2020
Democratic Party Hispanic Media Director: "I don't think a visit from Mexican President López Obrador would benefit Trump"
In conversation with LPO, four specialists comment on AMLO's upcoming Washington visit.

Over a year ago, LPO revealed that at the CEO Dialogue summit in Yucatan, México, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador offered Donald Trump's envoy, U.S. Trade Representative Wilbur Ross, a visit to Washington. Mexican Foreign Ministry sources have insisted that a visit by AMLO to the White House could boost Trump chances among Latino voters in the U.S.

According to the Mexican government, AMLO, who won the 2018 presidential election with over 53% of the vote, is a regional leader in Latin America with high approval numbers among U.S. Latinos. The problem with that thesis is that Trump has a 70% disapproval rating among this sector of the U.S. population. There is no Latino leader or figure capable of moving those numbers in favor of the U.S. president. The question then is, who stands to gain from an AMLO-Trump summit?

For Democratic Party spokesman for the Hispanic community Enrique Gutierrez, the answer is no one. "I don't think a visit from López Obrador will benefit Trump or have an impact on the Latino vote," he said. According to the representative, trade issues " don't resonate much with Latino voters in the U.S.," and Trump was already facing a possible recession even before the coronavirus crisis began.

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Some analysts have said that AMLO should have waited until after the election for his visit to the White House. "Personally, I don't know if AMLO's visit would impact the bilateral relationship if Biden were to win the election," Gutierrez said. "He's not an erratic person like Trump. Nor does he create enemies over political differences. He's not that kind of person. He understands the dynamics of the U.S.-Mexico relationship, and that's not going to change because of a visit from AMLO," he added.

For Gutierez, AMLO's support - explicit or implicit - would not have an impact on the Hispanic vote. "If AMLO comes out and says 'four more years of Trump,' which I doubt he will, I think he would be the one to look bad. Because of everything Trump has done in the U.S. these past four years against our communities".

Perhaps Lopez Obrador's motivation could be a domestic political one. Maybe the president is not predicting a Trump win in November, but the opposite. Maybe he predicts that Biden will win the election. The Democratic candidate is a more traditional American leader who will surely bring back a more interventionist foreign policy for Latin America. President Lopez Obrador's response to this possibility could be the politicization of the relationship with Biden even before he gets to the White House.

"That's what López Obrador wants!", Ambassador Jorge Guajardo said. "[He wants] to put some distance between himself and a possible Biden administration. We've seen that the Mexican president has been very accommodating of the United States, but in truth he has been accommodating of Trump because in him he has found an ideological ally".

U.S. Trade Representative Wilbur Ross.

Albert Morales, political director of Latino Decisions, the most influential Latino vote consultant in the U.S., says the visit is unlikely to have a negative impact on the bilateral relationship if Biden becomes president.

"Trump's foreign policy is a catastrophe," he said. "There are countries in Latin America without ambassadors. Biden's priority, I think, is going to be to support Mexico. When Mexico suffers, migration to the U.S. increases. Here in the U.S., there are 40 million people without jobs. It won't affect the bilateral relationship. And if Trump wins, I don't see it benefiting Mexico either".

For Guajardo, Mexico's former ambassador to China, both presidents were cut from the same cloth: "They don't like a free press, democracy, transparency, critics, renewable energy, climate change science. Biden's arrival at the White House would change all that". The Democratic candidate, he explains, would be far more insistent on protecting the press; on addressing human rights, transparency, anti-corruption, and clean energy.

When you look at the polls and results of the last 3-4 elections, Trump's vote is Republican, white, conservative, evangelical, and rich.The rest are with the Democrats, and they're not going to move toward Trump because of AMLO's visit

"All those issues are going to make AMLO uncomfortable and he prefers to put a stop to it from this point on. Saying that Biden is angry with him because he went to the United States as a Head of State, and thus [Biden's] interference with Mexico," he said.

Daniel Kerner, director for Latin America of consulting firm Eurasia Group, does not understand the presidents' move with this summit four months away from the election either. "To be honest, I find it very difficult to understand the logic behind this visit," he said.

"On the one hand, you have a strong pandemic in Mexico and in the United States. When you look at the polls and results of the last 3-4 elections, Trump's vote is Republican, white, conservative, evangelical, and rich.The rest are with the Democrats, and they're not going to move toward Trump because of AMLO's visit," the analyst said, closing: "It doesn't change anything for Trump, maybe it will show that he does other things, but in electoral terms, Trump has nothing to gain or lose from this".

