From diplomacy to domestic politics: López Obrador takes his battle for sovereignty to the Summit of the Americas | The USA Print

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The President of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, with the Foreign Minister, Marcelo Ebrard, and a collaborator during a recent communication with Joe Biden.
The President of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, with the Foreign Minister, Marcelo Ebrard, and a collaborator during a recent communication with Joe Biden.MEXICO’S PRESIDENCY (via REUTERS)

Andrés Manuel López Obrador has made the Summit of the Americas a dispute ground for one of his favorite battles: the idea of ​​sovereignty. The president of Mexico has conditioned his presence in the conclave, which will be held from June 6 to 10 in Los Angeles, to the participation of the 35 governments of the continent. His request includes a particularly uncomfortable claim for the United States, the host country: that it also send an invitation to the authorities of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. The conflict with the Joe Biden Administration, very interested in making a common front with Mexico in economic, migratory and security matters, has not yet been resolved. López Obrador assures that the horizon will be clear at the beginning of next week, but in the meantime his cabinet has embarked on a negotiation that speaks both of his diplomatic strategy and of internal politics.

First, there has been a significant turnaround for a country that has always been closer, not just geographically, to Washington than to most of Latin America. In this turn, a real break with the neighbor is not contemplated. The Mexican president has insisted on it over and over again in recent days, but at the same time he sees the recovery of an agenda of demands that he seeks to lead. All of them are related to the idea of ​​sovereignty. And the return to the policy of active support for Havana, with the condemnation of the economic blockade, is the most recent example. “I feel that what López Obrador is doing is, first, creating a debate that is highly appealing, but also something else. This entire episode is a way to improve Mexico’s negotiating capacity with the United States,” explains Humberto Beck, professor and researcher at the Center for International Studies at the Colegio de México.

López Obrador argued his position by recalling the principle of non-intervention enshrined in the Mexican Constitution and advancing the proposal for a kind of new regional order. In practice, as the president transferred to Biden’s envoy for the organization of the Summit of the Americas, former Democratic senator Christopher Dodd, it is about replacing the Organization of American States (OAS) with another body similar to what was the embryo of the European Union. He had already raised it publicly on some occasion, but he had never transferred it in this way to the White House. In Beck’s view, however, it is a tactical positioning. “The twist is rhetorical. When López Obrador talks about building a European Union in Latin America, he is making a performance to try to achieve a better negotiating situation. The president is very clear that 90% of Mexico’s foreign relations are with the US and based on these coordinates he is using this situation to improve Mexico’s position”.

This step is also part of the particular relationship between the two presidents. López Obrador and Biden have maintained frequent contact. They have been seen in Washington on the occasion of a summit with the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau. Both agree to strengthen the North American alliance. The president of the United States invited the wife of his counterpart, Beatriz Gutiérrez Müller, to the White House to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, a migrant community holiday. Gestures and words of harmony are constant and to this is added precisely the fact that the current Administration chose to resolve bilateral disputes through negotiation. Just the opposite of what the previous one did, when Donald Trump forged a relationship based on imposition and threats of a tariff war.

At the same time, López Obrador has just traveled to Cuba, a visit of great symbolic scope that became an exaltation of the values ​​of sovereignty, and in his morning press conferences he maintains a prudent speech towards the neighboring country, sometimes suspicious and others expressing open criticism of US hegemony on the continent. “There is an ideological shift in the region to the left, which is no longer the pink tide of two decades ago. I believe that this is going to give Latin America a new weight and AMLO wants to become a leader of that strategic weight”, continues the researcher.

Some signs. The Mexican president, who has always defended that the best foreign policy is the internal one and until the end of last year delegated every move on the international board to the Ministry of Foreign Relations, has increased his initiative in this field. However, Marcelo Ebrard has preserved his profile as a key man in the dialogue with the US Administration. He recently traveled to Washington to negotiate with the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, the participation of Mexico in the summit in Los Angeles. He and his team will travel to California in any case, where they hope to seal agreements on work visas and labor mobility, economic recovery, supply chains or the action plan against the pandemic.

Tony Payán, director of the Center for the United States and Mexico at Rice University in Texas, maintains that behind López Obrador’s pulse is not Ebrard but a circle of advisers more belligerent with the United States, admirers of what Cuba symbolizes and defenders of other economic models. “It seems that the president is paying attention to that, but regardless of whether he made that decision or whether they manipulated him, there are two essential problems: Mexico is acting against his interests. The relationship with the United States is the most important for Mexico, due to investments, imports, exports, demographic and cultural connection. investment. So, taking this position of sabotaging is not favoring the interests of Mexico”, points out the political scientist. In other words, in the event that a negotiation is proposed, there is a risk that it will go wrong for the country.

The other problem, he continues, has to do with the structure of Latin America. “The continent has always marched at many speeds, in different directions. Perhaps as a geographic region it exists, but Latin America has always been aligned, misaligned and realigned depending on the regimes in power. Now there are non-democracies, like Cuba, Nicaragua or Venezuela, and illiberal democracies like Brazil. Suddenly, Mexico decides to change its position and at the same time wants to enjoy the benefits of an economic relationship with the United States,” continues Payán, who also does not give importance to the plan to replace the OAS. “I have always been somewhat skeptical of the usefulness of the OAS in particular and, in general, international organizations are very weak. The dysfunctionality of the OAS has always reflected the dysfunctionality of Latin America. But, on the other hand, I don’t think the president has the capacity or the creativity or the initiative or the resources to call for her replacement.”

López Obrador trusts that on Monday or Tuesday Washington will answer his request. He was optimistic and on Friday he lowered the tone to ensure that he has a good relationship with Biden and places his trust in him. He respects us, just as we respect him. And above all, he respects our independence, our sovereignty,” he emphasized. That is, one of the notions to which the president resorts to do internal politics and vindicate his project before his bases.

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