Monday, May 20, 2024

Mr. AMLO goes to Washington: the week at the morning news conferences

President López Obrador toured Mexico’s southernmost state, Chiapas, last weekend. Agile as a yo-yo, he readied himself to travel north to meet U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington, D.C.


“We’re going to start the week,” the president announced from the National Palace, but warned time was tight before his flight to the U.S. capital.

“It’s a meeting to reaffirm our commitment to work together for the benefit of our peoples … There are bilateral issues such as migration … also support for Central American countries. We’re also going to deal with the inflation issue … Security is sure to be addressed as well,” the president said of the meeting with Biden.

On Monday, the president spoke of his expectations for his upcoming trip to the United States.
On Monday, the president spoke of his expectations for his upcoming trip to the United States. Presidencia de la República

López Obrador added Mexico was better off without help from U.S. security agencies, recalling the so-called “Fast and Furious” operation by a domestic U.S. law enforcement agency, which accidentally armed Mexican cartels.

“Revenge isn’t my strength,” the tabasqueño assured when asked about an investigation into former president Peña Nieto’s finances. He exhibited mercy later in the conference, defending condolences for deceased former president Luis Echeverría, who is remembered for his violently repressive governance.

With his flight to Washington fast approaching, López Obrador reaffirmed his respect for a Cuban revolutionary. “When Fidel Castro died I said that a giant had died, just like [former South African president] Mandela,” the president said, before showing a video of the two men meeting and Mandela warmly thanking Castro for Cuba’s help in the South African civil rights struggle.


Two senior statesmen met at the White House on Tuesday. AMLO, 68, looked youthful across from his U.S. counterpart: Biden, 79, is the the oldest person to become U.S. president.

Diplomacy led the proceedings. “We see Mexico as an equal partner. Our nations share close ties in family and friendship, and we’re united through our values and our history,” Biden said.

However, on migration the U.S. president pushed responsibility southwards. He said the migration crisis was a “hemispheric issue” which had been addressed at the Summit of the Americas last month in Los Angeles, an event López Obrador boycotted. Biden described Mexico as “a top destination of migrants” and lamented the trafficking of people and synthetic drugs into the U.S., highlighting the truck disaster in Texas last month where more than 50 migrants died.

López Obrador was eager to share his perspective. He said that “our grievances [as Mexicans from past U.S. policy] are not really easy to forget … [but] we’ve been able to work together,” and pointed to former U.S. president Franklin Roosevelt as a model for bilateral cooperation.

The presidents and first ladies pose in the U.S. White House.
The presidents and first ladies pose in the U.S. White House. Official Website of López Obrador

The president told Biden it was wrong to accept China as “the factory of the world” and said it was urgent to regularize migrants to help increase production and build infrastructure in the U.S. “I know that your adversaries, the conservatives, are going to be screaming all over the place, even to heaven … the way out is not through conservatism. The way out is through transformation,” AMLO affirmed.

“Long live the United States … Long live Mexico, dear Mexico, loved and beautiful Mexico. Viva México,” López Obrador concluded, relieving Biden.

Tuesday afternoon

The president paid tribute to civil rights icon Martin Luther King and Franklin Roosevelt at their respective monuments on Tuesday afternoon. With the son and family of Martin Luther King and many Mexican migrants in attendance, he improvised a speech.

AMLO gave an impromptu speech at the statue of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, in the U.S. capital.
AMLO gave an impromptu speech at the statue of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, in the U.S. capital. Official Website of López Obrador

“Not everything that has to do with the United States has been a grievance. There are, of course, moments that can not be forgotten … but there have also been moments of mutual assistance,” he said, and credited Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt for their diplomacy.

“We’re here at the monument of a great civil rights fighter, Martin Luther King, because we admire him. He is a follower … of a creed that is summarized in one sentence: love thy neighbor … it is possible to peacefully achieve a better society for all, that is the dream we have. He said at the time, ‘I have a dream.’ We have to continue to maintain that dream, that utopia, for us and for those who come after us: our children and our grandchildren. That is Luther King’s greatest lesson,” the president proclaimed.


The deputy security minister boasted some of the week’s big arrests in the “Zero Impunity” section. He said three people were detained after the murder of an Italian businessman in Chiapas and a man known as the “Cannibal of Taxco,” who killed his wife and prepared to eat her in 2018, would finally see justice.

Deputy Security Minister Ricardo Mejía gave his weekly arrest report on Thursday.
Deputy Security Minister Ricardo Mejía gave his weekly arrest report on Thursday. Presidencia de la República

The president reflected on his meeting with Biden which he said was “favorable, good for both nations.” He added Biden had agreed to considerably increase the number of temporary visas on offer for Mexicans and Central Americans and said consensus was found on investments to improve ports of entry between the U.S. and Mexico.

López Obrador added that U.S. businesses had pledged to invest US $40 billion, mainly in the energy sector by 2024, and said he mentioned to business representatives that salaries in Mexico were lower than in China, presumably to advertise the country as a location for manufacturing.

Tangentially, before finishing the conference, the president explained the difference between corn chips in Oaxaca, i.e. totopos, and those in Tabasco, called totopostes. In Tabasco, he confirmed, they are thinner. He then revealed his desire for a breakfast with beans, cheese, some fried bananas and totopostes.


The conference on Friday started with a message from the first Mexican woman to reach outer space. A short video of Katya Echazarreta was broadcast: “The planet looks incredibly beautiful from space. But the most beautiful thing for me was that I was able to dedicate this flight to my country, to my beloved and beautiful Mexico,” said the U.S. citizen, who was born in Guadalajara.

The president confirmed that in November delegations from the U.S. and Canada would visit Mexico to discuss the countries’ free trade agreement. Later in the conference, López Obrador thanked recent French presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who had said AMLO is the natural leader of Latin America. AMLO also thanked Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro, who’d said “we take off our hat” to the president for his stance with Biden.

The tabasqueño had words of support for another old leftist as well. Brazil’s Lula da Silva will compete for a third term as president in October, having been released from prison last year. AMLO called Lula a “blessing” for Brazil, and assured he was innocent of all previous allegations against him.

Mexico News Daily

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