Is trouble brewing south of the Rio Grande? Have Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin gotten together to support the emergence of a “populist dictator” in the upcoming Mexican elections? Is the present front-runner for the presidency, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the Mexican equivalent of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez or Nicolás Maduro?
A series of articles and opinions published by the Council on Foreign Relations, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Politico, The Atlantic, and The Economist, among others, have pushed these ideas recently into the mainstream of international public opinion, creating a surprising bipartisan consensus in Washington. Both Clintonites, like Larry Summers, and top officials in the Trump administration, like H.R. McMaster, already have issued paranoid public warnings on the topic.
It is time to set the record straight. Analysts and politicians who compare López Obrador to Chávez or Trump demonstrate an extreme level of ignorance about Mexican history and politics. And those who worry about a possible intervention of Moscow need to get a serious reality check.
The first, and perhaps most important, step is to understand that López Obrador is not “anti-American” by any stretch of the imagination. Last year, immediately after Trump’s inauguration, the Mexican leader embarked on a tour of more than a dozen cities in the United States, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, and Washington, DC, to express his solidarity with the Mexican diaspora.
López Obrador’s speeches and writings from this period reflect his utmost respect and admiration for the United States and its people, as well as an interest in establishing a positive, constructive relationship with Washington. “We call for a harmonious relationship between our two countries, one based on cooperation for development. When we work together, everyone wins. But in confrontation, the United States and Mexico will both lose,” he wrote in The Washington Post.