Donald Trump, who has been coming down hard on Mexico over immigration and trade ever since he reached the White House, struck a conciliatory tone on Sunday night and congratulated the winner of the Mexican presidential election, the leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
Some of the most contentious issues between both countries include a renegotiation of the NAFTA trade agreement, which is currently blocked, and Trump’s promise to build a border wall that will be paid for by Mexicans.
Speaking on Fox News Sunday, US National Security Advisor John Bolton said about Trump and López Obrador that “in this kind of context, having the two leaders get together may produce some surprising results.”
“I think President Trump will follow through with the same pattern he’s used with other foreign leaders. They look forward to meeting with him, sitting down and talking about these things,” added Bolton in reply to a question about López Obrador’s support for Mexican migrants who cross into the US.
Trump’s relations with the outgoing Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), were turbulent and led to the cancellation of an official visit by Peña Nieto to the US. It is unclear how the US leader will get along with López Obrador, who is an entirely different sort of politician.
A few months ago, López Obrador – or AMLO, the acronym he is known by – stated that there was one issue on which he and Trump were in agreement: that Mexican workers’ wages have to go up.
AMLO, who won the election with a coalition whose main member is his own Morena party, is now being observed with equal doses of hope and misgivings by the rest of the continent.
The outgoing president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, congratulated López Obrador and said he trusted that bilateral relations would not be affected: “I hope he will maintain the excellent relations we have had between both countries.” Cooperation between Mexico and Colombia, who are both members of the Pacific Alliance bloc, is crucial for trade cooperation and in the fight against drug trafficking.
Let the wide avenues of sovereignty and friendship between our peoples open up
Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro
But the biggest applause came from leftist regimes in Latin America, chiefly from the representatives of the old “Bolivarian” axis led by Venezuela and Bolivia. “I congratulate our brothers, the people of Mexico, and their president-elect López Obrador. Let the wide avenues of sovereignty and friendship between our peoples open up,” said Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro. “With him, truth triumphs over lies, and the hope of a Great Homeland is renewed.”
Bolivian President Evo Morales used similar rhetoric: “Our warmest congratulations to our brother, President-Elect López Obrador, on his resounding victory at the Mexico election. We are certain that his Government will write a new page in the history of Latin American dignity and sovereignty.”
Ecuador’s leader Lenín Moreno, who has moved away from the populist propositions of his predecessor Rafael Correa, sent out a more circumspect message, and said that “we will continue to forge close ties and join our hopes.”
Conservative governments in Latin America seemed in no particular hurry to congratulate the new leftist president of Mexico: not the president-elect of Colombia, Iván Duque, nor Argentina’s Mauricio Macri, Brazil’s Michel Temer or Chile’s Sebastián Piñera.
English version by Susana Urra.