MEXICO CITY – Mexican head of state Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s plans to visit the United States on July 8-9 and meet with President Donald Trump have sparked conflicting opinions in Mexico, with some expressing support for the trip and others viewing it as a national humiliation.
Lopez Obrador’s decision to make Washington the destination of his first foreign trip has been criticized by those who have not forgotten Trump’s insulting references to Mexican undocumented migrants dating back to the start of his presidential campaign, when he said the US’s failure to implement tough immigration policy had resulted in crime, drugs and even “rapists” spilling across its southern border.
“I feel like we’re giving in and doing whatever the blonde guy (Trump) decides,” Luis Prado, a chauffeur in Mexico’s capital, said in an interview with EFE on Friday.
Like many of his countrymen, Prado believes Trump “is looking for votes ahead of his possible re-election” in November and has invited Lopez Obrador for that reason.
“He’s denied us a lot of things and treated Mexicans badly, and now that he needs us, we’re going to support him? Lopez Obrador is going to go there, but why doesn’t he (Trump) come here?” he asked.
Insurance agent Fernando Garcia, for his part, said he believes the Mexican head of state has good intentions.
“But if deep down it’s a matter of Trump, knowing how sly and wily he is, using the visit for electoral gain, Lopez Obrador shouldn’t lend himself to that,” he added.
Lopez Obrador said a week ago that his visit has nothing to do with electoral politics and instead coincides with this week’s launch of a new trade agreement linking Mexico, the US and Canada.
“It’s a state visit … Is there risk? Politics is like walking a tightrope at all times. You have to take risks and make decisions,” he said.
The president has the backing of Ricardo Ortega, a Mexican retiree who recalled that the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement – the successor to the 26-year-old NAFTA trade deal – has just entered into force and “he has to go and fine-tune certain points.”
Trump “is a very particular person” in terms of his behavior, Ortega said, recommending that Lopez Obrador speak up for Mexican and Central American migrants during his visit.
“Without us, the Mexicans and Central Americans, the United States can’t keep growing,” he said, referring to the US’s declining birth rate.
Aurelia Lozano also expressed support for the visit.
Lopez Obrador will travel to the US “to meet with the world’s most powerful man,” she said, though adding that the Mexican leader is an intelligent person who will know how to best represent Mexico and advocate for migrants.
Jose Maria Ramos, a specialist in Mexico-US relations at the Tijuana, Mexico-based College of the Northern Border, said it will be difficult to get Trump to cede ground on the border wall and other immigration issues (which are a top priority for the American president’s supporters).
But he said Lopez Obrador should try to “change a bit the focus (and) perspective” of Trump, who now praises the Mexican leader but last year had threatened to impose escalating tariffs on all Mexican imports unless his administration took decisive steps to halt the northward flow of mostly Central American migrants.
As part of that agreement, Mexico deployed a new National Guard force to its southern border with Guatemala and agreed to take in more migrants pending their asylum hearings in the US.
Mexico’s business community, which has had testy relations with the center-left president, supports his trip to the US.
The president of the Confederation of Industrial Chambers of Mexico, Francisco Cervantes, said at a press conference that business leaders are optimistic the visit will be positive and generate more favorable investment conditions.
Some politicians, however, have slammed the Mexican president for agreeing to meet with Trump.
Michoacan Gov. Silvano Aureoles, a leftist whose western state is the place of origin of more than 4 million Mexican migrants now living in the US, told Lopez Obrador in a letter that he will be meeting with the “most racist and conservative head of state the United States has ever had.”