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Biden will not save Mexico. This is obvious, but it must be restated. As the 2020 election campaign progressed in the United States, a form of delusion took hold in Mexico: Many intellectual and political leaders of the opposition against Andrés Manuel López Obrador went from simply supporting Joe Biden, to turning him into a redemptive figure, almost as a savior.
According to this outlook, appearing from time to time in the Mexican press, and much more frequently in the halls of government, Biden would arrive in the White House on January 20th with Mexico as his priority, and Andrés Manuel López Obrador as his enemy.
Will Biden save Mexico?
The theory rests upon arguments such as the fact that it took Andrés Manuel 38 days to congratulate Biden on his triumph (as if the U.S. president-elect were a whimsical quinceañera (debutante) who keeps score of those who did not like her last Instagram post). According to this point of view, Joe would take revenge for Obrador’s support of Trump and would launch against him the full force of U.S. institutions, teaming up with the Mexican opposition in a kind of sacred technocratic alliance, to take away AMLO’s dominance of the country.
If that theory sounds exaggerated and absurd, it’s because it is. There are many reasons why Biden will not come down on Mexico as an avenging angel with a sword in one hand (to decapitate Obrador) and a laurel leaf in the other (to crown the return of the technocracy). Here are the four:
First: Mexico is not a priority for Biden
The next president of the United States has spent almost his entire life in the higher echelons of politics within the halls of Washington, DC. In all that time, he has shown no discernible interest in Mexico. He has never identified himself as an ally of the southern country. Even in his presidential campaign, there was no sign that Mexico was a priority, beyond the almost statutory photos with a mariachi band.
That lack of interest is noticeable on his website. Among the plans that Biden boasts of, none refer specifically to Mexico, although there is one explicitly directed at Central American countries. He mentions Mexico only incidentally as he explains migration issues, but the focus is on immigrants from third countries who get stuck on the southern border. Instead of “the wall”, Joe promises to cooperate with Canada and Mexico to make “smart investments” in border technology. That’s all.
Biden will be too busy inside the U.S. to fight the battles of the Mexican opposition. Even in terms of foreign policy, his priority interests will be in China, Europe, and -maybe- Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela. As long as a crisis does not break out, Mexico will be just a footnote in the daily work of the next U.S. president.
Second: López Obrador is not a devout follower of Trump
Many analysts with short memories or skewed agendas have built the myth that Trump and López Obrador are natural allies and soul brothers. This is not true. Before he became Presidente, Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador was as critical of Donald Trump as the rest of the Mexican political class. AMLO not only repeated the same prefabricated nonsense that his opponents did about the United States; he even compiled, printed, and sold it in a book entitled: Oye, Trump.
What happened? Once in power, Obrador understood that, to quietly impose his agenda on Mexico, he had to keep the peace with the White House’s tenant. He did so with Trump, and he will do so with Biden. The only difference is that the interlocutors will change; the current Mexican ambassador to the United States has already announced her retirement. As of January 20, 2021, Obrador will take off the Republican shirt and put on the Democrat one, which will be ideologically much easier for him.
Third: Biden does not plan to intervene in countries governed by the left
It has been evident in the campaign and the transition period: Biden will bring back the Obama administration’s approach, privileging diplomatic contacts with leftist governments and the enemies of the United States, including Iran, Cuba, or Venezuela.
A détente in the relations between the United States and Venezuela’s governments will increase the margin of maneuver of the socialists in that country and throughout Latin America, including Mexico, where very influential players within the official alliance are openly in favor of the Bolivarian Revolution.
During these two years, these radical leftists were forced by circumstances to lower the intensity of their efforts and their proclamations, following Obrador’s position of not fighting with Trump. However, now with Biden, they will have the chance to push their agenda in the open. The left wing will become stronger and the work of the Mexican opposition will become even more difficult.
To put it plainly: If Trump, being Trump, did not remove Maduro from power in Venezuela, Biden will not even jokingly bet his political capital on getting López Obrador out of power in Mexico.
Fourth: The United States is interested in political stability
In Washington, the concern is that Mexico should maintain enough stability to not be a severe nuisance at the border. And as of now, there are no real signs that Obrador will lose control of the country in the short or medium term, at least not to the point of becoming a national security risk for the United States.
Yes, of course, some State Department official will be in charge of the relationship with Mexico, teaming up with the ambassador. If Obrador fails to comply with the free trade agreements (especially those on energy), there will be pressure from the United States. Still, there is no reason why such pressure should be significantly greater or different from what we have observed during these two years. In other words: If Obrador goes too far, one of the second-tier bureaucrats in Washington will have him reprimanded. Nothing more.
Biden will not save Mexico, and the Mexican opposition would do well to stop waiting for a messiah. The job of preventing the country’s authoritarian regression will fall to the opposition parties, business leaders, and social institutions. Biden will have other pending issues, other priorities, and other interests.
Yes, Biden may even take a photo with some opposition leader, but you don’t save countries with photos. Don’t believe me? Ask Juan Guaidó.
Gerardo Garibay Camarena, is a doctor of law, writer and political analyst with experience in the public and private sectors. His new book is "How to Play Chess Without Craps: A Guide to Reading Politics and Understanding Politicians" // Gerardo Garibay Camarena es doctor en derecho, escritor y analista político con experiencia en el sector público y privado. Su nuevo libro es “Cómo jugar al ajedrez Sin dados: Una guía para leer la política y entender a los políticos”