Mexico’s victor pledges to ‘reach understanding’ with Trump
Tuesday, July 3
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Fresh off a landslide victory, Mexico’s newly elected leftist president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador pledged Monday to “reach an understanding” with Donald Trump amid uncertain times for two countries that must seek consensus on everything from contentious trade talks to cooperation on security and migration.
During a half-hour telephone conversation, Trump said the two leaders discussed topics including border security, trade and the North American Free Trade Agreement, adding that “I think the relationship will be a very good one.”
In an interview with the Televisa news network, Lopez Obrador did not provide specifics on what an “understanding” with the Trump administration might look like, except to emphasize the need for mutual respect and cooperation between the two neighbors.
“We are conscious of the need to maintain good relations with the United States. We have a border of more than 3,000 kilometers, more than 12 million Mexicans live in the United States. It is our main economic-commercial partner,” he said.
“We are not going to fight. We are always going to seek for there to be an agreement. … We are going to extend our frank hand to seek a relation of friendship, I repeat, of cooperation with the United States.”
Meanwhile, members of the business and political elite who fiercely opposed Lopez Obrador’s populist candidacy pledged to support his presidency in a loyal opposition, and the largely orderly vote in which his rivals conceded defeat gracefully — and quickly — was hailed as a win for democracy in the country.
With nearly three-quarters of the ballots counted, Lopez Obrador had about 53 percent of the vote — the most for any presidential candidate since 1982, a time when the Institutional Revolutionary Party was in its 71-year domination of Mexican politics and ruling party victories were a given.
Rivals Ricardo Anaya and Jose Antonio Meade acknowledged Lopez Obrador’s win even before official results were announced, in a break from past elections. Lopez Obrador himself refused to accept his two previous presidential losses, and in 2006 his supporters set up a protest camp that caused months of chaos in downtown Mexico City.
Lopez Obrador, who rode a wave of popular anger over government corruption to become the first self-described leftist elected to the Mexican presidency in four decades, has pointedly sought to reassure his respect for the constitution, private property and individual rights, vowing there will be no expropriations even as he pushes to “eradicate” endemic corruption.
He announced a team of advisers that includes prominent businessman Alfonso Romo — a friend of telecom magnate Carlos Slim, one of the world’s wealthiest people — and widely respected politician Tatiana Clouthier, formerly a member of Anaya’s conservative party, apparently seeking to signal that nobody should fear his promise of “profound change.”
Business leaders who have openly warred with Lopez Obrador for years vowed to work with him and said fighting graft is an area where they see eye-to-eye.
“We have a lot in common as well as profound differences,” said Gustavo de Hoyos, president of the Mexican Employer’s Confederation, Coparmex. He added the private sector would defend recent initiatives, such as an energy reform bill that opened the sector to private investors under President Enrique Pena Nieto, “that have benefited competitiveness.”
Lopez Obrador previously vowed to throw the energy reform out but now says contracts merely will be reviewed for any illegalities. While his allies are forecast to likely dominate both houses of congress, he may not enjoy the two-thirds majority needed for outright reversal.
Mexico’s main stock index and the peso were both down Monday, but analysts at Banco Base attributed the currency’s drop to broader global movement in favor of the U.S. dollar and speculation about U.S. interest rates. Investors have long been expecting a victory by Lopez Obrador, who held double-digit leads in polls for months.
Prominent intellectual Enrique Krauze, who famously labeled Lopez Obrador a “tropical messiah” during his first presidential run in 2006, said via Twitter that he wishes “for his government to become an emblem of ethics for the world.”
The next president is unlike most of his predecessors in many ways: Devoutly religious, he is a career activist instead of a lawyer, military officer or businessman, and the first president in a century to speak in a marked regional accent, from his native Tabasco state in Mexico’s tropical lowlands.
Lopez Obrador plans to eschew the presidential mansion tucked into Mexico City’s verdant Chapultepec park, preferring to remain at his modest home on the capital’s south side and working from offices in the colonial National Palace downtown.
He also plans to tour the country without secret service protection, and to dissolve the guard corps that has protected presidents since 1926.
Lopez Obrador arrived at a hotel in downtown Mexico City for the first of two victory speeches Sunday night in a bland white sedan befitting the “man of the people” image he has projected for over a decade.
