.S.-China rivalry in sharp relief, complicating efforts by the two powers to erect guardrails and keep tensions from spiraling further.
The two-day meetings, which ended Friday, covered an array of issues that over the past year sent U.S.-China relations to their most unsteady point in decades: China’s clampdown on Hong Kong, repression of Muslims in Xinjiang and aggressive behavior with its neighbors. The two sides also explored some areas of hoped-for common ground.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters afterward that the governments “are fundamentally at odds” on issues such as Hong Kong and cyberattacks, though interests intersect on Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan and climate change.
“We were clear-eyed coming in, we’re clear-eyed coming out, and we will go back to Washington to take stock of where we are,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan said.
Yang Jiechi, China’s senior-most foreign-policy official, also noted “important disagreements” remained, and in remarks to Chinese state media suggested Beijing wouldn’t back down. “China will unswervingly defend its national sovereignty, security and development interests. China’s development and strengthening is unstoppable,” said Mr. Yang.
The talks were the first under the Biden administration and tested its strategy to compartmentalize the countries’ relationship into what Mr. Blinken said are competitive, collaborative and adversarial components.
To that end, in the week ahead of the talks, the Biden administration rallied support among allies in Asia and imposed sanctions on senior Chinese legislators—moves that in part sparked Beijing’s anger as the talks opened Thursday.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Blinken launched into China’s cyberattacks, its threats against Taiwan and others, and its clampdowns in Xinjiang and Hong Kong as “threatening the rules-based order that maintains global stability.”
Mr. Yang, in turn, criticized the U.S. for undermining global stability by using force around the world, and he said the U.S. doesn’t serve as a model to others. He listed the U.S.’s problems with racism, mentioning the Black Lives Matter movement, and declining domestic confidence in U.S. democracy.
Although U.S. officials played down the public sparring, the divisiveness, on display in front of reporters, exposed a deepening distrust between the two governments that is likely to make cooperation more difficult.
“Anyone who was hoping there would be a significant de-escalation—largely people in the business community—can see that’s not going to be possible, at least in the near term,” said Allison Sherlock, a China analyst at the consultancy Eurasia Group.
On Friday in their last meeting, Messrs. Blinken and Sullivan and Mr. Yang and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi gathered with a smaller group of aides to try to set up a way to manage difficulties ahead, officials said.
Foreign-policy specialists said the acrimony shows shifting perceptions that each has about the balance of power between the two nations, increasing the likelihood of miscalculation and conflicts over hot spots like control of critical technologies and China’s claims against Taiwan and Japan and in the South China Sea.
A new target is the U.S. electric-vehicle maker Tesla Inc. China’s government is restricting use of Tesla vehicles by members of the Chinese military and employees in sensitive posts in government and business, citing national-security concerns over data collected by the cars, according to people familiar with the effort.
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Both governments face pressing domestic issues, giving them reason to try to limit costly confrontation. President Biden has placed priority on reining in the pandemic and shoring up the recovery in the Covid-19-battered economy. In dealing with China, administration officials said it will band together with allies to give the U.S. what the White House on Thursday called “a place of strength.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping is also trying to bolster the Chinese economy, as he prepares for a pivotal period in his control over the Communist Party. He is expected to seek a third term as party leader next year and can ill afford a full-blown crisis with the U.S. in the run-up.
Still, he and other officials have in recent months played up perceptions that “the East is rising and the West is declining,” citing the Communist Party’s perceived superiority in governance.
Mr. Yang, a member of the party’s ruling body, channeled that sentiment in responding to Mr. Blinken on Thursday. “The United States does not have the qualification to say that it wants to speak to China from a position of strength,” Mr. Yang said. He accused the U.S. of being condescending and waved his finger at Mr. Blinken and Mr. Sullivan.
Mr. Yang’s remarks drew plaudits in China, where they were circulated on social and mainstream media.
