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Highlight of the Week
Progress toward a new NAFTA is clearly good news for Andrés Manuel López Obrador. A deal would remove a major source of economic uncertainty from the start of his administration, and would benefit him in two politically important ways.
First, it would allow him to devote attention and political capital to his numerous domestic priorities. As the Wilson Center’s Duncan Wood points out in this podcast, AMLO has never been much concerned with diplomacy and foreign affairs – and has a long list of projects that will require internal political support and favorable market conditions to accomplish.
Second, if President Enrique Peña Nieto is able to sign a new NAFTA before Dec. 1, it would let López Obrador off the hook with supporters who dislike aspects of the agreement. “If a deal is done before AMLO gets to office, he’ll be able to say his hands were tied,” one analyst told AQ.
What they’re saying: Alfredo Corchado on why NAFTA may not ease U.S.-Mexico tensions; The Economist on what all sides have to gain from a deal; Sergio Sarmiento in Reforma on AMLO’s evolution on trade.
With all eyes on Washington this week, AMLO turned his attention to a place that could be equally vital to his presidency: Mexico’s economically depressed southern states.
Speaking to teachers in Chiapas, the president-elect on Monday gave more details on his plans to bring jobs and infrastructure to the region, including the $8 billion construction of a tourist train along the Caribbean coast.
Mexico’s south is emblematic of the economic inequalities that helped bring López Obrador to power. Despite positive growth in most of the country, year-on-year GDP in Chiapas fell by 1.6 percent in the first quarter of 2018; nearby Campeche shrunk by 6.5 percent, and Tabasco (López Obrador’s home state) by 3.2 percent.
AMLO’s southern turn also included a meeting with Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, with whom he agreed to “address the phenomenon of migration through economic development.”
PAN infighting has observers wondering whether there will be any meaningful opposition to López Obrador in the next Congress, which begins on Sep. 1. Video of a swearing-in ceremony showed Morena legislators chanting their support for the president-elect.
López Obrador said it would be “irresponsible” to end the armed forces’ participation in public security given current conditions.
Quote of the Week
“I’m happy to be back in my home country.”
Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, on receiving credentials as a senator for Morena. The miners’ union leader spent the last 12 years in self-imposed exile in Canada, following a 2006 mine collapse that led to corruption investigations against him. López Obrador says the allegations were politically motivated.
Russell is AQ’s correspondent in Mexico City