Relations between Mexico and Washington have been strained for three weeks, ahead of a visit by US Vice President Kamala Harris. The latest blow to the bilateral agenda is a qualitative change in the tone used by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to demand that the Joe Biden administration suspend economic support for certain civil society organizations. Referring to the support of the USAID Cooperation Organization, an independent organization affiliated with the State Department, for voluntary organizations such as Mexicanos Contra la Corupsion o la Immunidat, the President stressed that “they take time.” The most recent example of relations is that if the language of diplomacy qualifies as “institutionalized” and “fluid,” it is actually undermined by many tensions.
Harris will travel to neighboring Guatemala, one of the major challenges at the beginning of the Biden era of the migration crisis in Central America. But the border is one of the open ends with Washington. In addition to that crisis are trade crises, different criteria of strategy to combat drug trafficking and security policy, economic reforms promoted by Lopez Obrador and concerns about investors, cooperation in dealing with the corona virus epidemic and now interference.
The president was one of the last leaders to recognize Pita. He did so almost 40 days after the Democratic victory, when his opponent, Donald Trump, tried to challenge him without proof. The first meeting between the two, almost in early March, ended with a deliberately optimistic balance in one part of Mexico, highlighting the relationship between national sovereignty and proven respect for one of the government’s mantras. The fourth change is called. However, this exaggeration clashes with reality and this equivalent treatment is fraught with holes, with some decisions by Mexican officials contradicting Washington’s weight and regional agenda in every negotiation, especially in economic matters.
Despite ideological differences, Lopez Obrador reached an active relationship with Trump and now has an institutional relationship, protected by Foreign Ministry sources. In fact, the Mexican president bowed to US threats and complied with its strict immigration guidelines to avoid a tariff war. The change of management opened the door to searching for a relationship in accordance with certain values of Morena’s executive, self-styled on the left. But beyond the general mood of the communications, there has been much less explosion in recent months than the Republican president occupying the White House, and there have been a number of conflicts and disagreements.
“There is a difference between what the two governments want and the reality on the ground. Both Biden and Lopez Obrador want to pursue the same Trump plan,” Secretary of State George G. Costasida, between 2000 and 2003, assesses during the Vincent Fox (Bon) government, now a New York University professor. Broadly speaking, Mexico was doing its worst job for the United States, for example, blocking the entry of immigrants, but the Biden government was different, and his administration included important progressive sentiments and belonged to traditional organizations such as unions, activists, large corporations, and the DEA. They have an agenda that has a collective effect: “They will not allow Biden to be blind to everything they consider his shortcomings in Mexico.”
Thus, all of a sudden, in two days, last week the United States registered two requirements under the Trade Agreement with the United States and Canada, T-MEC. These are two complaints related to trade union corruption and labor rights violations in the states of Guanajuato and Tamaulipas. Complaints of this kind, Kenneth Smith, chief negotiator of the agreement, reminded EL PAÍS that sanctions may be imposed when a violation is determined by the respondent country. One of them was presented by the Confederation of Trade Unions, the largest American trade union, and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO, in English). Thea Lee, the former leader of the union, is today the person appointed by Fidel to oversee the implementation of the trade agreement. Added to that are concerns raised openly Monday at a meeting between business representatives from three North American countries created by Lopez Obrador’s energy reform package. The plan to strengthen state-owned enterprises such as PEMEX or the Federal Electricity Authority (CFE) against private efforts is paralyzed in the courts today, but it has already had an impact on the investment climate.
Since Mexico is a major trading partner of the United States, more interest is invested in companies in this sector than in China. However, there is a definite ideological path behind these conclusions. The Mexican president says the best foreign policy is domestic policy, which is forced by circumstances to make a major diplomatic move, and always does so at the local level. Defending sovereignty is the implicit task of every government, not only explicitly stating its legislative agenda, but also its discourse and international relations. In other words, it is a tool to confront your opponents and live in a permanent campaign. “Lopez Obrador always talks about sovereignty,” recalled Duncan Wood, vice president of the Wilson Center in Washington. In his view, this could be the source of a structural conflict between the two countries. For example, Mexico last week complained about the conditions of migrant workers in the agricultural sector in response to US demands. Although Economic Secretary Tatiana Clutier described the problems as a “legal stalemate”, they were attributed to the private sector and not to public administration.
But bilateral discussions will touch on essential issues such as security beyond energy, investment and trade. “There are so many open ends like drug trafficking that they don’t care much for Trump,” Costasida continues. Now the tables have changed. Detained in Los Angeles and handed over to former Secretary of Defense Salvador Sean Foucault, accused by the DEA of involvement in drug trafficking, the war ended in waters after the Mexican prosecutor’s office acquitted him of all charges. This decision, which took place before January, has already contributed to the breakdown of relations.
Last week, Biden’s ambassador to Latin America, Juan Gonzalez, met with Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrader and addressed an agenda such as “reducing arms and drug trafficking, reducing violence caused by organized crime and tackling drugs.” And attack the funds of criminal organizations operating in both countries. ”
Foreign Ministry sources agree that the strategy pursued in the past will not work. “During the Pena Nieto government, they arrested 120 of the most important drug lords, of whom El Chapo Guzman fell. Violence has not stopped, so that is not enough,” they say. Mexico, now proposes a broader concept of security. Gonzalez described the meeting as a “productive meeting to develop collective action for common vision and security.” However, the good voice of the crowd came in the wake of harsh statements by former US ambassador to Mexico Christopher Lando, who weeks ago accused Lopez of being inactive in front of the cartels and pursuing a “liberating attitude”. Very serious issue for Washington.
Aiming for the arrival of Kamala Harris in Mexico after the June 6 election, the country’s government is also making a series of demands on Washington. First, it maintains pressure to increase investment in Central America to mitigate humanitarian emergencies, particularly in Honduras and Guatemala. The two administrations have different visions of cooperation because the provision of public funds by the United States depends on the performance of the beneficiary countries and the utilization of those resources. In other words, this is a final aid. Mexico, on the other hand, is in favor of a direct distribution.
“Ms Harris is not going to meet with any civil society group in Mexico. There are many who are looking for her, especially women, but she is not going to do it because Lopez Obrador is angry and does not want to let Honduran inside, ”Costasida warns. In addition, the northern border again occupies a large number of Mexico. The number of arrests is the highest in three years, with more than 320,000 migrants since last October. This is a direct result of the crisis caused by the epidemic, but it also reflects the instability of local economic policy.
Another claim of the Lopez Obrador government is that it should be done by vaccinating against Govt-19. The immunization campaign is advancing with forced marches, and the neighboring country to the north, which already comprises 40% of the population, has already delivered nearly three million to Mexico. However, the authorities are seeking more cooperation. President Ebrard has been the designer of a strategy precisely called “vaccine diplomacy.” In addition to Washington, it has the support of China, Russia, India and Spain. To a large extent, all tensions with the United States did not lead to an open confrontation with Biden, as many had predicted.
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