AMLO in an open fight with the U.S.

Raymundo Riva Palacio, in his column in the newspaper El Financiero, “Strictly Personal,” explains how the government of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has entered into an open confrontation with the United States and the government to come from Joe Biden. 

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador always thought that picking a fight with the United States was lousy business since it could derail his project. Things have changed. He decided to confront the government of Donald Trump simultaneously as he disdained the president-elect, Joe Biden. 

The Mexican President feels very safe in his chair and in control of all the variables for him to have decided to take off his mask and fight with the American government, with actions, not in statements, as he had done.

His affinity with Trump had been due to the strategic interest that he would not cross paths in his project of change, which for López Obrador was less costly than handing over to his sovereignty in matters of migration and asylum policy, which he exchanged – after decades of principles – for a bag of limited tariffs. 

It was rather strange that after all the concessions Trump gave him, by not recognizing Biden’s electoral victory for 41 days, supporting the false accusation of electoral fraud – arguing a simile with his own experience in 2006 – he fought with his government in the epilogue of his mandate.

The President of Mexico shouldn’t be clumsy, foolish, and ignorant to fight puerilely with the U.S. government, knowing that his civil service career will continue in the next administration. The grievances will continue after January 20 – while having mistreated Biden by refusing to recognize his victory until yesterday, when in the letter of congratulations sent to him on Monday night he ratified the line he had marked since last week: they want good relations, and respect for Mexican sovereignty, something he didn’t enforce for almost two years with Trump, but he now points out to Biden as a basic premise of friendship and collaboration.

In the last few days, there is consistency in his actions. The reforms to the National Security Law were the first order. Despite protests from the United States and the embarrassment of Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard and Ambassador Martha Barcena in Washington. Both were trying to explain to U.S. diplomats the logic of López Obrador’s law, settling accounts with the DEA. Dynamiting the bridge of broad and complex bilateral security relations, his majorities in Congress, along with his allies and members of the opposition, approved it.

The consequence will be a total loss of confidence in Mexican security institutions and a confirmation that López Obrador and his government chose to defend the drug cartels. By omission or commission, it is how it is. Suppose the intelligence agencies have recorded the conversations of AMLO and the director of the National Intelligence Center, retired General Audomaro Martinez. In that case, they may already know the reasons for the “hugs and not bullets” to the drug traffickers. But, for the sake of argument, let’s say the President of Mexico wasn’t lax with drug traffickers, criminalizing the action of foreign security and intelligence agencies, and forcing them to report what they obtain to the Mexican government, places security cooperation at a level that has never been in its history. This does not happen in the world. No country can even think of trying what López Obrador made into law in times of peace. Consequences will come.

This law can’t be separated from the reforms to the Bank of Mexico Law. The Morena congress majority rushed to approve in commissions -it will go to the Plenary in 2021-and pushes BANXICO towards money laundering. 

It is hard to see why anyone does not understand why they are so angry in Washington with Lopez Obrador. They can see that it is not a matter of defending sovereignty but of taking sides. Their allies, with these reforms, even unwittingly, are the criminals.

The mistake of passing controversial reforms on a fast track and without nuances is so monumental that it cannot be the consequence of a reductionist vision. There are no fools in the Lopezobradorist government, so what is happening with Trump’s bilateral relations and already outlined with Biden is the product of a clear decision by the President of Mexico. His motives must be.

The new Biden government will not accept. It must know beforehand that his proposal in the letter to “strive to maintain good bilateral relations based on collaboration, friendship, and respect for our sovereignties” will materialize with these two laws. Neither the United States nor a large part of the world is comfortable with a government that is a sanctuary for criminals and protects transnational crime.

Washington’s reactions will not be the ones of the past. They have long been less primitive and more efficient. By way of the law, they took a Guatemalan president to jail, and involved in accusations, by way of a third party, the government of former president Enrique Peña Nieto. We have already seen how they captured the ex-Secretary of Defense, General Salvador Cienfuegos, accused of receiving bribes from drug trafficking. Washington does not need to touch López Obrador, but his environment well… that is something else.

It reeks of corruption around him, one of the U.S. government engines that explode to confront an enemy or a dysfunctional ally. The architects of the laws in question are also natural targets for Cienfuegos-type operations. Lopez Obrador and his team are marked. He has to know that. It’s okay if that’s the way he wants the bilateral relationship to be from now on. Let’s hope he is prepared for what lies ahead.