Whoever wrote the speech of the Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the same one he read during his first visit to the White House as head of state, deserves at least two condemnations and one praise.
No one who has lived through this chapter in the history of the United States as a Mexican immigrant could ignore the series of insults that the current President Donald Trump uttered, since the beginning of his campaign in 2015, against the community whose presence dates as far back as the formal creation of this country. But in the limited worldview of a supremacist such as today’s U.S. leader, Mexicans had no other role than to be “rapists,” “criminals,” and “drug dealers.”
Later, his anti-immigrant rhetoric was literally converted into the essence of his public policies, almost all tending toward cutting off access to undocumented immigrants and their families, as well as asylum-seekers, and making the lives of 800,000 DACA beneficiaries, a majority of whom are Mexican, impossible.
It’s clear that the principal objective of the López Obrador visit was the launch of the new free trade agreement between the United States, Mexico, and Canada (USMCA), and that no one was going to move the two leaders off of this topic. But a bilateral relationship that was defined until now as “friendly”—and friends tell each other the truth—disregarding the reference to anti-Mexican vituperations and, above all, making AMLO say that during his time as president of Mexico, “instead of grievances toward myself and my country, we have received understanding and respect,” is condemnable because it deeply hurts at least some part of the “Mexicanness” of this side of the border, which has received the brunt of the anti-immigrant policies of the U.S. administration.
But it is also very clear what López Obrador affirms in this passage of his speech, that at the political level the negotiations that have taken place—whether their detractors dislike it or their idolizers like it— have permitted the maintenance of a good relationship between the two ideologically dissimilar governments, despite all of the bad forecasts coming day by day from a pulverized Mexican opposition that does not exist, but for adopted spokespeople in the traditional media outlets that corrupted the profession during other six-year terms, and have found themselves limited today.
In fact, and although for millions of Mexicans these outlets and reporters have already lost total credibility—they are no longer “good sources”—in unison they called the Mexican president’s first trip to the United State a bad decision, for the symbolic backing this would give to Donald Trump’s re-election; of course, the criticism would have been unleashed with equal ferocity if AMLO had decided not to come. That’s how the political-media game is played at this moment in Mexico, knowing that Trump needs AMLO, but AMLO does not need Trump, following the 2018 elections, in order to govern with the legitimacy he still has.
The other condemnable part of López Obrador’s diplomatic discourse has to do with the lack of a border wall as a connecting theme, that little battle horse that Trump used from the beginning, with the goal of keeping his followers ready to shout that Mexico “will pay,” a promise that has been ever more diluted across visibly lackluster rallies and frankly predictable speeches. If Trump dared to go to the border to “autograph” his own wall, in a more than exaggerated showing of egotism in the eyes of the world, it would have at least been acceptable that both leaders set their postures for once and for all, taking into account that the U.S.-Mexico border is the natural passageway for what is produced in both territories. So much so that the symbolism of a physical blockade between two nations contradicts the spirit of commercial trade, potentially beginning to enter into vigor now with the T-MEC.
However, if you read López Obrador’s speech in its entirety, and this is the praise-worthy part of his draft, in it you clearly perceive the traditional tone of Mexican diplomacy, in which the Estrada Doctrine remains present, even unscathed, in the face of a President Trump whose anti-immigrant and especially anti-Mexican posture has caused him to emit executive orders aimed at immigrants, especially people of color and undocumented people, despite the fact that he and his family—as well as his businesses—have benefitted from this very labor.
In that way, the parallel world of diplomacy builds bridges using strange symbolism. López Obrador, in fact, mentioned that Mexico and the United States are “distant neighbors”—paraphrasing the British reporter Alan Riding, former New York Times correspondent in Mexico in the 1970s—but he apparently has not been able to decipher the political symbolism of the visible debacle that is Trump, who is losing in every territory, including even important Republican Party enclaves that are beginning to free themselves from the “political kidnapping” to which they had been subjected. Trump is no Lincoln because while Lincoln abolished slavery, Trump continues attacking immigrants.
In fact, everything Donald Trump touches he destroys; and his former allies are right there to confirm it. López Obrador should have already known this.
For now, and this is another one of the symbolisms that usually become reality, the first real accomplishment of this visit did not occur in DC, but in Florida, with the capture of the former governor of Chihuahua, César Duarte, from the PRI, who faced twenty-one warrants and thirty-nine corruption investigations in Mexico; and had at least fifty properties and large ranches in his state.
Essentially, with Genaro García Luna, former Secretary of Public Security in the administration of former President Felipe Calderón, in a U.S. prison, and Emilio Lozoya, former director of Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) also in the hands of justice, what one has to read between the lines, both in the speech and in the significance of AMLO’s visit with Trump, is that those cases will not be the end. Time, in this sense, will tell what is the scope of this new stage of diplomatic relations between a Mexico that is transforming against the current, and a United States that is self-destructing over racial fanaticism.
Meanwhile, AMLO leaves, the insults remain, and the house of cards of corruption in Mexico continue to fall.
To read the Spanish version of this article click here.