Things That Matter

As World Leaders Rush To Congratulate Joe Biden, One Latin American Leader Is Waiting ‘Out Of Respect’ For Trump

Joe Biden will be the next President of the United States. As millions of Americans took to the streets to celebrate the long awaited results, leaders around the world rushed to congratulate the President-Elect.

However, two of the United States’ closest allies (even before the Trump presidency) were conspicuously missing from the list of well wishers: the presidents of Brazil and Mexico, the region’s most populous nations and home to its two largest economies.

Although few were surprised by Brazilian President Jaír Bolsonaro not jumping on the Biden bandwagon. As the so-called “Trump of the Tropics,” Bolsonaro is an unabashed Trumper and has publicly backed President Trump’s reelection and recently took spoke out against Biden’s suggestions about climate change and how to help the Amazon rainforest.

Other global holdouts who had not congratulated Biden included the leaders of Russia and China. The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, a Trump confidant, sent formal congratulations to Biden on Twitter more than 12 hours after U.S. networks called the race.

Mexico’s president says he won’t congratulate Biden until Trump’s election lawsuits are resolved.

Even though every major network has projected Joe Biden as the next President of the United States, Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) hasn’t congratulated the President-Elect on his victory.

Yes, it’s true that AMLO (a left-wing populist) has developed a close relationship with Donald Trump despite the ideological chasm between the two men. And despite Trump’s frequent Mexico-bashing, AMLO has basically followed Trump’s every whim and demand. But it seemed obvious that AMLO would quickly reach out to the next president of a country that is so economically and politically important to the interests of Mexico.

The U.S. is the lifeblood of the Mexican economy, accounting for 80% of foreign trade and tens of billions of dollars annually in remittances from Mexicans residing in the United States.

Instead, AMLO has decided to wait. “We don’t want to be imprudent,” the Mexican president told reporters Saturday, speaking more than seven hours after U.S. news outlets had called the election, a projection that immediately sparked a global tide of solidarity for Biden. “I want to wait until the electoral process is finished.”

AMLO insisted he was waiting out of an abundance of respect for Donald Trump.

Credit: Jabin Botsford / Getty Images

Although AMLO insisted that he has excellent relationships with both Joe Biden and Donald Trump, he added that his decision did not amount for an endorsement of either. However, he did take the time to fawn over his current U.S. counterpart.

“President Trump has been very respectful of us, and we have achieved some important accords,” López Obrador said. “And we are thankful to him because he has not interfered.”

AMLO’s failure to reach out to the new President-Elect is seen as a major diplomatic error.

In Mexico, the ambiguous message from AMLO immediately triggered a media firestorm from critics charging that the Mexican president had essentially sided with Trump.

“This was a very serious mistake by López Obrador,” said Jorge G. Castañeda, a former Mexican foreign minister, who noted that presidential aspirants worldwide welcome foreign affirmations as legitimacy-conferring markers. “The standard on these matters, and this is a long-standing issue in diplomacy, is pretty much this: You should do what everyone else does.”

Columnists and journalists were even harsher in their assessment, with many calling it a tacit endorsement of Trump’s questionable legal tactics and assertions of electoral fraud.

“The president of Mexico now owns Donald Trump’s hallucinatory observations about the presidential election,” tweeted columnist Pascal Beltrán del Río. “The relationship with Biden was already going to be difficult; now more so.”

And the fallout was not just on this side of the border. Even Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-TX), who leads the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, went on Twitter to denounce AMLO’s mistake as a “stunning diplomatic failure at a time when the incoming Biden Administration is looking to usher in a new era of friendship and cooperation with Mexico.”

Although not everyone was surprised by AMLO’s decision – since he shares so many similarities to Donald Trump.

Credit: Hector Vivas / Getty Images

Although the president’s decision to hold off on congratulation Biden sparked fury from many, it came as little surprise to some. Much like Trump, AMLO cherishes loyalty above all else and often views politics in a similar me-vs-them prism.

The Mexican president has also long projected himself as a victim of electoral fraud that prevented him from being able to take the Mexican presidency earlier – dating to two failed runs at the presidency before he finally triumphed in 2018.

Like Trump, AMLO is not one to concede defeat. Nor does he forget perceived slights. Following his narrow loss in the 2006 presidential race, he mounted a protracted protest campaign alleging fraud that sent tens of thousands of supporters into the streets and shut down much of the capital for weeks.

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