Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (also known as AMLO) has reiterated that he won’t be drawn into a response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s repeated claims that Mexico would build a wall, brushing off the U.S. leader’s claims as mere electoral rhetoric.
The statement comes amid a seething political battle between Democrats and a reluctant Republican Party over border wall funding which has fueled a partial government shutdown that has lasted weeks.
On Wednesday, Lopez Obrador stressed that his government would not be drawn into what is essentially a domestic political battle gripping Mexico’s northern neighbor.
“We won’t respond to proposals that result from the internal situation within the United States. We can see that there is a political confrontation within the United States, as is the case in every country whenever elections are approaching,” the Mexican leader told reporters Wednesday during a morning press conference.
“In the U.S. they have – with all due respect [because] I don’t want to get drawn into their internal affairs – but they have a re-election system with a very short duration,” he added.
Continuing, he noted that “when the new president arrives, when he comes into office, he is already thinking about his re-election and his opponents are in the same [mindset]. Clearly, that is one explanation.”
During his election campaign, Lopez Obrador previously blasted Trump’s immigrant-scapegoating rhetoric as “oppressive, racist inhumane,” but has since backed away from such confrontational messaging in favor of a more diplomatic approach to his U.S. counterpart.
Trump, for his part, doubled down Wednesday on his push to build a massive barrier on the southern border, arguing that it would be “foolish” to give up on a solution that he conceded was “medieval” yet effective.
Just left a meeting with Chuck and Nancy, a total waste of time. I asked what is going to happen in 30 days if I quickly open things up, are you going to approve Border Security which includes a Wall or Steel Barrier? Nancy said, NO. I said bye-bye, nothing else works!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 9, 2019
“They say it’s a medieval solution, a wall. It’s true, because it worked then and it works even better now,” the U.S. president told reporters in the Oval Office during a bill signing event.
In a Tuesday night address, President Trump also repeated his claim that Mexico would pay for the wall “indirectly by the great new trade deal we have made,” a reference to the USMCA (U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement) or updated version of the NAFTA trilateral trade deal.
Critics have noted that the USMCA deal, which isn’t even close to coming into force, lacks provisions about a wall or any barrier whatsoever, and also is unlikely to yield any of the sort of tax revenue that would be capable of funding the multi-billion dollar wall.
Democrats claim that the U.S. leader has taken the country hostage with the partial government shutdown that began nineteen days ago. Both parties have shown little sign of backing off, despite polls that show that a majority of U.S. voters have grown weary over the ongoing battle.
The Mexican leader, for his part, has focused on the need to address the root causes of the ongoing crisis of forced migration, which has seen Central American nations hemorrhage migrants and economic refugees who are fleeing north to the Mexico-U.S. border to escape the dire conditions in their home countries.
Studies have shown that an overwhelming majority of refugees and asylum-seekers from the Central American “Northern Triangle” – El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – have witnessed or experienced violent events such as forced disappearance, sexual attacks, assault, coercive recruitment by armed groups, or the murder of loved ones. In the past, Mexican immigration authorities, with staunch assistance from Washington, have detained U.S.-bound migrants and returned them to their home countries, placing them in grave danger while breaching Mexico’s international legal obligations to the lives of threatened children and refugees.
Rather than focusing purely on security measures to address the crisis, Lopez Obrador has aimed to coordinate an effort to fund the economic development of Mexico’s Central American neighbors. Past attempts to stem violence in the region through security measures alone have led to increased rights abuses, militarism, and corruption while failing to address the political and economic roots of the crisis.
“Of course, we talk about the migrant problem, but we want to solve the problem of migration by addressing the causes, there are those who would like us to confront one another [but] we want to seek a relationship of friendship with the United States government and a relationship of cooperation,” Lopez Obrador said.