2 Nationalisms in Search of Coexistence

If The Washington Post is to be believed, the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico will be in a state of tension as long as Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, whom the publication describes as “a capricious populist,” remains in power.

At least formally until Oct. 1, 2024, when he completes his term and hands over power. Although according to all the signs, he may or may not want to maintain considerable political influence despite his declared intentions of distancing himself.

It is possible, even probable. If the publication reflects the mood in the halls of power in Washington, we are going to see two years of struggle and nationalist calls on both sides of the border. For the AMLO government it may be energy policy; for the U.S., immigration and security.

Certainly, López Obrador can –- and in fact does –- resort to patriotism as a formula to arouse domestic support, the latter of which he already has to a large extent. The cost may be legal disputes with its North American partners or even informally a weakened economy or the postponement of foreign investments in the face of accusations of noncompliance with international commitments. Unfortunately, this accusation is not new and has accompanied the López Obrador government since the beginning of its administration.

For the American administration it is a question of domestic image and, yes, of nationalism. President Joe Biden has been accused of being “soft,” an accusation that also falls on the Democrats, who face the possibility of losing their majority in Congress in November. Republicans complain that, among other things, the U.S. government has failed to protect its foreign interests and safeguard its borders against the “invasion” of immigrants.

In any case, the fact is that the dispute and what may be considered as approaches for initial negotiations are coming at a time when AMLO seems stronger and Biden and the Democrats seem more beleaguered. It’s not the ideal time.

Another reality is that the U.S. needs security as its border and to integrate a lasting alliance in terms of geopolitics and the production of goods and services. Mexico, in turn, needs to boost its economy and attract productive investments.

Thus, it is important to note that despite the noise and posturing, neither of the two parties has declared itself willing to abandon the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). On the contrary, the real fact is that the three North American nations are inextricably linked at all levels.

Undoubtedly, some romantics speak of left-wing tides and Latin Americanist vocations, but geographic, geopolitical, social and economic reality tells a different story. Many Americans, impressed with the size of their country, believe that they are self-sufficient or can take from others as needed. But those are nineteenth-century notions. Neither side is interested in walking away from the table.

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