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Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador: Biden avoids controversial issues in talks with Mexican president

It is a sign that Biden is seeking to re-establish relations with the Mexican leader, who has developed a close personal relationship with former President Donald Trump, sources familiar with the content of the appeal told CNN.

In the months following Biden’s election victory, Lopez Obrador, known in Mexico as AMLO, challenged his new counterpart to discuss his relationship with Trump and make controversial political decisions related to security. It will take a huge personal commitment on both sides to achieve a positive relationship between Biden and Lopez Obrador, say people who are closely following the relationship.

“I think the administration, and President Biden in particular, believe in leaving the past. He wants to build a constructive relationship in the future,”

; said former Mexican ambassador to the United States Arturo Saruhan, reflecting on a friendly initial phone call that avoided the most controversial. questions. “But as with most things in life, the saying goes that you need two for tango or two for salsa in this case. And the question is whether Lopez Obrador will want to work with his American counterpart.”

Lopez Obrador was one of the last world leaders to congratulate Biden on his victory, and when they finally spoke during the transition period, the Mexican president openly reiterated to Biden that he had developed a positive relationship with Trump, according to sources familiar with the call.

In contrast, the testimony from the phone call last week seemed soft and friendly. This was Biden’s second call with a world leader after his conversation with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The White House said the two leaders had focused heavily on migration – agreeing to “work closely” to stop illegal immigration – and on coordinating the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It’s a signal that the connection can begin to move in the right direction with this phone call. It’s a vital connection for both sides and it’s important to stabilize the connection,” said Bill Richardson, a former governor of New Mexico.

But there is more than rhetoric that needs to be corrected. Substance and style are also expected to be obstacles.

Lopez Obrador took action that emphasized relations with the United States before Biden took office.

In January, Lopez Obrador unexpectedly announced that his country planned to offer political asylum to Julian Assange. He also welcomed the British court’s ruling rejecting a US request to extradite the founder of US WikiLeaks, “because he is a journalist and deserves a chance.”

“Shot over the nose”

In December, Lopez Obrador signed a security law restricting the presence of American drugs in the country. It was apparently revenge for the United States arresting former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos in Los Angeles in October and accusing him of links to drug trafficking. Following this arrest, he was handed over to the Mexican authorities and on his return to the country the charges were dropped. It was also a decision that could hamper US-Mexico security relations.

“It was a shot in the nose,” Saruhan said, adding that AMLO also recently said it was considering taking action against the United States for allegedly fabricating information in the Cienfuegos investigation. “Now, are you trying to use this as a negotiating point with the incoming Biden administration, or do you just not understand how the relationship works?” This is the question I could not answer. Like so many things in life can be a combination of both. “

Joyful Biden begins foreign diplomacy with the phone

Aspects of the security of the connection and the future of Trump’s border wall did not appear in the initial conversation between the two, according to testimony and sources familiar with the appeal, who added that it was unclear when the more difficult issues would be addressed. But they all agree that these problems cannot be avoided.

“The general concern is that the incredibly necessary and strategic relationship between intelligence, security and law enforcement between the two countries must be on a secure footing,” Saruhan said. “I think the administration needs to send this message clearly that after 9/11, it’s not just about drugs, but much more from the point of view of common security documents.”

Immigration is an area where the two leaders are expected to work together. As a result of the devastating casualties that the coronavirus pandemic has engulfed Latin America, thousands of immigrants are heading to the US border. Lopez Obrador said they were closely monitoring the situation when a migrant caravan was moving to the United States from Central America.

But synchronizing the two leaders on all issues can be a challenge.

Biden, who is known for being able to establish close personal relationships with world leaders, will be tasked with developing a personal relationship with Lopez Obrador, whose leadership style does not reflect his.

Wrinkling will be required

“You build the relationship because it’s so important. Biden is a very good personal politician, as is Lopez Obrador. They’re good guys,” said Richardson, who also added that “there will be differences.”

The two leaders do not share the same bombastic and transactional style of governing, and Lopez Obrador is a populist who has built a political brand on his own cult of personality, prompting him to ally himself with Trump.

When he visited DC last fall, Lopez Obrador praised Trump for his “understanding and respect,” despite Trump’s story of mocking Mexicans and trying to use coercive measures, including threatening tariffs and closing borders against the Lopez Obrador administration.
Lopez Obrador has more pressing problems, although after announcing on Sunday that he has tested positive for Covid-19.

And even a pandemic is an area where the two leaders will be challenged to see face to face. The two leaders have taken a contrasting approach to the crisis that is devastating both nations. Biden was very clear about the need to wear masks and maintain social distance, while Lopez Obrador ignored the virus and traveled across the country during the pandemic, often without wearing a mask.

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