Verification of US-Mexico Relations

Cody Copeland

Courthouse News Service

President López Obrador and his wife Beatriz Gutiérrez Müller celebrated Cinco de Mayo on Thursday in the distinct way the day is honored on both sides of the border.

While López Obrador was visiting the city of Puebla to take part in a military parade commemorating a Mexican army victory over the French in 1862, Gutiérrez accepted an invitation from U.S. First Lady Jill Biden to be his guest of honor at the Cinco de Mayo celebrations at the White House. .

His visit aims to “demonstrate the current good relations and friendship between Mexico and the United States”, according to a Press release issued by the Embassy of Mexico in Washington DC

Jill Biden underlined this friendship at the start of the celebration. “Dr. Gutiérrez, Beatriz, from our love of poetry and literature to our shared passion for education, we have so much in common,” she said. “It’s not just our history that is linked to Mexico, but also our future.”

Opinion polls conducted under the Trump administration found that US-Mexico relations had deteriorated to much less than “friendly”, and tensions have simmered ever since. Courthouse News therefore spoke to several experts on various aspects of the bilateral relationship – political, trade, security and border issues – to get an idea of ​​the current state of relations between the two countries.

“The relationship between Mexico and the United States is much less adversarial than it was under the Trump administration,” said Rafael Fernández De Castro, director of the Center for US-Mexico Studies at the University of California. in San Diego. “The Biden administration fully understands the importance of Mexico to the United States.”

A key player in this relationship is Ambassador Ken Salazar, who has maintained a close relationship of trust with President López Obrador.

“In Mexico, we have returned to the era of imperial presidencies. The president is very powerful, has very few checks and balances, so this relationship between Salazar and López Obrador is very important for bilateral relations and opens up space for dialogue,” Fernández said.

However, tensions remain between the two governments. López Obrador tends to put domestic politics ahead of international relations, which has caused tension. “What happened was that López Obrador broke the golden rule in bilateral relations, which is not to politicize the relationship,” Fernández said.

Some of Biden’s political opponents have also succumbed to this rule violation, as seen with Texas Senator Ted Cruz. critical of López Obrador’s speech on the issue of violence against journalists in Mexico.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s increased vehicle inspections at the border in April in response to the Biden administration’s announcement to end Title 42 was another sign of those tensions, but Fernández said that the political situation was generally improving and that Gutiérrez’s visit to the White House is a positive sign.

“I like these kinds of meetings because they force the participants to focus on the relationship and on the results,” he said.

Areas of political conflict, however, affect the economic side of the relationship, according to Gabriela Siller, economic analyst at Mexican financial firm Banco Base.

“Mexico is the second largest trading partner of the United States, but these commercial relations are mainly threatened by the reform initiatives carried out by the López Obrador administration, which jeopardize American investments in Mexico,” Siller said, referring to at the proposal of the President. electricity reform, among other aspects of its vaunted “Fourth Transformation” of Mexico.

She said actions such as Abbott’s border inspections and López Obrador’s signature response to his morning press conferences – while in Puebla for the Cinco de Mayo parade, he called the Abbott’s politics with the visual aid of a clip from popular band Los Tigres del Norte — only further endangers business relations.

“It only makes them more strained at a time of so much economic uncertainty and what we need most is stability,” Siller said.

Fernández, for his part, highlighted the economic side of US-Mexico relations as a point of understanding and highlighted the USMCA free trade agreement as a stabilizing force between the countries.

However, where the relationship really needs work is on security, according to Fernández.

Mike Vigil, former head of international operations at the US Drug Enforcement Administration, agrees, saying the bicentennial security framework signed this year is insufficient to address the shared security situation between the two countries.

For Vigil, the agreement leaves too much responsibility for security issues in the hands of each country. “Without a cooperation agreement – which for me it’s not – it’s going to be disastrous for Mexico and the United States,” he said.

“What it lacks are teeth and a framework that would lay a solid foundation for a much more cohesive working relationship,” he said, adding that the two countries still need to work on their own respective responsibilities.

The United States should focus more on reducing drug demand at home through integrated drug education in schools, churches and at home, he said, and Mexico must do so. more to strengthen its judicial system. But more collaborative law enforcement efforts need to be implemented to reduce drug trafficking and the violence it causes.

“Drug traffickers can transform their strategy in no time, and we need to be as proactive as the cartels, if not more. There are many things we can do together, but López Obrador has fundamentally destroyed bilateral counter-narcotics work efforts,” he said, pointing to the Mexican president’s restrictions on how the DEA and other US agencies can work in Mexico. after exonerating former defense chief Salvador Cienfuegos in January.

López Obrador accused the DEA of “fabricating” the charges against Cienfuegos, who was arrested in the United States for drug trafficking and returned to Mexico for possible prosecution.

“The bicentenary framework will have no impact. It’s like having a tiger without claws and teeth tackling the drug problem,” Vigil said.

Despite all these tensions, much of the positive aspects of US-Mexico relations are found, interestingly enough, where they are often most intensely concentrated in public discourse: the border.

Irasema Coronado, director of the School of Transborder Studies at Arizona State University, said she finds diplomacy, partnership and understanding in economic and family ties that cross the border.

“Sometimes those cross-border relationships can be affected by the larger U.S.-Mexico relationship, but at the local level, people overall have better diplomatic and economic relations than the larger bi-national agenda,” he said. she declared.

This may sound contrary to what people often hear about this region.

“The further you get from the border, the scarier it seems. If you’re in Ohio or anywhere, the border looks scary from everything you see on TV, and surely there’s those aspects to it, but there’s also bi-national and functional economic and family relationships that thrive on the border,” she says.

“From a border specialist’s perspective, and comparatively across the world, this is a relatively peaceful and open border, with good relations. We don’t fight, we don’t kill each other. Are there tensions? Absolutely, but they are part of the relationship,” Coronado said.

She and the others interviewed for this article all agreed that meetings like Thursday’s between the first ladies are good for US-Mexico relations.

“Meetings like this can absolutely help. The more people meet, the more engagement there is and the better they know each other, the more opportunities there will be for mutual respect to emerge,” Coronado said.

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