AMLO’s decision not to congratulate Biden is a foreign policy misstep
Mexico's President isn’t sending president-elect Joe Biden a congrats just yet, citing all “legal” votes must be counted.
Cross-border relations between President Joe Biden and Mexican President Manuel Lopes Obrador (AMLO) are off to a rocky start, a mere four days since the former was declared the victor in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
Lame duck President Donald Trump’s unfounded fraud claims appear to have made it to Mexico, and despite warnings that Trump is spreading misinformation in regards to his campaign, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has decided not to acknowledge President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
“With regard to the U.S. election, we are going to wait until all the legal matters have been resolved,”AMLO said at a news conference.
The decision not only recognizes Trump’s unsubstantiated claims as a possibility, it also puts AMLO in the category of world leaders who also have yet to congratulate Biden.
These include Bazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping.
The reason why? Nationalism.
AMLO — who considers himself to be a leftist — and Trump are both nationalist leaders, and have built a somewhat close relationship rooted in populist ideals.
Some AMLO supporters in Mexico even want Trump to remain in power because of the two leaders’ communication.
To put this into perspective, one must consider that AMLO has openly praised Trump. He once deployed the National Guard on a migrant caravan at the Mexico-Guatemala border, keeping it from continuing the journey to the U.S. Border.
At the U.S.-Mexico border, the Mexican president allowed asylum seekers to be returned to foreign, at times dangerous, Mexican border cities while they awaited their cases to be heard in US court.
AMLO is also pro-fossil fuel energy, and has been highly critical of the free press, issuing statements saying, “A president has never been attacked like now.”
It sounds familiar.
For the most part, Trump has stayed out of Mexican issues that go beyond his border wall, and AMLO has benefitted and thrived under that dynamic.
But come mid-January, the U.S. will have a new president. One who on the campaign trail, has already promised to reverse many of Trump’s immigration measures.
Mexico is, after all, the United State’s largest trade partner. For AMLO, this predicament puts him at a crossroads. Perhaps — ill advised — he thinks Trump still has a chance, seeing as the electoral college system is difficult for Americans themselves to understand.
But there’s a more nuanced, and probable reason for AMLO’s hesitancy. When he came to the U.S. over the summer to visit Trump at the White House, AMLO did not take any time to speak to top Democrats — a glaring omission that may come back to hurt him with Biden as president.
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), for instance, who has his name in the running to become the nation’s next House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair, did not appreciate AMLO’s decision not to acknowledge or congratulate Biden’s clear and legal win over Trump.
“This represents a stunning diplomatic failure by Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador at a time when the incoming Biden Administration is looking to usher in a new era of friendship and cooperation with Mexico,” Castro wrote on Twitter.
This represents a stunning diplomatic failure by Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador at a time when the incoming Biden Administration is looking to usher in a new era of friendship and cooperation with Mexico. https://t.co/lIHLqfpZbu
— Joaquin Castro (@JoaquinCastrotx) November 8, 2020
Castro was joined by fellow Mexican-American Congressman Rep. “Chuy” Garcia, who expressed his thoughts on AMLO’s hesitance on Twitter.
“President [Obrador], American voters have spoken and Joe Biden is our President Elect. He won fair and square. No deje que se le vaya el tren.”
There’s something holding AMLO back, and it has to do with comfort. In four years, the United States under Trump was able to alienate itself from most foreign powers, including the United Nations, and through dropping out of the Paris Climate Agreement.
With a new president, AMLO’s comfort may be disturbed, and whether that happens, with hope it will be favorable to both nations.