Things That Matter

Mexico’s President AMLO Just Said ‘El Chapo’ Had As Much Power As The President And That’s A Big Deal

Even behind bars in a maximum security prison in the United States, where he will live for the rest of his life, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán exerts enormous political influence due to his legacy. This legacy involves not only the still viable and very much present criminal organization that he founded, the Sinaloa Cartel, but also the networks of vested interests and corruption that the cartel threaded with and within all levels of government throughout the decades. These acts of corruption are being slowly revealed and the magnitude of the Cartel’s influence in past and current administrations at all levels of government is just now beginning to be fully understood. 

Just recently Genaro García Luna, the architect behind President Felipe Calderón’s 2006-2012 full frontal war against the cartels was arrested by United States authorities for allegedly receiving bribes from Sinaloa and using federal security forces to decimate its enemies. This was seen by opponents of the former president as a validation of their point of view that Calderón had benefited the Sinaloa Cartel by using the army against other organizations such as Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel. 

Now a New Year’s video from the city of Palenque in which current Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador recounts what he believes are the accomplishments of his first year in power further fed the myth of El Chapo as an omnipresent figure in cultural, social and political life in Mexico . The video also made many question whether Mexico is in fact a narco-State, a country whose government dances to the rhythm set by criminal organizations. What AMLO said is nothing new, but rather sort of validates what was un secreto a voces. 

AMLO said that El Chapo was just as powerful as his predecessors.

Power is the capacity to make others do what you want them to, either for personal or communal benefit. Plain and simple. AMLO said: “There was a time when Guzmán had the same power or had the influence that the then president had … because there had been a conspiracy and that made it difficult to punish those who committed crimes. That has already become history, gone to the garbage dump of history.” He was referring, of course, to Vicente Fox, Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto, with whom he had an antagonistic relationship for years. 

Few political pundits question whether El Chapo had an influence in past administrations, but what can be debated is whether AMLO’s presidency has a stronger hold of power vis a vis the cartels. 

He also used a word that has been long one of his favorites: conspiracy. It sometimes seems that for AMLO anything that escapes a logical explanation falls into the category of a “complot” in the highest spheres of power.

As The Guardian states, AMLO’s words are sort of empty and in line with his rhetorical style of offering little proof when stating big, important things: “He claimed without offering any evidence that he had already done away with the high-level corruption that was rampant in previous governments, but said it was crucial to draw a bright line between criminal elements and authorities so that the two sides do not mingle as they had in the past.”

But how can this line be drawn when municipal, state and federal forces find it hard and almost impossible to coordinate? As The Guardian reminds us, the lack of specificity in AMLO’s political style is often dumfounding: “But his vaguely defined strategy has itself come under intense criticism after a string of high-profile violent crimes, including an ambush which killed 13 state police officers, the murder of nine members of a US-Mexican family and the humiliating release of one of Guzmán’s sons after cartel gunmen besieged an entire city after he was briefly detained.”

Critics were quick to remind AMLO that his “abrazos no balazos” (hugs instead of bullets) policy has been ineffective.

Credit: Keriarko / Instagram

Cartoonists and commentators were quick to point out that AMLO’s first year in power was the most violent ever (save for the period known as the Mexican Revolution). Also key in the first year of government was the embarrassing episode in which Ovidio, El Chapo’s son, was found by security forces but then let go when hitmen from all over Sinaloa descended on Culiacan to fight state and federal forces. In videos captured by bystanders and then shared on social media, we can see cartel members carrying heavy weaponry that in theory can only be used by the military.

It was overwhelming to see how much influence they also have in the population, as online chatter was divided in how positively or negatively they thought of the cartel.

Critics blamed AMLO for his lack of leadership in face of the cartel’s intimidation tactics, while supporters cheered his decision to stop the bloodshed and protect human life above anything else (it is said that cartel hitmen held a building hostage; this building worked as a housing facility for military families).

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Mexican Twitter Reacts To The Trump And AMLO Meeting And The Results Are The Level Of Petty I Aim To Be

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Mexican Twitter Reacts To The Trump And AMLO Meeting And The Results Are The Level Of Petty I Aim To Be

Win McNamee / Getty Images

During the week, Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) flew to the United States – in coach, we might add – to meet with Donald Trump.

