President Andrés Manuel López Obrador doesn’t travel much outside of Mexico, at least since he took office nearly five years ago. López Obrador has only visited the United States twice and Central America once. His fourth international trip aims to bolster the emerging progressive bloc in the region when he visits close friend President Gustavo Petro in Colombia. After that, he’ll go to Chile to participate in the commemoration of the coup that overthrew President Salvador Allende 50 years ago, and meet with President Gabriel Boric, another close ally. This trip is symbolically significant at both regional and local levels. It coincides with a crucial moment in the National Regeneration Movement (Morena), with a leadership transition from the current president to his successor, Claudia Sheinbaum, the former head of the Mexico City Government and the party’s nominee for president.
López Obrador’s international tour starts on September 8. After his usual morning briefing, he will depart for Colombia on a military plane, accompanied by a small entourage including Foreign Minister Alicia Bárcena; Defense Minister General Luis Cresencio Sandoval; and the Secretary of the Navy, Admiral José Rafael Ojeda. Upon landing in Cali in the late afternoon, he will have a private meeting with Petro followed by a state dinner in his honor. The main event the next day will be the Latin American and Caribbean Conference on Drugs, aimed at establishing collaborative anti-drug policies, which was initially conceived during Petro’s visit to Mexico last November.
Petro is highly focused on renewing global efforts to address the failed war on drugs. As one of the countries most affected by drug trafficking and a major political actor in Latin America, Mexico’s collaboration is key. Petro and López Obrador have demonstrated their ability to work together and communicate the same message. López Obrador supported Petro’s presidential campaign, and continues to back him despite Petro’s recent setbacks, like the arrest of Petro’s son on money laundering and illicit enrichment charges. “He’s been dealing with conservative resistance for quite a while now,” said the Mexican president. “They want to tear him down and undermine his moral and political authority.”
After the conference in Cali, López Obrador plans to fly to Santiago de Chile, avoiding Peruvian airspace so as not to provoke any “nonsense.” The relationship between the two countries soured following a major political crisis in Peru. Then-President Pedro Castillo was jailed on December 7 after dissolving Congress and declaring an emergency government. López Obrador became a staunch defender of Castillo and a vocal critic of the subsequent administration led by Dina Boluarte. The Mexican president publicly criticized Boluarte’s government, calling it “de facto, authoritarian and repressive.” When Mexico offered asylum to the deposed Peruvian president and his family, Peru declared the Mexican ambassador a persona non grata.
The Peruvian Congress also recently declared López Obrador a persona non grata, dealing another blow to the diplomatic relationship. The Mexican president says he won’t need airspace authorization, which is typically required for planes crossing over a country. “It will add about an hour to our travel time,” said López Obrador. “We’re not doing this out of rancor. We simply don’t want our country to get caught up in an unnecessary controversy if we ask for permission to fly through their airspace and they end up refusing it.”
The Mexican president’s agenda lacks specifics about his activities in Chile. It is known that the president will arrive late on September 9 and meet privately with Boric the next day. Later, there will be a meeting with Chileans who sought asylum in Mexico after the 1973 coup against Salvador Allende. “It will be quite emotional because the meeting will take place at the Embassy of Mexico in Chile, where many Chileans found refuge during the coup d’état. Our asylum policy is something we’re very proud of, as Mexicans,” said López Obrador.
Chile will mark the anniversary of the military coup on Monday, September 11. The entire Mexican delegation, including the two military commanders, is expected to attend. “Fifty years have elapsed since the coup and the events that resulted in the tragic demise of President Allende, someone I deeply respect for his unwavering commitment to peaceful reform, and who became a victim of unscrupulous individuals,” said López Obrador. The Mexican delegation group will return home after the ceremony.
The four days during which López Obrador will be away from Mexico coincide with a crucial time in the nation’s political sphere. Just before his departure, the president passed the baton of party leadership to Sheinbaum and surprised everyone by announcing that she will determine the future of the ruling party – hard to imagine considering López Obrador’s domineering style and influence. While he’s away, Sheinbaum will have the chance to take charge and establish herself as the new leader of Morena.
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