Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Thursday suggested the U.S. government could offer temporary work visas and eventually citizenship to those who take part in a vast tree planting program he hopes to expand to Central America.
In remarks at the White House virtual climate summit, Lopez Obrador said that Mexico aimed to expand his administration's signature "Sembrando Vida," or "Sowing Life," program to Central America, which he said is planting 700,000 trees.
Calling it "possibly the largest reforestation effort in the world," Lopez Obrador said the program aims to create 1.2 million jobs and plant an additional 3 billion trees through expansion into southeastern Mexico and Central America.
Lopez Obrador said U.S. President Joe Biden "could finance" the program's extension to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
"I add a complementary proposal, with all due respect, the U.S. government could offer those who participate in this program that after sowing their lands for three consecutive years, they would have the possibility to obtain a temporary work visa," Lopez Obrador said.
"And after another three or four years, they could obtain residency in the United States or dual nationality," he added.
Lopez Obrador, who has faced criticism over his pro-fossil fuel energy policy, said Mexico is modernizing its hydroelectric plants to reduce the use of oil and coal in the production of electricity.
"The energy produced with water is clean and cheap, which is why we have decided to change old turbines for modern equipment, which will allow us to take advantage of the water from the reservoirs to produce more energy without building new dams and without causing any damage," he said.
Since taking office in December 2018, Lopez Obrador has prioritized the health of Mexico's state-owned energy behemoth Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) over wind and solar.
The president says renewable energy companies were given excessively generous contracts by previous administrations, and argues that Mexico's contribution to reducing climate gases in its energy mix will come from hydroelectricity and tree planting.
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