The pandemic brings Andrés Manul López Obrador and Donald Trump closer

The Pandemic Brings Andrés Manuel López Obrador And Donald Trump Closer

Mexico City – The COVID-19 pandemic could have generated friction between Mexico and the United States, whose rulers are at the opposite end of the political spectrum and face the worst crisis of their administrations.

However, Presidents Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Donald Trump are managing like old friends.

They get along so well that the Mexican president, who has not left the country since he took office almost 18 months ago, is talking about visiting his colleague. Almost no one remembers that less than a year ago Trump threatened to impose high tariffs on Mexico’s exports.

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As a presidential candidate, Trump said that Mexicans crossing the border brought drugs, crime and “major infectious diseases” to the United States. After taking office, he promised to build a wall along the common border and make Mexico pay for it.

But this month Trump described López Obrador as “a very good friend” and praised his “great intelligence.” López Obrador, in turn, described their relationship as “friendship” and said Trump spoke to him “with great affection.”

Both sides avoid the tensions many observers expected and their coincidences regarding the virus crisis seem to respond in part to their desire to revive their economies, sometimes contradicting the recommendations of experts in the field of health.

The warmth between the two generated some benefits to Mexico. To push through an agreement whereby oil-producing countries pledged to cut production, Trump offered to increase cuts in U.S. production because López Obrador said Mexico could not afford to further deplete his own.

On Friday, on the other hand, Trump seemed to do his Mexican colleague a favor. López Obrador said Trump had called him and said he would deliver 1,000 respirators to Mexico by the end of the month, with the option of selling him more.

“It is a new gesture of solidarity with Mexico,” López Obrador wrote on Twitter. “I raised the possibility of meeting in June or July to personally express our gratitude and bear witness to the entry into force of the T-MEC,” he added, referring to a new free trade agreement between the two countries and Canada.

That same day, López Obrador had said at a press conference that Trump “has been respectful of the people and government of Mexico.”

“There is no disqualification to Mexicans as it did previously or there is not in the same intensity,” he said.

On Monday, the United States Department of Homeland Security reached an agreement with Mexico and Canada to continue restricting non-essential travel to the United States for another month. Trump later said in a tweet that he was temporarily suspending immigration to the United States to combat the virus, although, in light of all the other restrictions on immigration, it is unknown who will be affected by the new measure.

“It is clear that there is a high degree of affinity, a surprising degree of affinity, between Trump and López Obrador,” who is willing to “please Trump not only to prevent Trump from speaking ill of Mexico, but also because López Obrador recognizes that You can get support and help where you need it, “said David Shirk, professor of political science at the University of San Diego.

Last year, Mexico signed a new regional free trade pact with the United States and Canada, which was one of Trump’s priorities. López Obrador, who had railed almost daily against the neoliberal legacy of his predecessors – who privatized state companies and weakened unions – accepted the deal.

When migrants seeking asylum in the United States began to overwhelm Americans’ ability to process their applications, Mexico avoided the tariffs Trump threatened by dispatching his new National Guard, which slowed the march of most Central American migrants to the north. The government also allowed the United States to expand its controversial program that forces migrants to wait in Mexico for their asylum claims to be processed in the United States.

The result was that, in practice, Mexico became the one who enforces the immigration policies of the United States in the region.

López Obrador “shows an incredible disposition to conciliation,” said Tony Payán, director of the Center for United States and Mexico of the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. “He’s up against the wall. He has no other way out. Fighting Washington today would only make matters worse. He has no choice but to cooperate with Trump. And I think Trump knows that.”

In the context of the virus emergency, the United States completely closed the southern border to migrants seeking asylum and frequently sends Central Americans and Mexicans back to Mexico.

López Obrador opted for the economic benefit over the welfare of migrants and border cities, according to Shirk. “I interpret this to be a president totally focused on one issue, trying to stimulate a dying Mexican economy.”

The hardening of his positions on migration does not seem to have affected the image of López Obrador among his base, according to Ivonne Acuña Murillo, professor of political science at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City. For her, the real threat her government faces is the pandemic and what she perceives as an organized opposition campaign against her handling of the situation.

“I believe that if we are not in a political crisis, we could enter” one soon, said Acuña. “There is clearly a whole orchestrated strategy to hit the popularity of the president.”

López Obrador often speaks of his “adversaries”, an expression with which he alludes to political sectors, the main communications groups in the country and anyone who questions their policies. He accuses them of trying to take advantage of the pandemic to harm him.

As for López Obrador’s rapprochement with Trump, Acuña also thinks that the Mexican president has no other option.

“During the campaign (presidential, López Obrador) said that if he tweets, I will also tweet,” said Acuña. “Those are things that are said in a campaign. It is not the same to be a candidate than a president … because the United States is still the empire. Trump is still the most powerful politician in the world.”

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