He left in a decidedly more presidential luxury SUV — though he rolled down the windows to wave to adoring supporters — underscoring that the man who spent the last 12 years as a persistent government critic from outside the halls of power must now govern amid considerable challenges for the country, and deliver on ambitious but vaguely outlined campaign promises.
Voters will expect him to put into concrete action his anti-corruption agenda, reign in rising killings and cartel violence that have stubbornly resisted the efforts of his two predecessors, and revive a sluggish economy that grew just 2.1 percent last year.
Commonly known by his initials, “AMLO,” Lopez Obrador has proposed measures like a huge increase in infrastructure spending, but it’s not clear how he can do that if he fulfills a promise not to raise taxes.
Lopez Obrador won thanks to overwhelming anger at the status quo and his success at presenting himself as an agent of change. But he’s been frustratingly vague on how he’ll go about it.
“I think what happens now is Mexico begins to look for signs of what an AMLO presidency means, because we don’t know right now,” said Shannon O’Neil, senior fellow for Latin America studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. “What are the signals that he sends out to markets, to his political opponents, to Mexican society generally, of what he’ll actually do when he comes into office?”
Lopez Obrador has been compared to Trump for his populist, nationalist rhetoric and sometimes touchy personality — as well as his past skepticism about NAFTA. But he now supports reaching an agreement with the United States and Canada, though talks have been stalled over Trump administration demands for higher U.S. content and a “sunset clause” in the 1994 trade agreement.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC that Mexico “needs some sort of an arrangement” given its dependence on American consumers and businesses, having shipped $314 billion in goods to the United States last year. Beyond that, Ross said it was unclear whether Mexico’s incoming president would either bring in new negotiators or set a different agenda.
“It’s really a question of when the talks resume,” Ross said.
Compared with his predecessors, Lopez Obrador is likely to be more focused on domestic economic issues than on settling trade issues with the United States, O’Neil said. This may mean that any future negotiations are unlikely to shift the focus.
“They will inherit the talks where they are — currently at a standstill, largely given U.S. recalcitrance to compromise with its neighbors,” she said, noting that Mexico has imposed its own retaliatory tariffs and the new administration would likely follow the same approach.
Lopez Obrador said he will propose that his own experts be included in the talks, but will respect Mexico’s current negotiating team as they continue to represent Mexico until he takes office Dec. 1.
Associated Press writer Amy Guthrie in Mexico City and AP Economics Writer Josh Boak in Washington contributed to this report.
MARION, Ohio — The thousand-mile journey to the Texas border was supposed to bring the Guatemalan teenagers to a better life. Instead, it was the beginning of a terrible ordeal: prosecutors say they were fraudulently plucked from U.S. custody by conspirators posing as friends or family who forced them to work as virtual slaves.
As the country’s immigration system was being overwhelmed by an unprecedented flow of unaccompanied children fleeing unrest in Central America, prosecutors said one of their countrymen orchestrated the scheme to force them to work on egg farms in Ohio.
U.S. immigration policy dictates that unaccompanied minors trying to escape dangerous situations can’t be turned away. Once the teens were in federal custody, false paperwork was submitted to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, according to the indictment issued in July. Then the conspirators took custody, promising to provide shelter and get them to court dates that would determine their immigration status.
Instead, paid drivers known as “coyotes” whisked the boys to Ohio, where they essentially went underground, forced to work long hours, live in dilapidated trailers and hand over most of their earnings to pay for their passage to the U.S.
Prosecutors contend it was all orchestrated by Arodolo Rigoberto Castillo-Serrano, a 33-year-old Guatemalan who was in the U.S. illegally for much of the past decade. In some cases, the indictment said, Castillo-Serrano made victims’ family members sign over deeds to their property in Guatemala to pay for transporting the boys, with assurances they would be enrolled in school here. That never happened.
Federal agents found 10 victims — eight teens and two men in their 20s — in this case, but witnesses say many others had been brought to the U.S. from Guatemala through Castillo-Serrano’s pipeline.
Castillo-Serrano is scheduled to change his not-guilty plea during a hearing Monday in federal court in Cleveland, likely indicating that he’s taking a plea deal. His attorney declined to comment on the hearing.
