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(CNN) - The commander walks in front of a line of troops, preparing them for the mission of the day.
“We are in our country. We are in Mexico. We are enforcing our laws, ”he says, his voice becomes stronger with every point he makes.
"No one will come here to trample our laws," he continues. "No one will come to trample our country, our land."
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Shortly after, according to local media reports, the Mexican National Guard military police blocked a large group of migrants in Tuzantán, Mexico, who had been trying to head north. The caravan, consisting of thousands of migrants in much of Africa, Central America and the Caribbean, was dissolved and sent to an immigration detention camp in southern Mexico.
A video of the October 12 operation went viral and caused a mix of reactions in Mexico, adding new fuel to the arguments of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's critics.
They argue that Mexico built the border wall of the president of the United States, Donald Trump, after all, not with concrete, bricks or steel, but with thousands of federal forces such as this commander dressed in camouflage and the troops following his orders.
And, they argue, Mexico is paying it.
Migrants confront members of the National Guard near Tuzantán, Chiapas, on October 12, 2019. (AP Photo / Isabel Mateos)
Trump: 'Mexico is showing us great respect'
Yes, US taxpayers have been paying the bill for efforts to build new physical barriers on the border between the United States and Mexico.
But experts point out that the massive deployment of National Guard troops in Mexico in recent months has played an important role in blocking immigrants so they don't reach the U.S. border. It is a point that Trump himself has pointed out in several recent events: a dramatic change in the tone of his strong criticisms of Mexico earlier this year.
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"I would like to thank President López Obrador of Mexico for the great cooperation we are receiving, and for now put 27,000 soldiers on our southern border," Trump told the United Nations General Assembly last month. "Mexico is showing us great respect, and I respect them in return."
A few days later, Trump told reporters he was "using Mexico to protect our border" because the Democrats were not doing enough to fix the immigration system.
And last week, the interim head of US Customs and Border Protection, Mark Morgan, praised Mexico on Twitter and shared a story about the October 12 operation to reverse the last caravan.
"Mexico's enhanced border security efforts along its southern border continue to have a dramatic impact on this regional crisis," he wrote. "I just returned from Mexico, where we had collaborative discussions to stop the flow of illegal migration throughout the region."
Not everyone praises the greatest collaboration.
The recent video of the National Guard's response to the caravan of migrants from Central America and Africa caused a negative reaction in social networks.
"We criticize Trump for his anti-immigrant stance and our National Guard is doing exactly the same thing," tweeted Mexican columnist Denise Dresser, who criticized the troops' response to migrants in the past.
In a recent column in The New York Times, titled "Mexico is the wall," Univision host Jorge Ramos said Trump's comments that "he was using Mexico" had irritated many Mexicans.
“It's true: President Trump is using Mexico. And, against all logic, Mexico is allowing it, ”he wrote. "This has to change."
Thousands of troops deployed
When asked to respond to claims that Mexico is effectively paying for the wall that Trump wanted, Foreign Ministry spokesman Roberto Velasco told CNN that migration flows have declined significantly in recent months, and that Efforts continue for a regional development plan to address the root causes of migration in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
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"The number of migrants presented to the Mexican authorities has decreased by 70% from June to September," he said.
The decline, he wrote in a recent letter to the editor published in the newspaper El Universal de México, came as a result of Mexican legislative efforts and a push to strengthen the rule of law in southern Mexico.
When the Trump administration threatened to impose tariffs, Mexican officials agreed in June to intensify the application of their country's immigration law.
López Obrador has said he had no choice but to negotiate.
"We represent our country with dignity and we have nothing to be ashamed of," he said in September. “The sovereignty of Mexico is defended. At the same time, we don't want confrontation. We have an open and frank hand extended to all the governments of the world, and we embrace all the peoples of the world, and we are especially interested in a good relationship with the United States. ”
Nearly 15,000 soldiers are deployed on the northern border of Mexico, where they have established 20 control points, said Mexican Defense Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval last week at a press conference on the country's security strategy. On the southern border, 12,000 soldiers are deployed and have established 21 control points.
Military helicopters regularly conduct aerial surveys in both border regions, he said. So far, Cresencio said, more than 60,000 migrants have been intercepted as part of the effort.
An immigrant takes care of a child surrounded by the National Guard (AP Photo / Isabel Mateos)
At the same press conference, officials said the number of migrants seeking asylum in Mexico has increased dramatically, and about 80,000 asylum applications are expected by the end of this year.
Authorities also promoted the first transatlantic deportation flight from Mexico last week. A charter flight with more than 300 Indian citizens aboard flew from Toluca, Mexico, to New Delhi, the National Migration Institute of Mexico said on Wednesday.
'The message on the ground'
Analysts told CNN that the video of Mexican authorities' efforts to block the recent caravan is a revealing window of how Mexico's changing policies are being developed.
"The message given is that Mexico is not interested in protecting the people who need it," says Gretchen Kuhner, director of the Institute for Women in Migration, a Mexican defense organization. "The message given by this general is not the official message of the government, but it explains very well what the message is on the ground."
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Ana María Salazar, former deputy secretary of defense of the United States, who is now a security analyst based in Mexico, says the images of the operation illustrate the concerns of critics when the National Guard of Mexico was formed and quickly deployed this year .
“This is someone who was trained to protect national sovereignty, not someone who manages migrants. And these are the concerns of forming a National Guard so hastily, ”he said. “You cannot expect that from one day to the next, a soldier trained to protect the territory against the enemies of the State will now be responsible for people who try to cross the country illegally. These are very different missions and this is reflected in the images and in what the commander says. ”
Somehow, says Salazar, López Obrador is doing what Trump asks when it comes to the handling of migrants by his Government. Such a strict application of immigration along the southern border of Mexico had not been seen before, he adds.
But Salazar says that López Obrador, unlike his predecessors, has "so much credibility in Mexico that he can bear the political costs of this decision."
In the past, he says, presidents would have been attacked for taking such measures, and international pressure would have increased.
"That pressure, which was there for the old Mexican governments," she says, "has been extremely silent on the decisions of this government."
In fact, public opinion towards migrants in Mexico also seems to be changing.
A survey conducted by The Washington Post and the Mexican newspaper Reforma during the summer showed that a large majority of Mexicans felt that the increase in migration across the country from Central America was a burden on Mexico's economy and services . Just over half favored the deportation of more migrants.
Natalie Gallón of CNN reported from Mexico City. Catherine E. Shoichet of CNN reported from Washington. Rey Rodriguez of CNN in Spanish contributed to this report.
CaravanDonald TrumpWall with Mexico