“Faced with the crisis, the solution isn’t in conservatism but in transformation. To act boldly, to transform the situation, not to maintain the status quo”.President Andrés Manuel López Obrador
By David Raby
Mexico’s president has been very active recently on the diplomatic front. Having led the way in the decision of several Latin American and Caribbean leaders not to attend the Los Angeles “Summit of the Americas” in protest at the exclusion of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, he has also reiterated Mexico’s support for Julian Assange and its offer to grant him asylum.
While condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he also criticises Western sanctions and arms supplies as “immoral”, reaffirming Mexico’s strict policy of non-intervention.
But AMLO does not want confrontation, and insists that despite their differences Mexico and the US have good relations.
Hence his decision to visit Washington for the second time in eight months for personal talks with President Biden.
Arriving on the evening of July 11, the Mexican delegation had a full agenda of meetings on July 12 & 13. It is clear from the joint press conference at the Oval Office that it was to a large extent AMLO who set the agenda.
Biden opened with a brief statement to the effect that the two countries have a good relationship despite headlines to the contrary, and (an important declaration), “We see Mexico as an equal”.
AMLO spoke at much greater length and began by referring to Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) and the “Good Neighbor Policy” which saw the US accept the Mexican oil expropriation of 1938 under Lázaro Cárdenas.
During the Second World War FDR also accepted the need for a legal programme of migrant labour with the 1943 Bracero agreement, which – said AMLO – was not so different from what we propose today.
The Mexican President proposed a five-point agenda, beginning with a couple of generous offers: (1) as the price of petrol at the pumps is currently lower in Mexico than in the US, restrictions on US drivers filling up south of the border will be lifted; (2) Mexico will make available its gas pipelines in the border area to facilitate pumping natural gas from Texas to California; (3) tariffs on trade in foodstuffs should temporarily be lifted to fight inflation; (4) a joint plan for public and private investment in productive facilities to promote self-sufficiency in both countries, with particular focus on energy supplies, both conventional and renewable (and here he pointedly mentioned Mexico’s decision to nationalise lithium, for which he did not apologise); and (5) an organised migration plan for both Mexicans and Central Americans, to permit access to decent jobs as in Biden’s big infrastructure projects; and recognised status for 11 million undocumented Mexican migrants who have been working for years in the US.
The Joint Communiqué which followed emphasised robust actions to control inflation; Mexico to buy large amounts of fertilisers (for small farmers) and powdered milk at favourable prices; joint investments in strategic areas such as semiconductors and IT; joint actions against trafficking in arms, drugs and human beings; and recognition of the need for development aid for Central America and southern Mexico to address the root causes of migration.
Greater regional integration was necessary, but without hegemony or domination.
Never has it been clearer that the main obstacle to further advance in bilateral cooperation is congressional opposition to Biden’s agenda, fuelled by the media and by powerful financial interests.
AMLO´s final advice to Biden was very clear: “Faced with the crisis, the solution isn’t in conservatism but in transformation. To act boldly, to transform the situation, not to maintain the status quo”.
The reaction to AMLO’s initiative from progressive sectors in Latin America is overwhelmingly positive. President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela declared that it is “historic, that’s how I see it…the solid, clear, diplomatic, firm position” of the Mexican leader. “And we have to recognise that if President [AMLO] speaks of relations between the United States and Mexico, he is speaking of the relations between the United States and all of Latin America: a position of dignity, which we recognise publicly and applaud, of the President of Mexico, the President of Dignity, the President of Truth…”
Similar praise came from French left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon who was visiting Mexico. Asked for his reaction to such praise by an independent Mexican journalist, AMLO simply thanked Maduro and Mélenchon for their comments and said that fortunately there are several very good leaders in Latin America, such as Argentine President Alberto Fernández, Bolivian President Luis Arce, and Lula, who we hope soon to see in power in Brazil.
- David Raby is an Emeritus Professor of Latin American Studies at Toronto University and a former Senior Visiting Fellow in Latin American Studies at the University of Liverpool.
- David has written for a number of publications on social movements across Latin America, with a focus on AMLO’s transformation agenda in Mexico since 2019. You can follow him on twitter here or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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