On the campaign trail in Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Tuesday berated Donald Trump for his border enforcement policy, and vowed that his leftist coalition would defend the right of migrants to “seek life in the United States.” (H/t: Daily Caller)
López Obrador, known in Mexico as “AMLO,” called on the current president, center-rightist Enrique Peña Nieto, to take three immediate actions in the wake of the media frenzy being fomented north of the border. AMLO wants Peña Nieto to lodge a diplomatic protest with the U.S.; to send a team of lawyers and social workers to the border to advocate for migrants trying to cross it illegally; and to request intervention by the UN on behalf of migrants at the U.S. border.
Notably, AMLO specifically decried the “arrogant attitude” of the Trump administration in deporting children and separating them from parents. This wording – “actitud prepotente” – is not about deploring the Trump policy for being “racist and inhuman,” which AMLO also calls it. It’s a demagogue’s expression, simultaneously vilifying the target and implying that enforcing the U.S. border is about “arrogance.”
There’s a whole lexicon of socialist radicalism embedded in that characterization. El Universal goes on to quote AMLO (author/Google translation):
And soon, very soon, at the triumph of our movement we will defend migrants from all over the American continent and all the migrants of the world, who, by necessity, have to leave their villages to seek life in the United States; it is a human right that we are going to defend.
It does seem awful darn particular that the “human right” is to seek life in the United States. The rather obvious question is why there is no human right to seek life in Mexico, a nation which has no qualms about denying actual immigration to migrants. Transit to the U.S. is fine. But not migrants parking themselves in Mexico.
The point here, at any rate, is to illustrate AMLO’s rhetoric and apparent intentions. In 2017, he made a campaign trip through the United States, holding rallies with illegal migrants who go home to Mexico to vote. The tour, which started in February 2017, took him through Los Angeles, Chicago, El Paso, Phoenix, Laredo, San Francisco and New York.
In a Los Angeles rally, the candidate made the typical false equation of “immigrants” with “migrants,” and referred – also falsely – to the word “foreigner” being used to denigrate and insult people.
“When they want to build a wall to segregate populations, or when the word ‘foreigner’ is used to insult, denigrate and discriminate against our fellow human beings, it goes against humanity, it goes against intelligence and against history,” the veteran politician added.
In El Paso, AMLO told his audience:
“On this side of the border, we must tell the four winds that the slogan of ‘United States first’ or ‘America first’ is erroneous because in reality the first thing — in any place on the planet — should be justice and universal fraternity” he said.
In New York, AMLO was officially there to discuss the formation of a “civic group”:
[AMLO] came to discuss the creation of the Civic Migrants Defense Front (Frente Cívico en Defensa de los Migrantes). …
“The Civic Front aims to provide arguments to the white middle class and workers to make them realize that migrants are not to blame for the fact that they are unemployed and have low incomes,” said AMLO, who will run for president for the third time in 2018.
He added that “this is why we need to talk to the people of the United States, because they do not know this point of view.”
Of course, the people of the United States do know that point of view; it’s just that many of them disagree with it, and others don’t think it’s the most relevant issue. But it wouldn’t advance AMLO’s cause to acknowledge that.
In all of this, what Americans would say is that it is not about insulting foreigners, or thinking migrants are the root of all their problems, or denying our common humanity. It’s about disagreeing with their own government’s dysfunctional policies, which are fenced off from real reform by using those baseless accusations to silence legitimate opposition.
AMLO doesn’t accurately state what Americans think or want. He can’t, because if he did, his own “arguments” would have no merit.
That is the core of the problem AMLO represents – but, of course, he is not the proximate concern for American voters. The proximate concern is the American politicians and media who sound just like AMLO.
AMLO’s posture is clear enough, however. At the end of 2016, just before the New Year, he met with Jeremy Corbyn, hard-left leader of the UK Labour Party and an urgent advocate of “Remaining” in the EU. According to AMLO, the two “talked extensively about the beautiful dream of realizing a world government based on justice and fraternity.”
That would tend to clarify that López Obrador does in fact see national borders and sovereignty as arrogant affronts to “justice.” This isn’t a surprise with a socialist, but the doctrinal commitment of socialism to a world without borders — always latent, though often not explicit — is mostly overlooked in media coverage today.
AMLO also met in October 2015 with France’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the radical socialist whose candidacy knocked the more center-left French Socialists for a loop, and gave Marine Le Pen a shot at the Élysée until the last-minute surge of Emmanuel Macron. (Mélenchon, in very French fashion, signified his approval of AMLO largely by reflecting sourly on his ill-treatment by then-president Francois Hollande and the French media. But on the positive-thinking side, Mélenchon did applaud AMLO’s voice for “democracy” and “access to power.”)
In the upcoming edition of The New Yorker, Jon Lee Anderson has a profile of López Obrador, who (again) is currently the front-runner in the presidential race, and considered likely to be Mexico’s next president. Interestingly, there is no reference to the tour of the United States in 2017. AMLO actually wrote a book about that tour – Oye, Trump (“Listen, Trump”) – and Anderson does mention the book. But he doesn’t make the point that the book is about a trip to the U.S. to hold rallies and give speeches to migrants.
This selectivity is another data point illustrating why the media treatment of contentious issues turns people into Trump voters. By contrast, here’s what Anderson does include: an anodyne quote from former U.S. Ambassador Roberta Jacobson (whose job in Mexico had to be a tough one), to the effect that if AMLO is elected, we “don’t know what to expect.”
In one sense, Jacobson is probably right. López Obrador doesn’t necessarily fit the mold of the constitution-torching socialist caudillos Central America has contended with over the last decade (e.g., Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortega, Rafael Correa). There’s no certainty that he will start taking whacks at Mexican institutions with a poleax.
AMLO does seem to have a number of qualities that fit a socialist “type” rather neatly, however, based on what we know about him. He doesn’t sound to me as much like Hugo Chavez as some in the Trump administration apparently fear. But his lack of systematic political corruption – rare in Mexico – hasn’t precluded a posture of one-sided opportunism. He’s all for tearing down borders – except that of course Mexico gets to have them, and rely on them to protect policies on economics and other issues that AMLO has no intention of aligning with any other nation’s. Mexico moreover gets to use the power of the nation-state to … well, not to put it too delicately, to extort the United States.
Mexico has legitimate grievances about some past and even current U.S. policies, as the U.S. has about Mexico’s. AMLO and Trump appear ill-matched to the task of sorting these things out.
That doesn’t mean as much as we would have assumed two years ago.
The election is 1 July 2018. López Obrador says all the world’s migrants have the human right to “seek life in the United States.” Just starting with that, I think we know quite a bit.