Mexico has elected a new president in a historic election. Could this mean a possibility for better relationships between the US and Mexico or just a huge disaster?
The presidential election in Mexico was historic in many ways, both positive and negative. Throughout Mexico's history, the elections have been tainted by corruption, fraud, violent atrocities, and even murder. It would be great to say that this is all in the past, but even this Sunday's were affected by various problems. However, even though this election was one of the most violent in the last few decades (more than 130 politicians were murdered in the run-up to July 1st), and there is evidence of coercion and fraud in some states, these problems pale in comparison to the excitement and hope of the people who, for the first time ever, saw the electoral process as a way to show the government that citizens have a voice and that it will be heard.
This election's turnout was the largest in Mexican history, with more than 62% of the electorate going to the polls. 53% chose the leftist candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) to be the next president. This is, as many have called it, an impressive result: he won with the largest percentage of the vote ever. Now, a lot was said during the campaign about him being a populist (even calling him the Hugo Chávez of Mexico) and a stubborn person who won’t take no for an answer (people also called him the Mexican Donald Trump). Though I believe that both assumptions are exaggerated and incorrect, he does have a peculiar and strong personality that can go against what many people would consider the "ideal" personality of a politician. So, the question on many people's mind, and that seems to be a huge concern, is how he is going to navigate the current and not very amicable relationship between Mexico and the US, probably one of the hardest tasks he will face as president.
To start with, all candidates and politicians here in Mexico (even the still president Enrique Peña Nieto) have taken a public stand against Trump’s comments on the country and most of his controversial policies; AMLO wasn’t the exception and since Trump was elected, the Mexican politician has voiced his opinions about the president of the United States. So, it’s no secret that AMLO doesn’t support the POTUS’ political views. While he hasn’t talked on a lot of detail on his plans and position towards the fragile relationship both countries maintain today, he’s been very clear in stating that by no means Mexico will be a subordinate and obedient country to the US. This, after the huge polemic due to the kind of bland attitudes the current president had towards Trump’s first insults and plans (the famous wall is probably the most notorious), became public.
'Mexico will never subordinate'
In an interview last year during a conference in Washington, AMLO said firmly that “Mexico is a free, independent country — not a colony, nor a protectorate. Never will we subordinate ourselves to any foreign government.” Which to be honest is pretty much how the relationship has been conducted for decades. So, throughout the campaign, he was asked constantly what his position would be with the president of the United States and his evidently negative perception of Mexico. In one of the debates, AMLO explained how he planned on conducting this particular relationship. In his own words, he wants “a friendly relationship with the government of the United States, but not one of subordination.”
One of the first foreign dignitaries to recognize AMLO’s victory was actually Donald Trump in a tweet where he claimed to “look very much forward to working with him. There is much to be done that will benefit both the United States and Mexico!” Even on Monday AMLO tweeted that he had had a thirty-minute conversation with Trump in which they agreed to bring some agreements into the conversation and have their representatives deal with them to reach a beneficial one for both countries. So far so good, right? Now, we all know what Trump’s main interests (or issues against) are when it comes to the Mexico/US relationship, and that’s migration and NAFTA are probably the two words (after the Wall) that he’s voiced the most since his campaign. So let’s go through what AMLO has said on those matters so far.
His main political perspective and plans for the country are based on an intense effort to regenerate and strengthen the country from within. As he explained in an article he wrote for the Washington Post (on May 1, 2017), “our objective is to simultaneously attack the root causes of immigration, insecurity, and violence. We are convinced that the true solution to Mexico’s problems is to improve the living conditions of its people”. That means giving the people better life conditions, boosting the fields to have a better national economy and valuable products, improving education in the poorest sectors of the country that have been left behind, and optimizing the security of the country.
As he’s explained the only way to do this in an orderly and effective way is dealing with the corruption that can be found in basically all levels of the country. By cutting the expenses of all that corruption takes from the economy, annulling the millionaire pensions ex-presidents get and cutting his salary to half, he believes that money can be used for these urgent matters like health, education, security, and economy. In this way, as AMLO explained in the tweet I mentioned before, he’s proposing an integral agreement with different development projects to increase the number of jobs in Mexico that will reduce migration. At the same time, he believes that by doing so, it will improve security and reduce the number of people who end up joining drug cartels as a desperate move to gain money.
Growth and development
As you can see, according to what he’s explained throughout his campaign and actually at both his public speeches yesterday after being declared the winner of the election, his government will focus on the development and growth of Mexico making it the solution not only for internal matters but also the international clashes that we’ve been experiencing in the last decades. He’s been very clear that he won’t let any country treat Mexico as an inferior nation or treat it with disrespect. In other words, he’s declared that he won’t be a passive president when it comes to defending the country, but that this doesn’t mean that Mexico can’t have a peaceful and cordial relationship, especially when it comes to our northern neighbor and his very aggressive attitudes towards our country.
So far, it’s just been a conversation and some tweets, we’ll really have to wait for their teams to start working to know if both their strong characters will be able to reconcile in a benefit for both countries, but so far, I think he’s tackled the elephant in the room in quite a smart way. There’s no doubt that he has a very difficult job ahead especially when he made a lot of commitments to the people, but there’s hope in that he will represent a change in the institutions and the overall country, and this might also mean more healthy and well structured international policies that can be beneficial for both Mexico and the US. We’ll see.
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