Saturday, June 15, 2024

Opinion: Why should US Congress pay attention to Mexico’s elections?

When you mention the 2024 election, most people think of the U.S. presidential election in November.

Still, there is another earlier election that will have far-reaching consequences for all Americans as well. On Sunday, June 2, 2024, Mexico will go to the polls to elect a new president. According to the polls, former Mexico City mayor Claudia Sheinbaum is leading her closest rival, Xóchitl Gálvez, by double digits.

Sheinbaum is known as a leftist nationalist who is committed to continuing the policy platform of current president Andres Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). Gálvez has promised to reject those nationalistic attitudes and policies and adopt a more business-friendly and collaborative relationship with the United States.

Here are seven numerical reasons why the U.S. Congress should pay attention to the Mexican election:

249,735: In December of 2023, almost a quarter of a million migrants were either apprehended or expelled at the United States’ Southwest border. According to the Pew Research Center, that “was the highest monthly total on record, easily eclipsing the previous peak of about 224,000 encounters in May 2022.” The outgoing president, López Obrador, initially worked closely with the U.S. government on this shared goal of reducing illegal immigration, but in recent years, he has scaled back cooperation. The next Mexican president will have to decide whether to renew and re-energize bilateral U.S. cooperation, especially within the realm of controlling the flow of migrants coming through Mexico en route to the southern U.S. border.

280,000 is the number of foreign nationals deported from Mexico in March 2024. Due to pressure from the U.S. government, President López Obrador has once again begun helping stem the flow of migrants across its territory after drastically reducing those efforts in 2023. Will the next president allocate the funding needed to stop migrants within Mexican territory?

107,543 drug overdoses occurred in the United States in 2023, according to the CDC. Mexico is a critically important partner in fighting the drug trade, but in recent years, the Mexican government has taken a lighter hand when it comes to tackling drug-trafficking organizations (DTOs). President López Obrador has adopted a “hugs, not bullets” strategy in dealing with organized crime and has repeatedly denied Mexican involvement in manufacturing fentanyl, the most lethal drug currently crossing the border. If the next president continues this policy of inaction, the synthetic drug problem in the United States will only worsen, with catastrophic consequences for public health.

US $63.3 billion is the amount of remittances sent to Mexico in 2023, almost all of which came from the United States. This number has grown from $36 billion before the pandemic. In large part, this flow of dollars to the Mexican economy has helped sustain domestic demand and has compensated for a lack of growth. If the next president can stimulate the Mexican economy, these remittances will become much less important.

US $44.2 billion is the value of refined petroleum products exported by the United States to Mexico in 2022. Mexico has become the United States’ largest export market for gasoline and other refined products, and this sum has grown four-fold in the past decade. AMLO has overseen a rapid deterioration in Mexico’s oil sector but has committed himself to a very ambitious and expensive goal of producing more refined products at home. If successful, this “energy sovereignty” policy will directly impact U.S. exports. Of the two leading candidates, Sheinbaum is committed to continuing AMLO’s approach. Galvez supports a free-market model of modernization and liberalization of the sector.

5.7 billion is the volume in cubic feet of natural gas exported to Mexico from the United States every day. Mexico’s industrialization and growing need for power generation will see this number grow even further in the years ahead if the next president pursues the right economic policies. However, a number of economic nationalist voices in the Mexican government have warned of potential over-dependence on U.S.-provided gas, which they believe could pose a threat to Mexico’s sovereignty — a fear that could affect the continued strength and viability of the energy trade.

1: Mexico is the largest trading partner for the United States. In 2023, for the first time, Mexico traded more goods with the United States than any other country, surpassing China and Canada — who, for years, had held the top spot. Total trade between the two countries amounted to $799 billion in 2023. That is $2.2 billion a day, over $91 million an hour, and over $1.5 million a minute. The deepening of ties between the United States and Mexican economies has reached the point where they are an essential element in maintaining U.S. competitiveness. Perhaps this reason, above all the others, is the most compelling reason to pay attention to Mexico’s election.

The choice facing the Mexican people in June is one of continuity or change. Continuity means that cooperation between the United States and Mexico on issues of security, migration, and narco-trafficking will remain difficult and limited. This election is critical for the well-being of citizens and the economies on both sides of the border. Good governance in Mexico, paired with solid cooperation between the new Mexican government and the United States, will be essential in promoting the welfare of both nations.

This article was originally published by The Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center.

Duncan Wood, PhD, Vice President for Strategy & New Initiatives and Senior Advisor to the Mexico Institute, focuses his research and publications on supply chain policy, critical minerals, Mexican politics and US-Mexican ties.  He regularly gives testimony to Congress and other national legislatures, and has published 12 books and is a widely quoted source in national and international media.

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