People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s flagship newspaper, posted a warning to the U.S. on several of its social-media accounts in English and Chinese, to “stop interfering in China’s internal affairs” and, echoing Mr. Yang, said: “The U.S. is not qualified to talk to China in such a condescending way.”
U.S. officials accused Mr. Yang of grandstanding for a domestic audience and said Mr. Blinken and Mr. Sullivan continued to engage their Chinese interlocutors on substance.
“We will still have business to conduct,” Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House’s principal deputy press secretary, told reporters. “America’s approach will be undergirded by confidence in our dealing with Beijing.”
Still, the thrust of Mr. Yang’s remarks presages difficult dealings ahead, said Michael Pillsbury, a China expert at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank, who advised the Trump administration on China.
“The tone seems to be different. Now China is not just equal to us, they are superior,” said Mr. Pillsbury. He said the U.S. needs to find more leverage over China.
A key part of the Biden strategy to compete with Beijing—working with U.S. allies—also angers Beijing, which sees the alliances as central to U.S.’s effort to constrain China’s ascent and limit its influence. Beijing has over the past year escalated tensions with U.S. allies such as Japan and Australia and other U.S. partners such as Taiwan and India, whose troops clashed with Chinese forces along their Himalayan border.
“China sees itself in an increasingly hostile global environment,” said Eurasia Group’s Ms. Sherlock. From that perspective, she said, Mr. Yang’s outburst Thursday served to make Beijing’s frustrations public. “It does represent a sharpening attitude for dealing with the U.S.,” she said.
—Liyan Qi and Alex Leary contributed to this article.
Write to William Mauldin at email@example.com
To many Canadians, it seemed decidedly unneighborly. Canada’s initial coronavirus vaccination program moved at a stately pace over the winter, while inoculations in the United States raced ahead. But Washington was unwilling to share any of its stockpile of tens of millions of doses of a vaccine it had yet to approve for use by Americans.
U.S. to Send Millions of Vaccine Doses to Mexico and Canada]
The White House announcement seemed to catch Ottawa officials off guard. Hours passed before Anita Anand, the cabinet minister responsible for buying vaccines, issued a statement that read more like an insurance policy than a note of thanks.
The U.S. Is Sitting on Tens of Millions of Vaccine Doses the World Needs]
Though Canada and more than 70 other countries have approved the AstraZeneca vaccine, the manufacturer hasn’t even applied to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization. Things have now reached the point, Noah and Rebecca write, that the “United States may only briefly, or never, need the AstraZeneca doses.”
The AstraZeneca vaccine was also the subject of attention this week for another reason. Several European countries suspended its use over a possible connection to blood clots. Canadian officials didn’t share those worries, and late this week the European Medicines Agency declared the vaccine safe.
Aside from a possible new source of supply, the AstraZeneca inoculation received another boost in Canada this week when the federal advisory panel on immunization lifted its previous recommendation that it not be given to people 65 and older.
“a sham and a flagrant display of hostage diplomacy.”
One of the more prominent woman in the Canadian Armed Forces quit this week and issued a stinging resignation letter in which she said she had been “sickened by ongoing investigations of sexual misconduct among our key leaders.” I spoke with two veterans about their constant struggles with sexual harassment and even sexual assault while in the military and what they want to see emerge from the investigations into the current chief of the defense staff and his predecessor.
From a makeshift studio in the basement of his Toronto home, Matt Granite, the Deal Guy, “now streams daily on Amazon Live, sometimes multiple times a day, covering everything from kitchen gadgets to snowblowers,” Jackie Snow writes. “Under each video is a carousel display of the products he’s discussing. When a viewer clicks that item and buys it, Mr. Granite gets a cut.”
The stealthy F-35 fighter remains in contention as the Canadian Forces’ replacement for its CF-18 jets, despite Mr. Trudeau’s killing of a Conservative purchase proposal and restarting of the selection process. The Times’s editorial board argues that the military in the United States should sharply cut down its purchases of the high-tech, and highly expensive, aircraft.