Last year, when prosecutors say seven of the teen victims crossed the border from Mexico into Texas, states along the border were dealing with a humanitarian crisis as thousands of unaccompanied children arrived from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
“You have a law that is designed to protect unaccompanied children and put them in the care of HHS until their situation can be resolved, and you have unscrupulous people who took advantage of it,” said David Leopold, a Cleveland immigration attorney familiar with last year’s parade of unaccompanied minors to the U.S. border. “I think what happened here was they took advantage of a system that was overwhelmed and they did it at the expense of children.”
Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, wouldn’t comment on the specifics of the case but said in an email that case managers assigned to unaccompanied children are supposed to verify a potential sponsor’s identity and relationship before releasing the child to the sponsor. That’s supposed to include a background check and checking fingerprints against the FBI database. It’s not clear if all that that was done in these cases.
The boys, ages 15, 16 and 17 when they arrived from Guatemala, were threatened with violence if they complained or stepped out of line, prosecutors said in court documents. Vans picked them up before dawn at the trailer park in Marion, about an hour’s drive north of Columbus, to take them to work, then brought them home at night.
The teens were put to work at Trillium Farms, which relied on a contractor, one of the people charged in the case, to recruit and hire the workers. Trillium, which produces more than 2 billion eggs per year at various farms around central Ohio, said it was unaware of what was happening with the contractor and the workers and hasn’t been charged.
The web started to unravel after the first alleged victims and their families began to talk to authorities in 2013. Then, last Dec. 17, federal agents swarmed the remote trailer park and moved the victims out. The grand jury indictment charged Castillo-Serrano and three others with crimes including forced-labor conspiracy, lying to the government, encouraging illegal entry into the U.S. and harboring an immigrant in the country illegally.
One defendant is scheduled for sentencing in December after pleading guilty to single counts of forced labor conspiracy and encouraging illegal entry. Two others have pleaded not guilty.
Federal officials won’t comment on what’s next for the Guatemalan boys who were rescued.
“We view them as victims who are witnesses in our case,” said Michael Tobin, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cleveland. “So we’re making sure they get the services they need.”
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Fourth Of July — Two Viewpoints
Opinion: Remembering ‘the Father of All Moral Principle’
By Rebecca Burgess
Americans are passionately attached to no two things perhaps more closely than they are to their rights and to equality. Under the banner of furthering those two things have most of the broad social movements and transformative legislative agendas taken place that mark our nation’s history.
From when the colonists’ “decent respect for the opinions of mankind” impelled them in 1776 to declare the necessity of America taking its place among the several “powers of the earth” as a separate and equally sovereign entity, through to the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, and up to Illinois’ surprising ratification this very May of the once-moribund Equal Rights Amendment, we’ve seemed to be nothing but committed to actualizing in every way the self-evident truths that each of us is “created equal” and “endowed … with certain unalienable Rights.”
In continuing this 242-year tradition, we are a testament to Thomas Jefferson’s famous formulation to Henry Lee in 1825, that the Declaration of Independence is indeed “an expression of the American mind.”
The essence of America, and the aspiration of would-be Americans whether so born or so sworn, is the commitment to advocate for and defend each person’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. While this commitment originally resulted in a historical revolution that we commemorate every July Fourth, it more importantly represents a philosophical revolution in the understanding of the nature of political community and the limited ends and resultant form of government that necessarily sees both equality and rights less expansively than many apply it today.
In one fell scratch of a quill pen, the American revolutionaries toppled centuries of political custom that gave to hereditary monarchs the right to rule simply because they were born in the line of succession. This is a human convention, according to the Declaration, and one that the succeeding paragraphs of the Declaration show does not ensure a properly just government (the “long train of abuses”), because not ordered to securing the safety and thus possibility for happiness of the people (their unalienable rights).
The objective fact, however, is that “the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” show how every human being is equally free and independent by the mere fact of being born a human being — neither a master nor a slave of other people. The properly just government reflects that it is based on the consent of a people aware of their individual inherent right, as much as of their reciprocal obligation not to deny the similar right of their neighbor. Hence, the American experiment in republican self-government, and the elevation in it of the rule of law.
Despite the fact that few of today’s more than 300 million Americans are direct descendants of the colonists, all can still partake in the republican experiment engendered by their convictions and actions. Abraham Lincoln told his Chicago audience in 1858 that they were proper descendants of that founding generation so long as they believed the proposition that “all men are created equal” is “the father of all moral principle.”
