As the Biden administration continues to manage migration challenges on the southern border, the United States is looking to the longer term and engaging with regional partners to address the root causes of migration flows in the Americas. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador understands how Mexico underpins the strategy of the Biden administration. Nonetheless, he must be careful not to overplay his influence – the success and legacy of his own administration depends on a strong and effective relationship between the United States and Mexico.
President Joe Biden is working to re-engage the Americas after four tumultuous years of Trump. With a focus on the North Triangle countries of Central America, Biden has placed the region as a high priority on his agenda by appointing Vice President Kamala Harris to lead efforts to address migration challenges in the region. . In addition to a larger $ 4 billion aid package, Harris recently announced increased aid of $ 310 million to tackle some of the acute factors forcing people in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to leave their homes. foyer. The Vice-President also had various discussions with regional experts and heads of state. This demonstrates its commitment to the challenge ahead and shows a concerted effort to engage with regional partners.
Harris and López Obrador spoke about this issue earlier this month and the Mexican president is well aware that the previous two U.S. administrations have relied on Mexican immigration authorities to manage the flow of migrants heading to the United States. southern border of the United States. The Mexican government stepped up enforcement at the southern border in 2014 when the Obama administration struggled with the arrival of unaccompanied minors from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, and again under the Trump administration in 2019 when a Record number of Central American parents with children attempted to cross into the United States. Now, with the Biden administration grappling with similar regional exits – a recurrence over the past decade that has been accelerated by the pandemic and more frequent and catastrophic natural disasters – it would be nearly impossible to effectively manage the migratory flows without Mexico’s cooperation, and López Obrador knows he wields immense influence over the efforts of the Biden administration.
But López Obrador should exercise caution and not abuse the position he currently holds. It would be one thing for López Obrador, say, to ask the Biden administration to share America’s excess vaccine doses with Mexico. It would be a whole other matter to misinterpret the Biden administration’s reluctance to criticize its most disturbing and erratic policies as a pass to continue unhindered. López Obrador’s actions have many reasons to alarm, and the Biden administration will eventually voice its countless concerns. For example, there’s the mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic, responding inadequately to high rates of organized crime and violence, hampering joint security efforts, overseeing Mexico’s worst economic contraction since the Great Depression, and giving up on significant cooperation on clean energy and climate change. Additionally, López Obrador has exacerbated trade tensions, endangered democratic institutions, and incubated the toxic political environment he helped create with constant attacks and criticism from the free press and those he believes to be. his opponents.
Surprising for the most part, López Obrador maintains strong approval ratings despite his messy way of governing, but it is not sustainable. Over time, this will strain US-Mexican relations and undermine his administration rather than result in Mexico’s “fourth transformation”. Already, the consequences of its mismanagement are perceptible in the growing number of single Mexican adult men attempting to cross the US border, reminiscent of the rate of attempted border crossings in the early 2000s. Mexican migrants made up about 42% of those apprehended at the US border, up from 13% in May 2019, the highest month in the current wave of arrests. López Obrador has tarnished Mexico’s credibility as a safe destination for private investment. More importantly, it rolls back the democratic advances that Mexico has experienced in recent decades. This will have an impact on Mexico’s long-term development long after López Obrador’s departure.
So far, most Mexicans continue to give López Obrador the benefit of the doubt. But if he maintains his current course, López Obrador’s shortcomings will resemble the disappointments of his predecessors. He will promise that the country will only change to offer more of the same. His support and approval will wane, at that time, to hopelessly ameliorate Mexico’s woes and save his legacy, his options will be limited and will have to look to the United States for support. The United States will help, and López Obrador will not view such support as foreign interference in internal affairs, but rather as a benefit for all. Mexico needs the United States as much as the United States needs Mexico’s cooperation. López Obrador would be wise to believe in this relationship now and be a fair partner for the Biden administration if the need arises before the roles turn on him.
Joel Martinez is the Mexican political analyst for national security and international politics at the Center for American Progress.