AMLO and Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard speaking on the phone with Donald Trump.

Morales was more emphatic. In his opinion, there is no way to convince Latinos as a whole to vote for Trump. "A visit from AMLO is not going to help him. Trump is very bad with Hispanics. Only 25% of Latinos support his re-election".

He pointed to a recent investment made by the campaign as a sign of the president's concern with his numbers among Latinos. "Trump has booked $1 million in Spanish-language TV in Florida and Arizona. Half a million just for Miami". These are states the president won in 2016. "Trump knows that if he loses Florida or Arizona, it's over," he said.

They're saying this would help Trump? For God's sake. Putin himself could come and dance naked in the White House and no one would notice

"They're saying this would help Trump? For God's sake," added Guajardo. Yesterday, Polish President Adrzej Duda visited the White House. "I don't think anyone in America noticed," the ambassador said. "Putin himself could come and dance naked in the White House and no one would notice."

The thing is, in the face of the most brutal economic crisis the world has faced in a century, social unrest against police violence, and the pandemic, the US faces enormous problems. "There isn't a single Latino voter in the United States who doesn't know who to vote for or who is waiting for AMLO's opinion before doing it. Trump tried to take away DACA, Obamacare, he closed the border. There is no way Latinos are voting for Trump," he insists.

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Another way to explain why Trump invited AMLO to the Oval Office is that he wants to send a message not to Latinos, but to upper-middle class voters in the suburbs. When Trump has spoken out on behalf of the African-American community, or when he passed the criminal justice reform that benefited certain African-Americans detained for petty crimes Many analysts speculated that the administration's intention was not to win the black vote - an impossible task - but to give "permission" to moderate Republicans, who do not want to think they are supporting a racist, to vote for the president. It would allow a certain educated segment of conservative voters the opportunity to say "See? The president is not racist or anti-Mexican, he even welcomed the president of Mexico into the White House".

"It could be to remove the guilt of racism from white, middle class voters", Guajardo said. For the ambassador, it could make sense that Trump asked AMLO to visit in exchange for his support in the OPEC negotiations, or perhaps for the approval of the USMCA.

"One of the things that [former National Security Advisor] John Bolton says in his book is that Trump does everything with an eye on his reelection," Guajardo added. "But why would Trump want to do this? Unless he wants to humiliate AMLO here. I don't think he's interested in being photographed with the Mexican president," he said.

Donald Trump's historic visit to then Mexico's Presidential Palace Los Pinos months before the 2016 election.

"None of this makes sense to me, but what makes the least sense is why AMLO would want to come. For the Mexican president, this is a politically reckless decision. The damage to his image in Mexico could be immense".

"But we don't see logic in many of the things the president does," Guajardo says. "The only logic I see is wanting to politicize a possible relationship with Biden. I don't think Trudeau will set foot in the US before January 20th, 2021. I don't think so."

Al Morales thinks that Trump is interested in presenting a good relationship with Mexico, in spite of the fact that his rhetoric to his base is different. "But nobody in his circle tells him that AMLO is not a reputable leader," he adds. "This sounds like it was his idea. 'If I bring the Mexican, they will like me'".

According to Kerner of the Eurasia Group, the outlook for Trump is far from rosy. "I see him as very vulnerable and likely to lose. The polls in key states are showing him down. Nationally, they are even lower. In 2016 he was very much in line with the demands of a large segment of the population, not today," he says.

I have the impression that, in the context of this crisis, and him showing himself to be more radical, he is very vulnerable. A second Trump term would be very disruptive for the United States. The political arena would be very chaotic

"We are seeing an increase in Covid cases in Republican states, in Texas, Florida and others, which will have an impact on the economic recovery. He's heading into November with high unemployment, a badly hit economy, and an activated Democratic Party"

On top of that, the analyst adds, the president probably alienated moderate Republicans with his violent response to the Black Lives Matter movement. "Something broke there for Trump. Many moderates tolerated his radical views on immigration," he says. "In fact, I have the impression that, in the context of this crisis, and him showing himself to be more radical, he is very vulnerable. A second Trump term would be very disruptive for the United States. The political arena would be very chaotic".

None of the specialists consulted believe that the AMLO-Biden relationship would be affected by the visit, but what is clear to no one is who stands to gain from this summit. 

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