AMLO’s rhetoric: the root of the problem with Ecuador

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President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took office in 2018 hoping to recover Mexico’s old reputation as the diplomatic leader of Latin America, but he’s managed to get several of his country’s ambassadors kicked out of countries in the region.

On Friday, López Obrador doubled down after Ecuador ordered the Mexican ambassador out of the country a day earlier, vowing to send a military plane to remove the ambassador and pledging to continue the heated rhetoric. Previously, both Peru and Bolivia had withdrawn their ambassadors in similar disputes.

López Obrador acknowledged that more countries may expel Mexican diplomats because of his criticism of conservative governments, saying that was “because our posture is uncomfortable for the oligarchies of Latin America, and those that run things, the foreign hegemonic forces.”

That sounds like staunch leftist rhetoric from the 1960s to the early 80s, the period López Obrador is nostalgic for, when Mexico’s old ruling party, the PRI, defended Cuba and helped start peace talks with leftist rebels in Central America. But the president hasn’t adapted to Latin America’s recent rapid swings from left to right.

“For a guy who’s not interested in foreign policy, he’s got these pipe dreams of what Mexican foreign policy should look like,” said Arturo Sarukhan, Mexico’s former ambassador to the U.S. “It’s nostalgia, it’s the Mexico that he cut his teeth in as a politician, the PRI, it’s the typical PRI foreign policy of using Latin American as a foil vis-a-vis the U.S.”

While it sounds like just another of the president’s recurring, petty diplomatic disputes — López Obrador is famously uninterested in foreign policy and seldom travels or meets with other leaders — this one could escalate.

Mexico is using its embassy in Ecuador to protect an official from the former leftist government of ex-president Rafael Correa, whom López Obrador liked very much. The ex-official is fleeing two convictions and more investigations for corruption. Mexico upped the ante Friday by granting him asylum and voiced fears Ecuador could raid the embassy to arrest the former official, who is accused of corruption.

“The Mexican government rejects the increased presence of Ecuadorian police forces outside the Mexican Embassy in Quito,” the Foreign Relations Department said in a statement Friday. “This constitutes harassment of the embassy and is a flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention.”

The whole spat started after López Obrador — who is known for making off-handed comments during his marathon-like daily news briefings — made insulting comments about current Ecuadorian President Daniel Noboa, suggesting the conservative won office because “they created this climate of fear.”

López Obrador claimed the conservatives used the 2023 assassination of Ecuadorian presidential candidate and anti-corruption crusader Fernando Villavicencio, to swing the elections in Noboa’s favor and block the return of Correa’s leftist movement.

Coming from a Mexican leader, the comments were particularly sensitive given that Mexican cartels are believed to be involved with many of the Ecuadorian gangs responsible for the exploding levels of violence in the South American country. López Obrador has a policy of not confronting the cartels.

But the comments also appeared to be insulting on a personal level to many.

Amanda Villavicencio, one of the daughters of the assassinated candidate, wrote in her social media accounts Thursday “López Obrador, you should wash your mouth out before talking about my father. Fernando Villavicencio was killed by the mafiosos he always investigated, some of whom have taken refuge at your embassy and in your country.

The situation is complicated by the fact that things haven’t been going López Obrador’s way in Latin America.

Source: AP

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