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Mexico - Relations with the United States

Andrés Manuel López Obrador (known popularly by the initials AMLO) is the first left-wing president Mexico has had in roughly 40 years. A former mayor of the capital Mexico City, López Obrador has been a major progressive force in politics for many years, and won the 2018 presidential election in a landslide. AMLO is not a revolutionary socialist like, say, Fidel Castro or Hugo Chávez; rather he is a progressive nationalist and social democrat. But in his presidential campaign, and since entering office, López Obrador has made opposition to neoliberalism a key political goal. He pledged to "end the dark night of neoliberalism", and to accomplish this, AMLO declared the creation of a new revolutionary movement he calls the Fourth Transformation.

AMLO is not a committed anti-imperialist, but he has tried to steer Mexico in an independent direction. For decades before him, Mexico's foreign policy was largely subordinated to the USA. López Obrador has made independent decisions that have angered Washington, like providing refuge to Bolivian President Evo Morales, who was overthrown in a US-backed fascist military coup in November, or holding a historic meeting with Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel in Mexico City. On the issue of Venezuela, AMLO has also played an important role softly resisting the US coup attempt. Mexico has refused to recognise US-backed coup leader Juan Guaidó as the supposed president, and has even said Mexico would sell Caracas gasoline.

López Obrador likewise criticised the US-backed "war on drugs," which was launched by Mexico's former right-wing Mexican President Felipe Calderón, and which had led to the deaths of tens of thousands of Mexicans and destabilised the country. Calderón is a close ally of Washington, and a powerful, very rich, and corrupt oligarch with an outsize position in the Mexican right. Calderón was a leader of the right-wing political party the PAN, the other major party that has dominated modern Mexican politics.

Throughout its history, Mexico has had an ambivalent love-hate relationship with its northern neighbor. At the time of the Mexican War of 1846, the territory of Mexico was much larger than the country to the north. Mexico was the fourth largest country in the world — only Russia, China and Brazil covered a larger territory. Nationalist rhetoric continuously highlights the loss of one-half of Mexico's territory and natural resources to the United States in the 1800s. Even at times when United States-Mexican relations have been at their best, this loss is still present in Mexican rhetoric.

During the Rio Group summit in September 1994, for example, President Salinas commented on the United Nations-sponsored United States intervention in Haiti, "Having suffered an external intervention by the United States, in which we lost more than half of our territory, Mexico cannot accept any proposal for intervention by any nation of the region." In economic terms, good relations with the United States have long been critical for Mexico, given that its northern neighbor is its principal trading partner, both for exports and imports. For its part, the United States gives serious consideration to its relations with Mexico because of Mexico's strategic location on the United States southern border as well as the fact that Mexico has the largest oil deposits in Latin America.

Relations between the countries often have been characterized by conflict. Analysts attribute much of the antagonism to the great disparities in wealth between the two countries; a history of intervention by the United States that makes Mexico highly critical and suspicious of United States positions; cultural differences and stereotypes of both nations; and the high levels of interdependence on many socioeconomic and political issues, both at the national level and in border areas.

In the past, Mexico defied the United States on a number of crucial hemispheric issues. Mexico never broke relations with the Cuban communist regime as did the rest of Latin America in the early 1960s. During President Echeverría's sexenio , Mexico took a leading role in demands for a new international economic order. During the 1970s, Mexico challenged the United States position in Central America and led a concerted regional effort that excluded the United States to bring a peaceful end to regional conflicts. During the 1980s, Mexico was highly critical of United States policy in El Salvador and, along with the French government, called for formal recognition of the Salvadoran guerrillas in the peace process.

The most important bilateral issues in the 1990s were drugs, trade, and illegal immigration into the United States. Drug trafficking is a pressing issue for both Mexico, as a producer and point of entry of the drug trade from South America into the United States drug market, and the United States, as a major consumer. Mexico insists that the trafficking of drugs would not exist without the enormous and growing market in the United States, thus placing responsibility on its northern neighbor. Nevertheless, the corruption and crime provoked by the growing drug business in Mexico have led the Mexican government to take domestic antidrug measures. The Salinas government launched a massive military campaign to counter the threat posed by the narcotics trade within the country. In 1989 Mexico signed a cooperation agreement with the United States on fighting the illegal drug trade (see President Salinas, ch. 1). Mexico's position on drug trafficking consists of two major contentions: Mexico will make a good-faith effort to eradicate the production and trade of drugs, and it will not, under any circumstances, allow the consolidation of narcotics groups within its territory. Currently, Mexico has a large portion of its army involved in the government's drug eradication program.

