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Jul 10, 20

Blood Feast: AMLO Goes to Washington

Analysis of AMLO’s recent visit to the white house to celebrate the revamped NAFTA trade deal, now called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

The recent visit of Mexican president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), to the White House in Washington DC, was met with criticism on both sides of the border. Democratic lawmakers, including over a dozen members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), denounced the meeting as an electoral stunt, meant to politicize US-Mexico relations during an election year. Liberals and progressives in both Mexico and the US, many of whom have fervently supported AMLO, were also critical of his visit, citing Trump’s racist immigration policies and the possibility of the visit playing into Trump’s 2020 electoral campaign. How could AMLO, the leader of the fourth transformation, the slayer of neoliberalism, the progressive Left’s newest poster boy, visit Donald J. Trump, the racist authoritarian who has positioned anti-immigrant and anti-Mexican discourse and policy at the center of his administration’s agenda? What about the border wall? What about the comments about “bad hombres” and “rapists?”

AMLO’s visit to the United States was his first visit abroad since taking office on December 1, 2018, and came following an invitation from the White House to celebrate the introduction of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which officially went into effect on July 1, 2020. While the trade deal has been touted belligerently by Trump as a total reversal of the disastrous policies in the NAFTA deal, the USMCA is basically a revamped version of NAFTA with few changes. The most contentious consequences of NAFTA—those most destructive to the people of Mexico—like the privatization and commodification of communal lands, the squeezing of subsistence and small-scale farmers, the plunder carried out by extractive industries, and the militarized security apparatus necessary to institute all of the above, remain very much the same. The ruthless exploitation of land and labor in Mexico will inevitably continue.

July 8th was a busy day for the Mexican president. AMLO visited the Abraham Lincoln and Benito Juarez monuments in DC, leaving flowers and celebrating the friendly relationship between Lincoln and Juarez during their time as presidents of the two countries. In the afternoon, Trump and AMLO gave a joint press conference in the White House rose garden where they spoke of the close relationship between the two countries and the bright business future facilitated by the new trade deal. Afterwards they both symbolically signed a joint declaration committing to a continued friendship between Mexico and the United States.

In the evening, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Donald Trump and business executives from both countries met in a 52-guest dinner inside the east room of the White House. Present at the meeting from the U.S. was Jeff Martin of Sempra Energy, Bob Swan of Intel Corp, Leon Topalian of Nucor Corp, James Taiclet of Lockheed Martin Corp, Steven Schwarzman of Blackstone Group, Dan Dignes of Cabot Oil & Gas Company, Kumar Galhotra of American & International Markets Group, David Abney of UPS, Charles Rivkin of Motion Picture Association and Fred Smith of Fedex.

Present from Mexico was Carlos Slim Helú of Grupo Carso (one of the richest men in the world), Ricardo Salinas Pliego of Grupo Salinas, Carlos Hank González of Grupo Financiero Banorte, Bernardo Gómez Martínez of Grupo Televisa, Olegario Vázquez Aldir of Grupo Empresarial Ángeles, Patricia Armendáriz Guerra of Financiera Sustentable, Carlos Bremer Gutiérrez of Grupo Financiero Value, Daniel Chávez Morán of Grupo Vidanta, Francisco González Sánchez of Grupo Multimedios, Miguel Rincón Arredondo of Bio Pappel and Marcos Shabot Zonana representing architecture and construction industries. As the Mexican contingent was described elsewhere: “They are the leaders of the biggest business partnerships in Mexico, in areas of telecommunications, finance, banking, tourism, health, and construction, who possess grand capital making them the richest people in the country, and some, in the world.”

While the dinner was closed door event, Patricia Armendáriz, the president of Financiera Sustentable, shared some information from inside on her social media account. The CEO of Intel, Bob Swan, announced investments in Guadalajara. Jeff Martin of Sempra Energy announced, “A very important investment in Mexico.” The president of Shell, Gretchen Watkins, announced its plan to further invest in Mexico. Leon Topalian, president of Nucor, expressed his optimism to expand investment in the steel industry in Mexico. Representatives of the US dairy industry expressed their interest in expanding activity in Mexico. Carlos Slim, spoke about how the USMCA deal was more comprehensive in its labor laws.

Liberals and progressives have been quick to critique AMLO’s visit, pointing to Trump’s anti-Mexican racism, the thriving COVID-19 pandemic in both countries, and the political gains Trump might reap from the visit. Yet, AMLO’s trip needs to be read under a different light. The meeting between AMLO and Trump was disturbing, yet a standard celebration of free market capitalism, the affirmation of United States imperial domination of Mexico, a literal capitalist feast. Representatives from oil and gas industries, banking, finance, telecommunications and defense industries sat at tables decorated with bouquets of white roses, eating sea bass and saffron potatoes, brown sugar short bread and toasted meringue for dessert. They all shared the same goal: outlining investment plans and opportunities, expressing confidence and commitment to working together through the new trade deal to plunder territories and exploit people in order to accumulate capital. Mexico of course being the primary target for such plunder and exploitation.

We need to destroy once and for all the idea of progressive politicians and progressive governments. The same democratic politicians who critiqued AMLO’s visit to the United States as a political stunt serving the interests of Trump’s reelection bid, who condemned the visit due to Trump’s racist immigration policies, or his inaction on COVID-19 in Latinx communities, didn’t hesitate to throw their support behind the USMCA agreement. It is important to remember that it was a democratic president, Bill Clinton, who signed the original NAFTA bill, having disastrous effects on poor working people in Mexico. The problem with AMLO’s visit for these slimy democratic politicians wasn’t the content of the trip, it was rather that the visit might hurt the chances of Joe Biden—their favorite imperialist—of being elected.

At the same time, liberals and progressives who were offended that AMLO visited the White House, who had high expectations of, and deep loyalties to AMLO, need to seriously rethink their allegiances and their politics. The poorly named Mayan train, trans-isthmus corridor, Proyecto Integral Morelos, assassination of Samir Flores, farcical popular consultations, militarization of the Mexico Southern border, mocking of femicidal violence, formation and deployment of the national guard, and green-lighting of military personal carrying out domestic policing tasks wasn’t enough? AMLO and his fourth transformation represent the same agenda that has historically governed Mexico: facilitate the plunder and exploitation of the land and people of Mexico by both domestic and international capitalists.

AMLO’s visit to the United States shouldn’t come as a surprise. Sure, Trump’s explicit anti-immigrant and anti-Mexican racism, along with the stiff criticism AMLO had for Trump during his campaign, make the visit harder to swallow. Yet, let’s be honest with ourselves. The purpose of the visit was clear. Further solidify the pro-business relationship between the two countries. Get rich. Fuck the people and planet.

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