While many international leaders have acknowledged Joe Biden as president-elect of the United States, one leader especially important to Texas has not: Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, or AMLO.
Tony Payan, director of the Center for the United States and Mexico at Rice University’s Baker Institute, tells Texas Standard that during his presidency, AMLO has found a “kindred spirit” in U.S. President Donald Trump, which could explain his reluctance to congratulate Biden.
“During his campaign back in 2017-2018, President López Obrador … said he was going to challenge Mr. Trump and his treatment of Mexicans at that time. And yet when he got to the Mexican presidency, he completely switched his position,” Payan said. “Their way of behaving, doing politics, relating to the press, to the political opposition, the way they polarize society, they’re very, very similar.“
Part of AMLO’s reasoning could be strategic. Payan says he could be wary of Trump retaliating against Mexico in the intervening months until Biden’s inauguration if AMLO were to show support for the president-elect.
“He thinks that he is defending Mexico’s interests. He’s afraid that Mr. Trump, in the next several days or so might close the border in retaliation,” Payan said.
But Payan says such retaliation is unlikely.
AMLO also shares similar views with Trump about energy policy. He seeks to ratchet up Mexican oil production in a time when Biden wants to move toward more renewable energy. Payan says AMLO is headed for a “collision course” on that front when Biden takes office.
“I don’t think he is going to get a pass the way he’s getting a pass by Mr. Trump,” he said.
Payan says Texas Democrats, in particular, are troubled by AMLO’s stance, but that it’s more of a “diplomatic blunder” than a precursor for long-term tension between the United States and Mexico.
“Mr. Biden does not appear to me to be a kind of a vengeful, resentful politician. I think he’s a man who understands American interests, and I think many of U.S. interests go through Mexico,” Payan said. “I think the Biden administration will pursue those interests very systematically, very institutionally.”