A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported about Canada for The New York Times for the past 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.
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None of the information supplied by him raised concerns about illegal practices, the company said, adding that it did not request Ms. Markle’s Social Security number — which is more restricted information — and did not use it for any purpose.
In Britain, legal experts said, the tabloids have moved carefully since the 2011 scandal, which forced Mr. Murdoch to shut down another of his tabloids, The News of the World, and torpedoed his takeover of a satellite broadcaster, BSkyB.
“There is, at present, no evidence that has come to light that they continued any illegal activities since 2011,” said Daniel Taylor, an expert in privacy law.
But Mr. Taylor added, speaking of the tabloids, “There would have been enormous interest in Harry and Meghan, and there is no doubt they would have turned over every stone to make sure they got a competitive edge on their rivals.”
Even as The Sun was printing its early articles about the Harry and Meghan romance, the Sunday Express and other competitors were getting scoops of their own, fanning out across America to talk to anyone remotely connected to Ms. Markle. They staked out houses; they bombarded distant relatives with phone calls; they talked to neighbors; they quoted unnamed “friends” and “pals” of the couple.
Typical of the coverage was an article in The Daily Mail that, loaded with racist innuendo, said that the biracial Ms. Markle was “(Almost) Straight Outta Compton,” and described the L.A. neighborhood where her Black mother lived as full of “tatty one-story homes” and riddled with drugs, guns, gangs and violence.
The Mail article, and the various articles in The Sun, appeared in the first week of November, 2016. Days later, Prince Harry’s office issued an extraordinary statement declaring that Ms. Markle had been “subject to a wave of abuse and harassment” and that “nearly every friend, co-worker and loved one in her life” had been pursued, and in some cases offered money for interviews, by members of the British news media.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska—The U.S. and China prepared to hold the first high-level in-person talks under the Biden administration, with U.S. officials setting a tough tone and rallying allies for leverage against Beijing.
The meeting here between the governments’ senior-most foreign policy officials will stretch over two days, starting Thursday. They will cover an array of friction points—from technology to China’s military muscle-flexing—that in the last year of the Trump administration sent relations between the two powers to their lowest point in decades.
Ahead of the talks, the Biden administration took steps that officials said underscore its intention to sustain a tough-minded approach to China. Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Japan and South Korea to display the strength of U.S. alliances and draw attention to what he called China’s “coercion and aggression” in the region.
The administration this week also sanctioned senior Chinese legislators for Beijing’s crackdown in Hong Kong, and served subpoenas on Chinese companies over national security concerns.
“A big part of the strategy is approaching our relationship with China from a place of strength,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington on Thursday.
China’s foreign ministry has accused the U.S. of spoiling the atmosphere for the talks. “The U.S. side has chosen to speak and act in ways that gravely disappoint China,” ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a news briefing in Beijing on Thursday.
During the talks, Yang Jiechi, a member of the Communist Party ruling body, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi plan to urge Mr. Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan to roll back many of the punitive policies the Trump administration put in place on Chinese entities and individuals, according to people with knowledge of the plans.
Given the tensions, both sides have low-balled expectations for the meeting, with both agreeing on the importance of talking face-to-face and looking to stem a further deterioration in ties. The U.S. and Chinese senior officials don’t plan to release a joint statement following the talks, according to U.S. officials.
The last high-level in-person meeting took place more than eight months ago during the Trump administration, when conflict was spreading across the breadth of relations—on trade, technology, human rights, the Covid-19 pandemic and China’s aggressive actions toward Taiwan and other neighbors.
Relations have remained tense since, though Beijing has hoped that the Biden administration would prove more predictable, if not more manageable, than its predecessor.
At the least, Beijing has cast the meeting as a chance to dial down the rancor after the Trump administration’s efforts to curtail China’s global influence and portray the Communist Party as a threat to the rest of the world.
