The US and Mexico remain friends for now, but what about when they tackle prickly issues like bilateral communication, drug violence, immigration and Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric?
A lot has changed in the past 5 months. For starters, there’s a new sheriff in town south of the Rio Grande. His name is AMLO (short for Andrés Manuel López Obrador), and he won Mexico’s elections with a whopping 53% in July, 30 points ahead of the frontrunner. Here are four points to keep an eye on for the new Mexico-US bilateral relations.
All is well, but how long will it last?
In a weird and unexpected turn of events, Donald Trump has simultaneously bashed complacent ex-president Enrique Peña Nieto and praised AMLO, who’s been known to show anti-American attitudes in the past. Now, however, both presidents have built a strange, albeit feeble, chemistry. Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State, has met Mexico’s counterpart, Marcelo Ebrard, at least twice since AMLO was elected, and are soon to meet once again this Sunday. Jared Kushner is meeting up with the Mexican Secretary and his team on Monday. This seems to signal that “all is well” with US-Mexico relations, and a wish to keep the Mexican administration close to the White House. However, the hard parts are yet to come.
For starters, Mexico’s US Embassy remains headless ever since Roberta Jacobson, who’s been outspoken about the chaotic Trump administration, resigned in May 2018. Taking care of this is the first step towards a stable relationship, but who will be the right person for the job to mediate between Trump’s and AMLO’s strong personalities?
As of 2006, the US and Mexico have collaborated to tackle the drug trade. Both countries have built a rapport and trust each other’s strength, as well as structures of prosecution, and a reform for police and courts. Enthusiasm, though, seems to have faded in the past years, and there’s no clear sign of it changing now. But will US-Mexico cooperation in the war on drugs be challenged with shifts in the drug market, that is, the rise of opioids, the high number of heroin-related deaths in the US, and rising homicide rates in Mexico?
If you’ve been living on this planet for the past few months, you’ve probably heard of the migrant caravan fleeing on foot from Central America’s Northern Triangle, a region where El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala’s borders meet in a hot spot of violence. This caravan has already reached the border and has been met with Trump’s deployment of the army, tear gas, and a hostile climate in Mexico.
This is López Obrador’s first test. Up until now he has at least tacitly accepted to take these migrants in, willing to make them seek asylum in Mexico first, thus preventing them from insisting in crossing the border, much to Trump’s satisfaction. He’s also accepted to allow deported migrants to “wait” in Mexico while their situation is assessed in the US.
In exchange, AMLO’s administration is asking for a Latin American “Marshall Plan,” a reference to the economic plan to rebuild Europe after WWII, in which the US would be willing to invest in the creation of jobs in Central America and Mexico and thus make it more attractive to stay rather than migrate to the US.
You could either see this as a master play in diplomacy from AMLO or as willingness to do the US’s dirty work at the expense of the caravan’s Human Rights. In the end, Mexico may very well be paying for Trump’s infamous border wall, even if it’s a literal one.
Trump’s 2020 campaign
In 2020, we’ll probably be back full circle. Much of Trump’s 2016 shock victory could be attributed to his inflammatory comments towards our neighbors south of the border, when he infamously assured Mexico was “sending people that have a lot of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."
These past Midterms, Trump seized on the controversy of the migrant caravan heading towards the border to create terror propaganda, and, so, there we were again with his customary hate-fueling rhetoric. Immigration will most probably remain an issue for next presidential campaign, and chances are Trump will hit back at Mexico and blame Congress for the finance of his wall, or lack thereof, as a means to light up and secure his base. Will AMLO be as complacent as his predecessor, in favor of avoiding a bigger confrontation, or will he call Trump out and demand respectful treatment for his paisanos?
The road up ahead is full of curves, but alas, time will tell.
Cover picture by Publimetro
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