From the very beginning, many Mexicans were outraged at the thought of their elected president flying to meet with a man who has repeatedly demonized their country and people – we don’t have to look too far back to when Trump denigrated Mexican migrants and threatened its southern ally with crippling tariffs.

With this visit, many feared that AMLO would continue acting as Trump’s lapdog as he has in so many other instances – from border security to migration enforcer – and it appears that many of their fears unfortunately came true.

Mexico’s AMLO flew to meet Trump in his first trip outside of Mexico since becoming president.

Trump welcomed Mexico’s AMLO calling him a cherished partner and claiming that the two countries’ economic and security ties were reaching new heights. Sorry, but what world is this?! These warm words were a stark contrast to the days when he called Mexicans “rapists” and railed against migrants entering the US illegally.

But AMLO returned the favor, saying that it was good to find common ground and avoid throwing insults.

“As in the best times of our political relations, during my term as president of Mexico, instead of insults towards me and more importantly against my country, we have received from you understanding and respect,” AMLO said.

The official reason for the AMLO-Trump summit was to celebrate the signing of the recently renegotiated US-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement (USMCA), which was formerly known as NAFTA. The agreement officially went into effect on July 1, 2020. However, the two also discussed how to jointly combat the Coronavirus pandemic, which has raged across both countries as other parts of the world get it under control.

AMLO actually thanked Trump for being “so kind” to Mexico – this just sent Mexican Twitter into overdrive.

After the meeting on Wednesday, President AMLO lauded Donald Trump in Spanish for showing “respect” to Mexico and “not treating us like a colony”.

And in one of the first videos to begin making its round, was this quintessential Trump moment – where he shows such little respect for the Mexican President.

Reactions to the trip reflected Mexico’s own political polarization. A pre-trip poll published by the newspaper El Financiero showed 59% support for travelling to Washington, though 85% of Mexicans disapproved of Trump.

AMLO remains relatively popular – despite polls showing worries over his handling of issues like crime, the economy and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mexican Twitter didn’t disappoint with the memes – memorializing AMLO’s trip forever.

AMLO is known as being an austere man and he’s tried repeatedly to sell the Mexican presidential aircraft. So, just as he does when traveling across Mexico, AMLO flew commercial to Washington – amid a global pandemic no less. This was too good an opportunity for Twitter to pass up.

Many had been anticipating the memes for weeks.

Some pointed out they were just as excited for the memes as President AMLO probably was to be in Washington, taking in the sights and visiting the White House. But it’s worth pointing out, that AMLO has been to D.C. in the past – just not as his country’s president.

Many were concerned about AMLO’s visa application to make it into the U.S.

Given the Trump Administration’s inhumane and harsh immigration policies, some Mexicans wondered if their president would even be allowed to visit Trump. The Trump Administration has basically eliminated or severely limited every legal route to migration that there is.

Some saw something in AMLO’s eyes that they wanted for their own partner…

Some thought that AMLO may have been looking a little too enamored with a man who has repeatedly demonized his country and fellow paisanos. But in that look, they also saw something they wanted in their potential partners: “Hermanos, stay with someone who looks at you like AMLO looks at Trump.”

Some thought that once again AMLO was being far too subservient to Trump.

Some doctored up images of past visits to the White House to really drive home the point that AMLO has been doing much of Trump’s dirty work in Mexico. From deploying armed soldiers to enforce U.S. immigration law at the country’s border with Guatemala to placing refugees and migrants in detention centers, AMLO has been a key part of Trump’s plan to halt immigration.

Others shared images of the gifts that AMLO brought Trump.

Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with these t-shirts – I have several. I mean we all have that tía who goes on vacation and brings them back to us, right?

Given the stark differences between the two leaders, this meme is a bit far-fetched.

AMLO is a far-left ‘man of the people’ and Donald Trump is a far-right ‘man of the people,’ or at least that’s how they view themselves in their minds. Both leaders follow populist agendas but do so from very different points of view.

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Mexico’s AMLO And Trump Plan To Meet In July And Everyone Wants To Know What They’ll Be Discussing

Things That Matter

Mexico’s AMLO And Trump Plan To Meet In July And Everyone Wants To Know What They’ll Be Discussing

Hector Vivas / Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Trump has a long history of treating Mexico as a political punching bag. He literally launched his campaign for president by demonizing Mexicans. BUt despite this, Mexico’s Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) has said the U.S. president has always treated him with respect. After threatening Mexico with tariffs last year, AMLO deployed troops to deter migration by Central Americans across Mexico to the U.S. – in a move many saw as an act of obedience to Trump.

