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Why Andrés Manuel López Obrador Went to Dinner with Donald Trump

July 09, 2020

Over breakfast one morning in the spring of 2018, Andrés Manuel López Obrador spoke to me of his plans to transform Mexico. He was running for the Mexican Presidency, and we were in Parral, the Chihuahua mining town where Pancho Villa had been gunned down ninety-five years earlier. Where Villa’s revolutionary campaign had been bloody, López Obrador said, his would be peaceful, but it, too, would change history. What about Donald Trump? I asked. How was he going to deal with him?

A veteran left-of-center politician, López Obrador appeared to be fervently opposed to everything that Trump stood for. He had excoriated the outgoing President, Enrique Peña Nieto, for appeasing Trump in spite of his disrespectful remarks about Mexico and Mexicans, and he had vowed, by contrast, to defend Mexico’s sovereignty and the dignity of its people. At one point, he had said that, if Trump continued to send troops to the U.S.-Mexican border, he would counter with a peaceful army of Mexican civilians, dressed in white...

Eric Farnsworth, a former Clinton Administration official who is currently the vice-president of the Council of the Americas and Americas Society, thinks that López Obrador’s calculations regarding the trip are primarily economic. “AMLO’s own political agenda is better served by seeking accommodation with Washington wherever possible.” But, he added, López Obrador “has a fierce loyalty to his own political instincts and world view, much like Trump.‎ In this, the two leaders appear to understand each other and also to respect each other. So, it appears that amlo will take the opportunity to highlight the U.S.M.C.A. as a means to renew investor interest in Mexico, particularly from within North America. He will also seek to gain additional support in fighting the pandemic. And he will seek Trump’s guarantees for economic forbearance at least through the November elections.”...

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