A month after he boycotted a major regional summit in Los Angeles and snubbed the Biden administration, Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador arrived in Washington on Tuesday for wide-ranging talks with his US counterpart.
Government officials have tried to downplay the ongoing tensions and frustrations in the US ahead of the talks between President Biden and López Obrador, which White House officials see as key to fighting immigration, crime and the economy. López Obrador says he wants to talk about inflation and how to bring it down. Biden wants the Mexican government to continue to play an active role in halting the arrival of thousands of people at the US southern border, many of whom seek illegal entry.
López Obrador has sharply criticized US immigration policies and is expected to request more visas for Mexican workers and businessmen.
“We anticipate there will be a strong focus on how we can expand legal routes, with particular emphasis on routes to work from Central America, but also from other parts of the region,” a senior Biden administration official said, informing reporters beforehand the meeting, scheduled to begin at 8:15 a.m. Pacific Time at the White House,
The official said several border infrastructure projects would be announced at the meeting, but details were not immediately available and it was unclear the work and repairs would go beyond what was already planned.
López Obrador, a left-wing populist prone to bombastic rhetoric, declined Biden’s invitation to attend the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles in early June in protest at Washington’s refusal to add Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela to the guest list.
The summit, which takes place every three or four years, was held in the US for the first time in three decades, and the White House had heralded it as a major event that would bring hemisphere leaders together for several days of talks and regional agreements. When López Obrador refused to attend, several other countries — including El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala — sent lower-level delegations. Mexico was represented by its foreign minister.
The boycott of a summit expected to address the same issues as the White House meeting has led some analysts to conclude that López Obrador is not as interested in Tuesday’s agenda as he is in the message he is bringing to the region hopes to send.
“The most important reason AMLO is there is to show himself and show the world that he is unique [true] Regional Guide of Latin America. He wants to be the older brother of Latin America,” said Viridiana Rios, an academic and writer specializing in US-Mexico relations, using the president’s nickname based on his initials.
For López Obrador, staying in the Oval Office, along with a separate breakfast with Vice President Kamala Harris, is a “performance” that will confirm his power as the region’s leader, Rios said.
Harris was commissioned by the President of the Central America Strategy, which attacks the “root causes” of irregular immigration but has yet to show any results.
López Obrador has also clashed with some US leaders and numerous human rights organizations on other issues.
He regularly berates journalists at daily marathon press conferences and denounces Mexican anti-corruption and other groups that receive donations from outside Mexico.
He also refuses to reduce Mexico’s dependence on fossil fuels and is promoting an energy package that critics say favors state-owned electricity companies over private companies. The US says it is likely a violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement that Mexico negotiated with the US and Canada.
He recently condemned the US extradition of Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, and said that if the US jails him, the Statue of Liberty should be dismantled and returned to France.
“This is the first president since the 1980s who doesn’t share a common vision with the US,” said Luis Rubio, an economist at the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute. “He’s also in the phase of his presidency where everything revolves around his popularity. In that sense, Biden is nothing more than a cog in pursuit of his goal.”
Still, the Biden administration knows it needs the cooperation of López Obrador and his administration as it faces an influx of migrants illegally crossing the southern US border. Republicans have blasted Biden over the issue, especially as the number of migrant stops has risen.
For Biden, the goal is to rally allies, even if they disagree, as the world “realigns” after Russia’s war on Ukraine, said Andrew Selee, president of the Migration Policy Institute.
“Biden has made a decision that the world is now divided into camps and Ukraine is the axis that this is splitting around and whether or not he has differences with López Obrador is less important than making sure he does can manage relationship. ‘ Selee said.
“AMLO not going to the Summit of the Americas was a major blow to the relationship” between Washington and Mexico City, said Jason Marczak, senior director of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center at the Atlantic Council. “This [meeting] is incredibly important to convince both Mexicans and Americans of the strength of the US-Mexico relationship.”
https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2022-07-12/mexicos-president-visits-white-house-after-snubbing-biden-at-summit Mexico’s president visits White House after snubbing Biden