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“Even if we cannot work things out anytime soon, such exchange of views will help boost trust and dispel misgivings,” Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, the Communist Party leadership’s No. 2 official, said at a news conference last week.
The Biden administration has portrayed the meeting as a venue to air divisive issues. On the U.S. list, according to a senior administration official, are China’s mass incarceration and surveillance of Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region, its clampdown in Hong Kong and the Chinese military’s stepped-up military activities around Taiwan—all issues Beijing has said are internal affairs that the U.S. should not meddle in.
Expectations, however, look mismatched on hoped-for outcomes. Beijing has billed the talks as a “high-level strategic dialogue,” a term applied to periodic discussions started under President George W. Bush, expanded under President Barack Obama and then scotched by President Donald Trump as a counterproductive talk shop in his view.
Messrs. Yang and Wang plan to propose a new framework for recurring, annual discussions between the governments on economic, security and other issues, according to the people with knowledge of the plans.
The Biden administration has preemptively said “no.” “This really is a one-off meeting,” a senior administration official told reporters this week. “This is not the resumption of a particular dialogue mechanism or the beginning of a dialogue process.”
President Biden and his senior officials have said they will take a firm approach toward China, competing for global influence while cooperating on areas like climate change or the pandemic if it makes sense. A reliance on allies, as displayed on Mr. Blinken’s travels to Tokyo and Seoul along with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, is central to the strategy.
Both Mr. Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping are confronting domestic issues that give each a reason to limit confrontation, according to foreign policy specialists. Mr. Biden wants his administration to concentrate foremost on the pandemic and strengthening the economic recovery.
Meanwhile, the Republican opposition aims to elevate China as a critical policy issue to challenge Mr. Biden, and American public opinion about China has grown negative along with tensions between the governments.
Mr. Xi faces a pivotal phase in his nearly decadelong rule of the Communist Party. His leadership team is preparing to celebrate the party’s centenary in July, host the Winter Olympics early next year and consolidate China’s economic recovery ahead of a party congress later next year, when Mr. Xi is expected to seek a third term as leader.
While Mr. Xi and other officials have in recent months played up perceptions that “the East is rising and the West is declining,” citing the Communist Party’s perceived superiority in governance, they have also warned that the U.S. remains a potent long-term threat to Chinese interests and urged party members to be on guard.
“From China’s perspective, they really hope that China-U.S. relations can be reset, but from Biden’s perspective, there’s almost no possibility of this,” said Zhu Feng, a professor of international relations at Nanjing University.
Regardless of Beijing’s wishes, Mr. Trump brought lasting changes in how Washington deals with China, said Mr. Zhu: “Treating China as a major threat and rival is a matter of bipartisan consensus in the U.S.”
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MEXICO CITY — The Biden administration has been quietly pressing Mexico to curb the stream of migrants coming to the United States, urging it to take in more families being expelled by American authorities and to step up enforcement at its southern border with Guatemala, according to Mexican officials and others briefed on the discussions.
President Biden has moved quickly to dismantle some of former President Trump’s signature immigration policies, halting construction of a border wall, stopping the swift expulsion of children at the border and proposing a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants in the United States.
But he is clinging to a central element of Mr. Trump’s agenda: relying on Mexico to restrain a wave of people making their way to the United States.
Anticipating a surge of migrants and the most apprehensions by American agents at the border in two decades, Mr. Biden asked President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico in a video call this month whether more could be done to help solve the problem, according to Mexican officials and another person briefed on the conversation.
one of the world’s deadliest coronavirus epidemics, would be buoyed by a shipment of doses south.
“Both governments cooperate on the basis of an orderly, safe and regular migration system,” Roberto Velasco, director general for the North America region at Mexico’s foreign ministry, said in a statement, referring to the engagement between the two countries on migration and vaccines.
