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29.01.2021 15:12 News >> With Biden, Challenges In US-Mexican Relations Remain

With Biden, Challenges In US-Mexican Relations Remain

President Biden marks dramatic change from Trump’s policies, but for Mexico, a Democrat's arrival is not without worries.

On Jan. 22, after his first phone conversation with US President Joe Biden, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on social media: "Everything indicates that the relationship will be good for the well-being of our people and our nations."
For Ana Vanessa Cardenas, an international analyst operating in Chile, Peru, and Mexico, Biden's approach to the Mexican leader was something of a surprise.
"Biden surprised us with his immediate contact with Obrador. The expectation was that Mexico wasn't in his priorities. He has a myriad of problems to take care of, so more than being concerned about Mexico, he is more concerned about what he promised to the US," explained Cardenas to Anadolu Agency.
Migration
During the conversation, the world leaders talked about migration, especially Biden's new and radically different approach from his predecessor. Starting his presidency on Jan. 20, Biden signed a bill that would undo four years of former President Donald Trump's punitive stand.
Announcing the preservation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA migrant policy, which protects migrants who arrived in the US as children – a program which Trump was vocally against – and promising to secure a pathway towards naturalization for millions of migrants, Biden's approach differs from the one held by his predecessor.
"Biden is supporting his campaign and emphasizing his differences to Trump. If the Mexican government plays its cards right, we can expect a complete migratory agreement. It is a good sign for Dreamers [DACA recipients] and a promise of more humane treatment," said Cardenas.
The Democratic president announced a $4 billion investment plan for Central American countries with a prevalent migration incidence towards the US and Mexico. The Central America North Triangle, as it is known, is plagued by violence and poverty, conditions that have pushed people towards migration.
"This fair and respectful treatment will have an impact not only in human terms but also in the political realm. Biden knows that part of his political capital comes from Latinos and opposition to the xenophobic speech of Trump," she said.
Lopez Obrador has been very vocal about tackling migration from its roots, looking out for development for unstable regions instead of focusing on criminalizing migration. The US and Mexican presidents seem to agree on the issue.
Economy
Obrador has mentioned the relevance of EU economic development for Mexico, as their economies are intertwined. Cardenas said she expects a continuation of Mexico's growth and place as a huge EU commercial partner.
"The commercial relationship will be carried out more easily and in a more diplomatic climate," she said, referring to Trump's characteristically divisive approach.
"This economic continuation can be affected by the pandemic or the international crisis that is developing. But the bilateral economic relationship is solid enough and obeys a globalizing market that has little to do with the rulers in power," she added.
According to Cardenas, although Obrador and Biden appear to be confident about the coming years as commercial partners, some issues might lead them to a confrontation.
Energy
Biden has made renewable energies as a centerpiece of his economic and energy plan. He recently announced the US will rejoin the 2015 Paris Agreement, pushing for zero-emission vehicles and even a ban on new oil and gas leases.
On the other hand, Obrador has seemingly pushed back renewable energies, as he is looking to strengthen state-owned companies such as PEMEX and the CFE, both oil and electricity energy enterprises.
Obrador denounced the energetic reform established by his predecessor Enrique Pena Nieto, who left the energy market to the private initiative.
"I think this approach that Biden had with Obrador is partly because of the energy subject and the businessmen that will push the American government, who in turn will push Mexico to make those investments, even more so nowadays that the US returned to the Paris Agreement," said Cardenas.
As Obrador continues to reject the work of his processor, accusing it of leaving Mexico's energy market in the hands of few wealthy businessmen, sustainable energies in part held by US investors have seen a fallback in Mexican territory.
"Clean energies will be a flag for the American government, and in light of that, there could be pressure from Washington to make Mexico comply with its economic commitments and act according to international environmental treaties."
As Cardenas explains, although renewable energies might escalate into a confrontation between the two leaders, this is not the only issue that might cause friction in US-Mexican relations.
Cienfuegos case, feud with US Drug Enforcement Administration
The other pressing issue, according to Cardenas, is the Salvador Cienfuegos investigation. After Mexico's general attorney declared there is no evidence to prosecute and charge the former defense minister for drug trafficking and money laundering, US officials voiced their disappointment in the decision.
Initially apprehended by US authorities in an airport in Los Angeles, Cienfuegos was pending trial for his apparent connection with the H2 cartel. But he was freed and returned to Mexico, as Obrador showed his discontent with having a high-ranking official investigated by US agents with complete opacity.
Cienfuegos was returned to Mexico in a sign of respect and cooperation by the US government, and subsequently acquitted. Obrador branded the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigation as "unprofessional" and "disrespectful," even hinting at electoral interests behind the arrest of Cienfuegos last October.
Mexican Attorney General Alejandro Gertz defended his decision, stating that he is willing to appeal to international courts against the DEA to resolve the issue.
Responding to Gertz, former DEA chief Mike Vigil said the charges against Cienfuegos were dropped by the US Justice Department as requested by the Mexican government, but despite that the evidence against him was solid.
"I believe the Mexican government is looking for a way out for not prosecuting Gen. Cienfuegos. They are trying to justify what they didn't do, to the Mexican citizens," Vigil said in an interview.
Mexico recently has passed a bill that limits foreign agents in Mexican territory, leaving them without immunity and under the control of Mexican institutions.
"Institutions such as the DEA are renowned, so to discredit them and attack them after exonerating Cienfuegos was not a good strategy," said Cardenas. "The DEA is not going to stay silent with arms crossed and stand the discredit. They could reveal the investigations they have on multiple members of Mexican politics."
To date Obrador has made his position clear, saying he will not tolerate foreign interference or international pressure. His statements on the Cienfuegos investigation and pushing back foreign agents attest to his patriotic sovereign stand.
"Obrador has been more aggressive. I think he might have these moments of nationalist logic if he feels pressured by the US, but it won't come to a relevant confrontation," added Cardenas. -



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