Early in his presidency Joe Biden will be forced to deal with a number of issues related to Mexico including asylum seekers at the border, ongoing disputes related to trade, how to respond to “Dreamers” and other long-term undocumented residents, and evolving problems relating to organized crime and violence. In engaging with Mexico, Biden finds himself liaising with one of the most enigmatic and charismatic leaders in the Americas. Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is a uniquely polarizing and controversial figure. He is pro-coal and hostile to renewable energy. He disparages feminist activists and promotes traditional family values. He is anti-elite but fosters close alliances with some of Mexico’s billionaires. He is anti-neoliberal but favors cash handouts over improving government capacity. Foreign analysts and observers often struggle to characterize him. Is he a socialist? A progressive? An old-school conservative?
Lopez Obrador brands himself as a leftist who battles Mexico’s “conservatives,” but he also openly embraced former U.S. President Trump and has offered a cold initial reception to President Biden. To discuss Mexico’s President Lopez Obrador and the current state of US-Mexico relations, I reached out to Patrick Iber, a professor of Latin American history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.