What Texans should know about Mexico’s historic presidential election

Texans will be directly impacted by the historic presidential election in Mexico in myriad ways.

By Stephania Corpi, Texas Public RadioJune 1, 2024 7:15 pm, ,

From Texas Public Radio:

When Alejandro Mazal, an immigration attorney specializing in cross-border contract negotiations, corporate services and immigration law, moved to The Woodlands, Texas from Monterrey, Mexico in the summer of 2015, the U.S. election cycle was in full swing.

Mazal said that as he and his family were settling into their new home, the political tensions at that time “kick-started a cycle of learned helplessness and confusion”and brought about a sense of being “ill at ease living the American dream.”

Because of his dual citizenship, after a decade living in the U.S., Mazal has voted in all U.S. elections—but none in Mexico. “I honestly don’t feel equipped to follow the political and social currents in both countries,” he said, adding that the “‘hashtag MAGA’ [movement] drains [his] energy for politics.”

With around 8 million Texans of Mexican origin, many of those born south of the border still have family members closely tied to the country’s political and economic climate.

Nearly 100 million Mexicans will cast their ballots this Sunday in a historic election. For the first time, there are two women from the major parties vying for the presidency.

Texans have a vested interest in Mexico’s upcoming election. The results could have a lasting effect on relations between Texas and Mexico – and the U.S. and Mexico.

The election outcome could impact, for example, the flow of remittances, which have surged to $63 billion dollars in the last year.

The increase in remittances is driven by economic factors like inflation and economic changes in the life of those who live in Mexico. The peso – or “super peso” – is the strongest it’s been in some seven years. The sharp appreciation of the peso means that migrants living in the U.S. have had to work longer shifts to compensate for losses.

As the Texas Tribune reported, many are thankful their families can receive government subsidies. Programs like Pensión Bienestar provide around $350 to Mexican citizens over 65 years old. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s slogan, “Primero los pobres” (First the poor) resonates with many across the border to feel less pressure, especially now that the dollars they send are worth less due to the peso’s strength.

Stephania Corpi Arnaud

Claudia Sheinbaum, former mayor of Mexico City and presidential candidate for the Morena party, speaks during the closing campaign rally at Zocalo Plaza in Mexico City, Mexico, on Wednesday, May 29, 2024.

The clear front-runner in the Mexican presidential election, Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo, is from the ruling Morena party. Sheinbaum has Jewish roots; her mother’s parents migrated to Mexico from Bulgaria, fleeing the Nazis in the 1930s. The 61-year-old is a former Mexico City mayor, an engineer with a Ph.D. and a shared Nobel Peace Prize. She was the first woman elected to lead Mexico’s capital.

However, Sheinbaum faces skepticism about her independence from current President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Stephania Corpi Arnaud

Xochitl Galvez

The opposition candidate, Senator Xochitl Gálvez, who is also 61, is a tech entrepreneur representing a three-party opposition coalition. Gálvez is of Otomi indigenous origin and regularly describes how she escaped poverty and violence from her father’s abusive alcoholic behavior.

However, many question her alliance with political parties that have a long list of corruption scandals and conservative ideas on reproductive rights and gender.

“I’m really not happy with any of the candidates, none of them convince me. I just know we need to take Morena out of power,” explains Richard Rohel, a 38-year-old Mexican who has been living in the U.S. for the past four years. A resident of Lubbock, he’s worried about the apathy of many Mexicans and how many are not paying attention to what’s at stake in this election.

“Politics in the U.S. and Mexico are intertwined and depend economically on each other,” he added.

Rohel, a food trailer importer, explains his business has been stable, but that could change if the elected president on either side of the border doesn’t agree on trading ideals. Nearshoring is one of the things that worries him; in 2023, the US traded $798 billion with Mexico as the goods it bought from its southern neighbor surged past China and Canada.

“What would happen if China decided to open maquilas in northern Mexico?” he wonders.

Claudia Sheinbaum, former mayor of Mexico City and presidential candidate for the Morena party, speaks during the closing campaign rally at Zocalo Plaza in Mexico City, Mexico, on Wednesday, May 29, 2024.

Both candidates have tried to explain how they will tackle immigration, using similar messages: promoting safe, orderly and regular migration, while guaranteeing the respect of human rights of migrants. In a column in El Universal, migration expert Andrew Selee says migration hasn’t really been part of the campaign, but the next Mexican president will have to address the issue first in October. Under the radar, two weeks ago, Mexico launched “Modelo Mexicano de Movilidad Humana,” a strategy addressing Mexicans living abroad, migrants willing to stay in Mexico and those crossing the country.

Deterrence has been AMLO’s exchange currency with the U.S. towards the end of his administration. Apprehensions have declined at the U.S.-Mexico border by 6% while detentions throughout Mexico, particularly at the southern border, have increased. And even though nothing seems to be different at the border, according to the Strauss Center, more kidnappings and extortions of migrants have been reported this year.

Protestors in the opposition lead “pink march” gather at Mexico City’s main square on May 19, 2024. Xóchitl Gálvez the presidential candidates, participated.

AMLO’s security policy “abrazos no balazos” (“hugs not bullets”) has resulted in many Mexicans being displaced due to violence. This fiscal year, on average, there have been 63,000 Mexican encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Sheinbaum has also said she would like to strengthen asylum, refugee and repatriation policies while investing in countries of origin to avoid the issue of people being forced to migrate.

Gálvez’s campaign echoes these same interests, but claims she will also cooperate with UN agencies such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and United Nations HIgh Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to train public officials, security agents and border personnel on migrant rights.

Whatever they can or are willing to do will also greatly depend on the outcome of the elections in the U.S.

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