Election of AMLO unlikely to thaw U.S.—Mexican relationship

AMLO's promises to defend Mexican interests will bring Trump and him into conflict

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador—colloquially known as AMLO—won a clear majority of the popular vote in Mexico’s presidential election this month. He and Trump share many similarities. Some of these include populist politics, anti-establishment viewpoints, unpredictability, a tendency towards emotional outbursts, a track record of unethical actions, and disdain for the media. Despite these similarities, the U.S.-Mexico relationship is unlikely to get better in the immediate future, thanks to Trump’s continuing anti-Mexico rhetoric and AMLO’s determination to protect the rights of Mexicans.

During the campaign trail, some of AMLO’s promises include ridding government of corruption, as well as fighting political mafias. Clearly, he captured the hearts of disgruntled Mexicans who had been extremely disenchanted with these recurring problems in their country, as well as current President Nieto’s weak responses to Trump’s anti-Mexico policies and remarks.

It’s unlikely that an AMLO presidency will yield a good working relationship with America under Trump, considering Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric against Mexican immigrants, where he refers to them as rapists, “bad hombres,” and trouble-makers. AMLO has been a vocal critic of Trump since the start of the campaign trail, calling him “erratic and arrogant.

Immigration policy is an area of stark disagreement between the two leaders. Obrador strongly denounces Trump’s family separation policy—calling it inhumane, racist, and arrogant—and has pledged to defend the human rights of immigrants. Additionally, AMLO has promised that he’ll fight for Mexicans who live and work honestly in America and that a Mexico under his leadership would stop doing the “dirty work” for the U.S. by detaining Central American migrants coming through Mexico.

AMLO is particularly abhorred of Trump’s promise to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. One of AMLO’s promises made during the campaign trail is that he won’t allow the construction of the border wall, calling it a product of “xenophobia” and “racism” against Mexican migrants in the US. However, with a determined Trump pushing for anti-Mexico policies, and a new Mexican president with a strong political capital drawn from a promise to actively defend Mexican interests, we would be disappointed if we expected relations between both countries to improve.

The exact day Mexicans went to the polls, an interview with Trump aired wherein he threatened to tax Mexican car imports to America. Additionally, Trump has recently imposed tariffs on aluminum and steel imports from Mexico—justifying it as an issue of national security—instigating trade retaliation from the Hispanic country. The implications of these are serious: both countries are economically hurting and will continue to do so due to this trade war. With a new Mexican president bearing plenty of political support to push through the resistance, we can only expect continued antagonism between the two countries.

Being tough and critical of Trump is a sure way to unite Mexicans, considering that more than 80 per-cent of Mexicans disapprove of Trump. Due to high expectations and a whopping mandate, AMLO is likely to adopt protectionist policies for Mexico and continue pushing back against Trump. In the best of circumstances, we can expect that the cold relationship between the two countries won’t get warmer. At worst, Trump’s antagonization of Mexico under AMLO could sever ties between the two countries that could take generations to repair.   

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