On Saturday afternoon, we watched newly inaugurated Presidente Andrés López-Obrador speak before Congress.
He saluted Vice President and Mrs. Pence and Ivanka Trump and said President Trump had treated him respectfully since the election. It was a generous move and a hopeful sign of better relations to come.
Then he went on to deliver a message about corruption and poverty. He didn’t really say much, but I did not expect specifics.
Presidente López-Obrador faces various challenges, starting with the caravan and a very skeptical middle class that voted for the other candidates.
After declaring the migrant caravan a “humanitarian crisis” this week, Mayor Juan Manuel Gastélum told Fox News that he can no longer continue to fund the municipal effort to shelter them without federal assistance.
“I’m not going to break public services to solve this problem,” the Tijuana mayor said.
He is restricted from the left by his old-style, chip-on-the-shoulder nationalism, his radical base and the perception in Mexico that the outgoing president kowtowed to Washington all too often.
He is pressured from the right by politicians concerned with Mexico’s weakening economy (a battered peso and a wilting stock exchange), its integration with the United States and the country’s vulnerability to any type of Trumpian retaliation for perceived or existing sins.
A battered peso and a wilting stock exchange?
Frankly, I am not sure about that, but it could turn ugly quickly in Mexico, as it did in 1982 and 1994, when peso devaluations blew up the economy.
Today’s peso won’t be devalued because it floats in the marketplace. However, the erosion could be quick, and foreign companies may hold up investments in a heartbeat.
As my Mexican friend said on the phone Sunday morning, López-Obrador needs a strong U.S. economy, or his ambitious plans to give this and that to every Mexican won’t add up.
Presidente López-Obrador needs for President Trump to succeed and be reelected with a strong economy. He needs the hard currency that comes from oil and tourism plus all of those good jobs that “maquiladoras” create on the border.
Otherwise, it could get crazy quickly.
Let’s hope for the best, but it could turn ugly in Mexico “muy rápido.” López-Obrador raised expectations, and now he has to deliver!
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