But he said there was no quid pro quo for vaccines: “These are two separate issues, as we look for a more humane migratory system and enhanced cooperation against COVID-19, for the benefit of our two countries and the region.”
wielded the threat of tariffs against all Mexican goods unless migration was curbed — may have flagged in the waning months of the Trump administration.
From October through December of last year, the number of Central Americans apprehended by Mexico declined, while detentions by American agents increased, according to Mexican government numbers and data compiled by The Washington Office on Latin America, a research organization that advocates for human rights.
“The likelihood of the outgoing Trump administration threatening tariffs again was low, so there was an incentive for Mexico to go back to its default state of low apprehensions,” said Adam Isacson, an expert on border security at The Washington Office on Latin America.
The Biden administration’s appeal to do more against migration has put Mexico in a difficult position. While Mr. Trump strong-armed Mexico into militarizing the border, some Mexican officials argue that his harsh policies may have at times helped lessen their load by deterring migrants from attempting to make the journey north.
signaling that the United States is more welcoming to migrants.
“They get to look like the good guys and the Mexicans look like the bad guys,” said Cris Ramón, an immigration consultant based in Washington, D.C.
“All the positive humanitarian policies are being done by the Biden administration. ” Mr. Ramón added, “and then the Mexicans are left with the dirty work.”
Mr. López Obrador is also trying to find a way of increasing capacity to house migrants in shelters, which are bursting at the seams. In a Tuesday statement, the secretary for homeland security, Alejandro Mayorkas, said he was “working with Mexico to increase its capacity to receive expelled families.”
A Mexican law that went into effect in January prohibits the authorities from holding migrant families and children in detention centers, and the lack of space in shelters has become a major problem.
“Shelters are at a near collapse,” said Enrique Valenzuela, a lead coordinator for the government of Chihuahua state’s migration efforts.
Local officials in Chihuahua and shelter operators say that coordination has broken down between Mexican and American authorities. During the last years of the Trump administration, American officials would notify their Mexican counterparts before expelling migrants across the border and would orchestrate the crossings at a handful of well-staffed border checkpoints, they say.
Under the Biden administration, they say, Customs and Border Patrol agents now deposit migrants at some of the most obscure, understaffed checkpoints, leaving their Mexican counterparts scrambling when they discover dozens of migrants walking in from the United States.
Local government officials in Ciudad Juárez and shelter operators say Mexico is dialing up operations to capture and deport migrants along the northern border. On a near daily basis, two of them said, Mexican authorities are stopping vans stuffed with families and pickup trucks carrying livestock — along with migrants crouching on the floor to avoid detection.
Part of the reason Mexico is willing to continue cracking down is that, despite being a country that has long sent people north, there is a lot of resentment toward Central American migrants.
“The level of negative attitudes that we have toward migrant flows has gone up, so there won’t be a political cost” for Mr. López Obrador, said Tonatiuh Guillén, who ran Mexico’s National Migration Institute in the first half of 2019. “But with Trump, we negotiated nothing — we gave them a lot and they didn’t give us anything back,” he added, arguing that the strategy should be different with Mr. Biden.
Despite the very public tensions with Mexico under Mr. Trump, Mr. López Obrador has been wary of the Biden administration, concerned that it might be more willing to interfere on domestic issues like labor rights or the environment.
Instead, several Mexican officials say, his government has pushed the United States to deter Central Americans from migrating by sending humanitarian aid to Honduras and Guatemala in the wake of two hurricanes that devastated those countries and, many experts believe, pushed even more people to migrate.
Mexican officials have also asked the United States to send more Hondurans and Guatemalans apprehended in the United States directly to their home countries, rather than releasing them to Mexico, making it even harder for them to try to cross the border again.
While the negotiations over migration may be on a separate track from Mexico’s request for surplus vaccines from the United States, the need for them in Mexico is clear.
About 200,000 people have died in Mexico from the virus — the third highest death toll in the world — and the country has been relatively slow to vaccinate its population. That poses a potential political risk for Mr. López Obrador, whose party is heading into crucial elections in June that will determine whether the president hangs onto control of the legislature.