Trade between the two nations remains an important issue. A trade and environmental agreement signed in late 1989 paved the way for an expansion of bilateral trade and investment with the United States. In 1990 Mexico began negotiations over NAFTA with the United States and Canada. The main objective of NAFTA was to remove all trade barriers and investment obstacles among the three countries over a fifteen-year period. Negotiations concluded in 1992, and NAFTA was approved in 1993. The agreement was activated on January 1, 1994, creating the world's richest and largest trading bloc, consisting of 360 million consumers in a US$6.6 trillion market.

A third pressing issue between the two countries continues to be illegal immigration of Mexicans into the United States. By the mid-1990s, this issue occupied center stage in United States-Mexican relations. Since the 1960s, the number of Mexican illegal immigrants into the United States has soared to an average of 300,000 to 500,000 per year. These groups are concentrated in the southwestern states of the United States, especially California. Although NAFTA may help to decrease this trend in the long run, the presence of a large number of illegal residents in the United States--many of whom benefit from local and federal programs--triggered a legislative proposal in 1995 in the state of California to deprive these groups of any United States government support. In particular, legislation in the state of California has revived anti-United States feelings among Mexicans.

Mexico has enjoyed peaceful relations with its northern neighbor for many decades. In the United States, national security issues involving Mexico gained increased attention during the 1980s because of the growing importance of Mexico's oil reserves and installations and because of the fear that leftist-inspired turbulence in Central America might spread northward. Mexico's economic difficulties and societal frictions intensified fears that the long period of stable border conditions might be ending. By the early 1990s, however, unrest had abated in Central America. Radical movements were no longer threatening the government of El Salvador, and the leftist Sandinista (see Glossary) government was out of power in Nicaragua. In Guatemala, the civilian government had largely overcome the left-wing insurgency and had begun to engage in serious peace negotiations under United Nations auspices. The Mexican military leadership, although conservative and anticommunist in outlook, had never been persuaded that it faced a security threat arising from the spread of violence in Central America or that popular discontent in Mexico had gathered sufficient force to provoke widespread domestic disorder and revolutionary violence.

Historically, relations between the military establishments of Mexico and the United States have not been close. Cooperation reached its peak for a brief period during and after World War II. In the Cold War atmosphere that followed, Mexico opposed the United States concepts of regional security; in particular, it did not support the United States intervention in Guatemala in 1954 and the trade embargo imposed against Castro-led Cuba in the early 1960s. The country's leaders felt that the roots of violence in Central America could be found in social and economic problems and in right-wing dictatorships, rather than any Cuban and Soviet subversion. The defense commission with the United States formed in World War II became inactive, and military assistance--under which the United States transferred US$40 million worth of modern equipment to Mexico in the late 1940s--ended in 1950.

By the late 1980s, relations between the military establishments of Mexico and the United States became somewhat warmer as cooperation expanded in the fight against illicit drugs. Purchases of United States military items, which had amounted to US$140 million in the five-year period 1982 to 1986, rose steeply to US$410 million over the period from 1987 to 1991, accounting for three-quarters of all of Mexico's arms imports. Numerous Mexican officers received training in the United States and became well acquainted with United States military doctrine. On the whole, however, the Mexican armed forces were less influenced by the United States military than were the armed forces of other countries of Latin America. In the mid-1990s, military assistance and concessional military credits from the United States to Mexico still had not been resumed. About US$500,000 was allocated by the United States government for military education and training each year, enabling more than 900 Mexican officers to attend United States military institutions between 1977 and 1991. This figure was exclusive of training funded by Mexico in connection with weapons procurements.

Mexicans woke up 09 November 2016 shocked, like much of the rest of the world, that Donald Trump was elected president, uncertain about the possible aftermath and the prospect of his border wall along with deportation squads rounding up undocumented immigrants in the US. Mexican Finance Minister Jose Antonio Meade and Bank of Mexico Governor Agustin Carstens gave a press conference in order to address the growing concern over the violent slide in the Mexican peso value, which went fell as much as 13 percent to 20.7 pesos per U.S. dollar as Donald Trump was elected U.S. president. “The result of the election in the United States does not imply an immediate impact on the regulatory framework that regulates trade in goods and services, nor in financial flows – additionally, Mexico is in a position of strength to face the new environment," said Jose Antonio Meade. Trump began his campaign promising to "build a great, great wall on our southern border" and "have Mexico pay for that wall." He also promised to deport the almost 11 million immigrants without legal status living in the United States as well as triple the number of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.