But Trump’s own rhetoric has also changed. During a visit to Arizona last week, he said that it was Mexico who has helped drive down border crossings.

“If you look at so many of the different crimes that come through the border, they’re stopped. We’ve implemented groundbreaking agreements with Mexico,” Trump said during a round table on border security. “I want to thank the President of Mexico. He’s really a great guy. I think he’ll be coming into Washington pretty soon.”

So the two leaders seem to be on good terms. But a meeting with Trump could backfire.

President Trump and Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador are planning their first personal meeting for July.

In what would be their first head-to-head meeting, Mexican President AMLO and Trump are likely to meet in the beginning half of July, according to officials. It’s a politically risky move for Mexico’s AMLO, who is already being attacked from across the political spectrum for appearing to appease Donald Trump.

AMLO said that in his meeting with Trump he intends to promote their new trade deal (the USMCA), as well as to thank him for sending medical ventilators to Mexico to help with the growing Coronavirus pandemic in the country. The date of the visit though is still not set in stone, since the pair would also want to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – since his country is also a signatory to the trade deal.

“It is very important for us participate in the beginning of this historical agreement, which is very timely because it will help us in the recovery of our economy and the creation of jobs,” Lopez Obrador said during his daily press conference.

Mexico’s economy has been battererd by the Coroanvirus and AMLO is betting its recovery is tied to the U.S., since both countries are facing their deepest recessions since the Great Depression.

Many are speculating about the what the meeting could focus on – with there being so many hard pressing issues between the two countries.

Credit: Evan Vucci / Getty Images

AMLO has made it clear that his stated goal of the visit would be to promote the renegotiated trade deal known as the USMCA, formerly NAFTA. However, the Coronavirus pandemic is still raging across the two countries and it’s likely it will be play a major part in discussions as well.

Apart from these two timely topics, both countries are speculating as to what else the two leaders could discuss – especially since Trump has so often spoken poorly of Mexico and issued sweeping demands in the past.

Will the pair discuss immigration, asylum and the border wall?

For AMLO, this would be his first trip out of Mexico since assuming the presidency in 2018.

Credit: Hector Vivas / Getty Images

AMLO assumed the presidency in December 2018, and since then he hasn’t left the country once. He has sent surrogates to attend globally important meetings, including to the U.N. Security Council election and several major economic forums. Instead, AMLO has preferred to stay in Mexico, traveling from state to state promoting his domestic agenda.

Even though AMLO’s critics have encouraged him to take international trips in the interest of Mexico, this is one that most experts agree is a mistake. They’re skeptical that the meeting will be beneficial at all to Mexico.

In a tweet, the former Mexican ambassador to the United States, Arturo Sarukhán, called the potential visit “a big blunder and a mistake,” saying that Trump would only use the Mexican president as an electoral prop. He also called such a visit “suicidal for Mexico’s long-term and strategic relationship with the United States.”

Former foreign minister Jorge Castañeda told Reuters he thought a visit was “a dumb idea” considering it is an election year in the United States.

Complicating matters, AMLO will fly to the U.S. on commercial flights amid a global pandemic.

Credit: Alfredo Estrella / Getty Images

AMLO is well-known as being frugal. He turned the palatial Los Pinos (the formal home of the Mexican President) into a cultural center and instead lives in his own apartment. He drives his own Volkswagen Jetta. And he always flies commercial, wherever he goes. And, apparently, that’s still the plan for his trip to Washington despite a global health crisis.

“I am going to travel on a commercial aircraft,” López Obrador told reporters during his morning news conference. “There is no direct trip from Mexico City to Washington, but you can make a stop. I will arrive a day before the meeting that we will have.”

And for Trump, the meeting would be high stakes given the concessions his supporters will want from Mexico.

Trump literally launched his presidential campaign by demonizing Mexicans. Since then, he’s made several swipes at the country and its people and has pursued inhumane immigration policies that have broken families and likely resulted in the deaths of many. Yet to his supporters, he hasn’t done nearly enough on immigration.

Therefore, it’s widely accepted that Trump will use the meeting as a way to advance his political standing with his core supporters and talk up his ‘achievements’ on border security.

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