“Mexico needs cooperation from the U.S. in getting its economy jump-started and getting vaccines to get out of the health crisis,” said Andrew Selee, president of the Migration Policy Institute in Washington. “So there’s room for the two countries to reach agreements based on aligned interests rather than overt threats.”
Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Michael D. Shear contributed reporting from Washington, D.C.
Those political considerations rippled across the continent in recent days after someone in Austria who had been given the AstraZeneca vaccine died after developing blood clots. An unremarkable event, it nevertheless prompted that country in early March to stop using a batch of that vaccine. Other countries soon followed suit, raising an alarm about any new reports of blood clotting, rare as they may have been.
In recent days, Spain’s health minister, Carolina Dorias, spoke to her counterparts around the continent, according to an official from the ministry, who asked not to be named because the discussions were private. There was a case of thrombosis detected in Spain last weekend, and some regions had stopped distributing a batch of AstraZeneca vaccines, amid safety concerns.
But the chief motivation was political.
France, too, appeared to bow to pressure to act in unison with its powerful neighbors. It had been relying on the AstraZeneca vaccine to catch up on vaccinations after its glacial start, and Olivier Véran, France’s health minister, had said only days ago said there was “no reason to suspend.”
But after Germany made its intentions clear — and public — Mr. Macron had a choice between following suit or being an outlier. And so on Tuesday, Mr. Véran changed his tune. France, he told Parliament, had to “listen to Europe, listen to all the European countries.”
That was the sort of thing Mr. Speranza, Italy’s health minister, expected might happen after he spoke with his counterpart in Germany, in a discussion recounted by an Italian official with knowledge of it.
When Mr. Speranza brought the issue to Prime Minister Draghi, he noted the unbearable public pressure Italy would face if it alone used a vaccine considered too dangerous for Europe.
Mr. Draghi, a champion of European unity, checked in with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, and with Mr. Speranza decided to suspend AstraZeneca until Europe’s medicines agency gave it the all clear.
Health authorities and scientists threw their weight behind AstraZeneca PLC’s Covid-19 vaccine, but beleaguered European governments that have suspended its use defended their caution.
The European Union’s medicines regulator said Tuesday that the benefits of using AstraZeneca’s vaccine outweigh possible risks, after similar comments Monday by the World Health Organization, despite reports that some people who had received it suffered blood clots and several of them had died.
Germany, France, Italy and Spain on Monday temporarily stopped giving the shots, further slowing the EU’s already sluggish vaccine rollout and threatening the vaccine’s public credibility.
The EU’s European Medicines Agency is assessing information on the vaccine and the blood-clot cases. It plans to report its findings on Thursday.
Politicians in many EU countries that have been battered by the coronavirus pandemic, its resulting economic shock and recent problems launching vaccination campaigns said they are acting from an abundance of caution.
“The governments are waiting for EMA’s opinion on Thursday and we are confident that the elements will emerge to reassure people and allow us to restart the vaccinations,” said Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza on Tuesday. “This process should increase people’s confidence” in the AstraZeneca vaccine, he said.
But others see danger in politicians’ caution and vacillating positions on a vaccine that is vital to European efforts to stanch the pandemic.
EMA Executive Director Emer Cooke said Tuesday she was “still firmly convinced” of the vaccine’s benefits.
“Trust in the safety and efficacy of the vaccines that we have authorized is paramount for us,” Ms. Cooke said. “We are worried there may be an effect on the trust of the vaccines.”
Denmark, Norway and Iceland last week suspended the vaccine’s use but pressure on politicians rose Monday after a recommendation by the Paul Ehrlich Institute, Germany’s medicines regulator, to suspend the vaccine’s rollout pending further investigation.
Institute President Klaus Cichutek defended the recommendation, saying his experts identified seven cases in Germany of cerebral vein thrombosis, a severe brain condition. Three of those people died, which he said justified the pause.
