Read: Trump’s new deal with Mexico could make asylum next to impossible.
Trump and AMLO will make an odd economic marriage, given both men’s insistence on putting their country first (for a change, they’d add). Like Trump, AMLO is a nationalist populist, though of a more proletarian variety. Like Trump, AMLO claims that his supporters have been handed the short end of the stick by his nation’s more globalized elites (and, says AMLO, by certain “power mafias” ruling over the country from swampy Mexico City). Like Trump, AMLO has little patience for established norms or checks and balances, considering them pretexts for the establishment’s subjugation of the voters he has now come to vindicate.
AMLO has been a busy president-elect, in ways alarming to financial markets. He held a consulta popular referendum of no legal standing, and mostly among his supporters, to ratify his decision to scratch Mexico’s $13 billion new international airport. AMLO’s process—disregard for existing contracts (construction was well under way)—and warnings to get used to hearing from the people more often have led to a slide in the Mexican stock market and the value of the peso.
AMLO’s second consulta popular appeared to prove the people’s desire for his cherished high-speed train, the so-called Tren Maya, and for a basket of goodies such as universal free Wi-Fi and health care, with no consideration of cost or means.** The president-elect now says he wants to amend Mexico’s constitution to allow for more frequent, formal referenda. He also plans to create an office of “super delegate” in each state to act as his emissary, overseeing and coordinating all federal programs. Governors see this as an incursion into their sovereign affairs, a violation of Mexico’s federalism, but AMLO and his National Regeneration Movement, Morena, control a majority in both houses of Congress and in many state legislatures, so there are few impediments to what he’s calling Mexico’s “fourth transformation.” (The previous three refer to watershed moments in Mexican history, including its achievement of independence.)
It should be quite a spectacle, this AMLO presidency, if a rather scary one for anyone who is paid in pesos or holds investments in Mexico.
Reihan Salam: Trump and Mexico need each other.
Just how the AMLO and Trump shows will play off each other is an open question. Mexico’s outgoing administration was full of steady technocrats determined to duck each of Trump’s provocations to minimize damage to the relationship. Indeed, President Peña Nieto took this strategy to the inexplicable extreme recently, awarding Jared Kushner Mexico’s highest honor given to a foreigner, the Order of the Aztec Eagle, much to the dismay and disgust of Mexicans of all political persuasions.
During AMLO’s long transition since his July triumph at the polls, the two men have struck a cordial note in their exchanges, contrary to expectations. But things could now turn sour very quickly. Both AMLO and Trump may conspire unwittingly to a surge of migrants leaving Mexico for work in the United States if they persist with policies that dissuade job creation in Mexico. Even before taking office, AMLO has scared off investors with his disregard for the rule of law and property rights. Trump, meanwhile, has repeatedly used his bully pulpit to browbeat U.S. corporations that invest in Mexico, most recently attacking GM’s decision to close plants in the U.S. (plants that produced unpopular sedans that aren’t selling) while keeping other plants open in Mexico.