The Declaration is thicker than mere blood. Of course, blood has also been shed because of the Declaration’s principles.
The popular narrative about American history for the last few decades conveniently glosses over the historic reality that it took a counter-revolution against the Declaration’s principles well after the Constitutional Convention to continue and grow the institution of slavery. At the time of the ratification of the Constitution, 10 out of the 13 states had suffrage for blacks — but by the late 1830s, it was people such as Senator John Calhoun, George Fitzhugh and Alexander Stephens who were bluntly proclaiming that slavery was a “positive good,” because “nothing can be more unfounded and false (than) the prevalent opinion that all men are born free and equal.”
It was Lincoln’s appeal back to the Declaration’s principles of equality that chartered his course to preserve the Union and the experiment of self-government.
Lincoln was adamant that the heart of the Declaration was the truth of the equality principle as the basis of government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” But as the event of the Civil War showed, and as we see in our own day, that experiment is not self-perpetuating. It requires a continued political will, informed by a proper understanding and attachment to our fundamental political principle: that justice is the measurement of how well our laws and institutions maintain the equal right of all to life and to liberty.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Rebecca Burgess manages the Program on American Citizenship at the American Enterprise Institute. She wrote this for InsideSources.com.
The ‘Declaration of Independence’ Created a Country for Immigrants; What Happened?
By Derrick Toledo
I’m a Native American from New Mexico — a Southwestern state with large immigrant and Native communities. When I think about the Declaration of Independence, I have to wonder: Who wrote it, and for what reason?
Thomas Jefferson, along with John Adams and Benjamin Franklin and the rest, were all colonists on a new continent. From the perspective of my people, they were all immigrants. So it wouldn’t be a stretch to say the Declaration of Independence was about creating a humane country for immigrants.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident,” Jefferson wrote, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are the Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Those words sound almost perfect, right? Maybe they could be if they actually meant something.
Look at how we’re treating the “unalienable Rights” of immigrants seeking life and liberty today — putting children and families into cages, raiding their workplaces, deporting them en masse. Even though Fox News tells its viewers that immigrant detainment facilities are better than most housing establishments, it’s hard to imagine the Founders treating fellow immigrants of their own stock that way.
I declare to break down the Declaration phrase by phrase.
What truths do we hold? The truth of the matter is the president of the United States is a racist loudmouth, who has lost more employees than the number of “Fast and the Furious” movies because nobody wants to be around him.
He leads with his trigger finger — or Twitter fingers — declaring a new war or repudiation of humanity every day, like when he recently called immigrants “animals” who were “infesting” our country.
What about rights? I have a lot of Native and immigrant friends in New Mexico, Arizona and California who are constantly overlooked or forgotten about — along with their “certain unalienable Rights” that were “endowed by their Creator.” In their place, they get the right to unemployment. The right to a deficient and expensive education. The right to have relatives or themselves in constant fear of deportation or detainment.
These states are supposed to be united. Maybe they are only if you match the color of the people who wrote the Declaration.
As a wealthy country founded by immigrants, we should accept people seeking refuge for their life and liberty so that they can have the pursuit of happiness. Is that not why the Founders came here? To seek refuge and freedom from their king, or from the wars and poverty of Europe?
When you say we are all created equal, make sure to listen to yourself. Don’t persecute people who seek safety and opportunity by separating families, especially mothers from their children. Don’t impose a ban on people because of their religion or appearance. Don’t classify people of color as dangerous when you’re the one pointing the gun.
Of course, I’m not an immigrant. But I identify with many of them. Like many asylum seekers, my people have suffered violence and genocide. And like many kids from immigrant families, I’m a person of color with a mountain of college debt, because our country doesn’t treat education as an “unalienable Right.”
This may sound strange coming from someone whose lineage is a bloody story of genocide and forced assimilation, but I like to learn about history. I want to believe we can do better than the people who came before us, and that we can learn from our past. My people were here before European settlers. But unlike some of their descendants, I still invite people to my home — a little village in New Mexico — to share in the blessings of food, culture and happiness.
It’s been a turbulent 242 years since the Declaration of Independence was signed. Unless we learn to create a more perfect union for all of us — native and immigrant alike — who knows how many more we’ll get?
ABOUT THE WRITER
Derrick Toledo is a New Mexico Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.