Six of the seven patients were women, and all were between 20 and 50 years old, the institute added. More than 1.6 million people got the vaccine in Germany.
“I think the citizens want to be able to trust that the vaccines we offer are safe and efficient,” Prof. Cichutek said in a televised interview. He said his experts and EU authorities want to determine whether evidence indicates a random statistical fluctuation or a link to the vaccine.
“ ‘We are worried there may be an effect on the trust of the vaccines.’ ”
— Emer Cooke, executive director, European Medicines Agency
Germany’s healthcare ministry said that based on the number of vaccinations given it would have expected as many as 1.4 cases of cerebral vein thrombosis, and the seven cases merited a pause. The ministry acknowledged that other medication, such as birth-control pills, caused similar complications and that there could be benefit in continuing vaccination despite the possible severe side effects.
Continental politicians’ caution contrasts with the approach of the U.K., which recently left the EU, and where AstraZeneca developed the vaccine with scientists from University of Oxford. The U.K. has inoculated a greater proportion of its population than almost any large economy, primarily with more than 11 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, the U.K.’s medicines regulator, said Tuesday the frequency of clots among those vaccinated is no different from what would be expected in the absence of vaccination.
An agency spokeswoman said 30 instances of blood clots among those vaccinated with the AstraZeneca shot were reported through last month, and 38 among those receiving the Pfizer Inc. shot.
“Such reports are not proven side effects of the vaccine,” she said. “Blood clots can occur naturally and are not uncommon.”
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The U.K. suffered one of the deadliest Covid-19 outbreaks in Europe, with almost 150,000 known deaths linked to the disease. British scientists and government officials have argued the benefits of vaccination against such a dangerous pathogen almost certainly outweigh any risks, and Britons have been eager to get vaccinated. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government pushed an aggressive vaccination program.
Ragnar Löfstedt, professor of risk management at King’s College London, said that while the U.K. and its European neighbors face different pressures related to public opinion on vaccines in general and AstraZeneca’s in particular, the U.K. appears more willing to trade off risks against potential benefits.
“There are different risk tolerances out there,” he said.
“Europe has become a severely risk-averse continent,” said Andreas Rödder, the chair for Modern and Contemporary History at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. The contrast with vaccination leaders such as Britain and Israel “could not be starker in this pandemic,” he said.
Medical experts voiced concern that what many see as politicians’ excessive caution could undermine their own vaccination campaigns.
“There is a very high risk that people won’t want to take the AstraZeneca vaccine after this, even if EMA comes out with new data saying it is indeed safe,” said Gavino Maciocco, a doctor and professor of public health at the University of Firenze. “We already saw in Italy that some people weren’t showing up for their appointments after a few lots of the AstraZeneca vaccine were suspended last week.”
In France, authorities already faced an uphill battle persuading health workers and other groups to take the AstraZeneca vaccine. The country’s population is among the world’s most skeptical of vaccines. On Tuesday, officials said their pause was just precautionary.
“People are not in danger because they have been vaccinated with AstraZeneca,” said Health Minister Olivier Véran, who is a doctor and posed last month getting his first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine to dispel concerns about it.
Others said such reassurances wouldn’t counteract negative publicity around the vaccine.
“I don’t know examples of medicines that were suspended and then reintroduced that were widely used,” said Jean-Louis Montastruc, head of clinical pharmacology at Toulouse University Hospital and a member of France’s Academy of Medicine.
Some European countries have continued giving the vaccine. “It would be irresponsible to suspend vaccinations with the AstraZeneca vaccine right now,” said Belgium’s health minister, Frank Vandenbroucke, on Monday.
Officials in Australia, India and Egypt have also said they plan to continue using the vaccine. Canada on Tuesday deemed the vaccine safe for adults over age 65, after a scientific review.
—Jason Douglas in London contributed to this article.
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