President Enrique Pena Nieto reiterated on 25 January 2017 that Mexico would not “pay for any wall.” Nieto said he saw no reason to cancel the January 31 meeting with Trump, and he expressed his desire to have a mutually beneficial relationship with the new Trump administration. "Mexico offers its friendship to the people of the United States and expresses its wish to arrive at agreements with its government, deals that will be in favor of Mexico and the Mexicans," he said.

In a recorded speech to the nation on 25 January 2017, Peña Nieto forcefully reiterated that Mexico would not pay for Trump's border wall after the U.S. president signed an executive order for building a wall across the U.S.-Mexican border. "Mexico does not believe in walls. I've said time again: Mexico will not pay for any wall," Peña Nieto said in the statement released through his official Twitter account on Wednesday. Peña Nieto's statement attempted to reassure Mexicans living in the U.S. who are increasingly under threat from both the rhetoric and policies of the new U.S. president.

Pena Nieto said 26 January 2017 he would not go to the US to meet with Donald Trump. The announcement comes after Trump tweeted that if Mexico was unwilling to pay for the border wall, "it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting."

Trump took to Twitter to respond. "The U.S. has a 60 billion dollar trade deficit with Mexico. It has been a one-sided deal from the beginning of NAFTA with massive numbers ... of jobs and companies lost. If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly-needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting," Trump said on Twitter.

As Trump gave the orders to start work on the wall along the 2,000-mile border with Mexico, two-time presidential runner-up and leftist opposition leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador called on the government of Mexico to “present a lawsuit at the United Nations against the U.S. government for violation of human rights and racial discrimination."

“I think the least he could do under such conditions is to... cancel the visit to the United States as a matter of dignity for Mexico,” said Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, a former presidential candidate and founder of the social-democratic Party of the Democratic Revolution, PRD. “We cannot accept a humiliated president,” he added during a conference over Trump's decision to build the wall.

The Associated Press and a Mexican journalist in Washington both reported 01 February 2017 that Trump told Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto during a phone call last week that he would deploy US forces to deal with the "bad hombres down there" unless Mexico did more to control them. The AP account was based on a partial transcript of the call. The United States and Mexico both denied that Donald Trump warned he was ready to send American troops into Mexico.

The New York Times said a senior administration official told the newspaper that Trump's comments were made in jest, and represented a standing offer to aid Mexico in fighting drug gangs and controlling the border.

The outgoing government of Enrique Peña Nieto invited Trump to Mexico, a move criticized by a large sector of society because the tycoon, who was still a candidate, had used racists and sexists slurs against the Mexican people. Peña Nieto and his team argued that both candidates had been invited because they wanted to have good relations with the U.S. regardless of the elections’ outcome. Peña Nieto even awarded Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and advisor, the country's highest honor for a foreign citizen, the "Aztec Eagle." All this despite the Trump administration's hostile attitudes. Peña Nieto’s foreign policy, especially his abject behavior towards the U.S., has sparked anger among many who voted for Lopez Obrador and expect leadership that will demand a more respectful treatment. The president-elect is aware of that. The "4th Transformation" of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) is not limited to Mexico's battle against corruption and the reigning insecurity and violence that affects the lives of thousands, AMLO and the future foreign ministry will have to deal with a hostile northern neighbor while upholding Mexico’s principle of ‘non-intervention.’ During his presidential campaign, AMLO appointed Hector Vasconcelos as his possible foreign minister. Among his first statements, Vasconcelos said Trump would be “forced” to respect the country and warned that the U.S.-Mexico joint policies and bilateral relations regarding the “war on drugs” would be reformulated. He also announced consulates in the U.S. would receive a bigger budget and more staff to improve attention to Mexican citizens and grant them legal counsel in U.S. courts. Another important shift will be AMLO's role in Latin American integration and his return to the ‘non-intervention’ principles established by the Estrada Doctrine in 1930. "We must look south," a spokesperson for the future administration said in early November 2018. These two shifts imply overcoming the U.S. dependency that defines Mexican foreign policy at the moment. The Estrada Doctrine is expressly against countries deciding whether a foreign government is legitimate or not, especially when these are established by revolutionary movements. Upholding the doctrine has direct implications for Mexico's diplomatic relations with countries like Venezuela that has been targeted by the U.S.

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Page last modified: 06-06-2021 18:23:28 ZULU