AMLO Meets Biden and Proposes a Change for the Better

By Gustavo A. Maranges on July 14, 2022

Undoubtedly, the most relevant news of the week in Latin America was the visit of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) to the United States. Obrador’s visit had a ring of difference that commanded a new respect reflecting the changes in the region that AMLO has played a leading role in. This was not a third-world president showing up with his hat in hand looking from a handout from the empire’s top administrator. Many Mexicans supporting Obrador showed up outside the Lombardy Hotel, which included mariachi bands singing for him on the street, and his speech in the meeting with Joe Biden, showed that AMLO is a true popular Latin America leader who is committed to development and respect for the sovereignty of his country and the region.

“My greetings to the hard-working, progressive people of the United States,” was AMLO’s opening line for Biden. It was a direct message, although very subtle, about what kind of president he is and what his priorities are. The conversation was pleasant, with a friendly diplomatic tone, which proves AMLO’s intention is to cooperate based on mutual respect. However, there was also a piece of underlying advice during the whole conversation that carried a subtle tone of difference that could be interpreted as “President Biden, the policy towards Latin America can no longer be based on hegemony, but on cooperation.”

The exchange between the two leaders lasted just over thirty minutes, which was more than enough time to realize that Biden’s main concern was to control the flow of immigrants through the US southern border. However, AMLO replied by making it clear that the problem is not just about improving border crossing infrastructure or increasing the number of deployed troops there.

Latin American migration to the United States is a much more complex phenomenon that should focus on fostering decent jobs in the region and implementing policies and cooperation projects to promote development in Latin America and consequently improve the living conditions of millions of potential migrants so they won’t have to leave their homelands.

Biden mentioned that in 2021, the US issued a record number of work visas to Mexicans while announcing this year they will double the number of temporary work permits for Central Americans. Then, AMLO reminded him that Mexico or Central America should not be the only targets of these policies. It rather should be addressed from a continental projection, making a direct allusion to the “Good Neighbor” policy designed by former US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

In line with this thinking, AMLO did not only limit himself to expressing his concerns but proposed a mutually beneficial cooperation agenda. This problem-solving attitude sharply contrasts with the US stance.  Not really surprising the Biden Administration brought an agenda lacking in real solutions while keeps failing to follow up on the few positive steps that have been taken, like the $4 billion funds to promote development and curb irregular migration from Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.

AMLO showed his full willingness to cooperate with the US to reduce the harmful impact of inflation in the fuel sector. Some measures include doubling the fuel sold to US transporters in Mexican cities near the border at a price 25% cheaper than in the US market. Mexico also offered its infrastructure of over 600 miles of gas pipelines to supply Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. It would mean gas-generated electricity for 3 million people.

AMLO also asked for a tariff review on Mexican products. Something that affects Mexican producers, because of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). At one point in the short meeting Biden bristled when AMLO reminded him of the reality that China was now “The World’s Factory”. Instead of proposing ways to encourage investment to strengthen food and energy markets together the US president defensively said it wasn’t true.

Finally, he closed his speech by asking the United States to regularize and order the flow of immigration by saying that issuing more temporary work permits to non-agricultural workers is a good step in that direction and will also contribute to the success of the Biden administration’s infrastructure investment plan. To finish, AMLO kept firm to his promise to defend migrants and asked Biden to regularize the migratory status of over 11 million people who have been contributing to the development of the United States for years and yet have no legal status or social benefits.

This official visit serves as a reminder of the importance of Mexico and Latin America in relationship to the US. AMLO has demonstrated that the path of cooperation, instead of meddling or hostility, is the best way to solve the common problems of the region. It only remains to be seen how interested Biden is in implementing a change for the better.

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano – English