President Andrés Manuel López Obrador suggested that the United States should offer work visas to workers taking part in his new reforestation program.
Under the suggested plan, laborers who have worked in the program for at least three years would be able to apply for a special temporary work visa to the United States. After a few years, the visa would extend into permanent residence and eventually lead to US citizenship.
The reforestation initiative known as “Sembrando Vida,” or “Sowing Life,” seeks to plant over 3 billion trees and generate 1.2 million jobs.
Many critics of the President have mocked the idea which they refer to as a “visas for plants scheme.”
Sembrando Vida has become very popular in underdeveloped rural communities such as Kopoma in Yucatán. It has “opened up new possibilities to survive,” said a local farmer, Roberto Cocom Caamal.
The program is already active in over 884 municipalities in 20 Mexican states and has created 420,256 jobs, according to the programs official website.
Described as “possibly the largest reforestation effort in the world,” the Mexican President hopes to grow the program into Central America with financing from the United States.
“We will take on the responsibility for the program within Mexico, but the Biden administration would be financing the program in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador,” said president López Obrador.
The administration of United States President Joe Biden is yet to formally respond to the request, but most analysts consider the proposal to be a long-shot.
Opposition leaders from the PRI and PAN have been quick to point out that funds for Sembrando Vida have come from cutbacks to Mexico’s national parks, reserves and biospheres, as well as existing development programs and environmental services.
“Sembrando Vida is an enormous waste of money and human capital. It is clear that what the president is doing here is resorting to old-school Mexican clientelism for electoral purposes. To make things worse his objectives are vague and imposible to measure, it is a complete mess,” said a former presidential candidate, Gabriel Quadri De La Torre.
Critics of the president have expressed frustration over what they perceive as an attempt to “greenwash” his administration.
“It is insane that a president who has done everything in his power to prop up the two most heavily polluting companies in the country (PEMEX and CFE) now wants to paint himself as an environmentalist, it makes me sick to my stomach,” said @JavierLozano on Twitter.