MEXICO CITY (AP) – There were two notable resistance fighters among world leaders who rushed to congratulate Joe Biden on his victory in the US election: the leaders of the two largest countries in Latin America, both considered friends of the president Donald Trump.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, sometimes dubbed “the trump card of the tropics” for his populist and improvised style, has remained silent on the loss of Trump. And Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has declined to congratulate Biden at this point, saying he will wait until legal challenges related to the vote are resolved.
Trump and the two Latin leaders are united by some surface similarities: They don’t like wearing masks during the coronavirus pandemic, and all three can be broadly described as populists and nationalists. But the motivations of the two Latin leaders may differ.
Bolsonaro and his sons – who like Trump’s children play political roles – appear to be very uncomfortable with the outcome of the American race. Bolsonaro, who previously expressed hope for Trump’s re-election and whose son wore hats with the “Trump 2020” logo on it, has remained largely silent this week, but his sons have not.
Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro posted images on social media questioning how Biden’s votes increased so rapidly in subsequent tally, when Trump’s were not. Young Bolsonaro also questioned the networks’ decision to cut Trump’s speech on Wednesday, alleging election fraud, calling it an attack on free speech.
A senior official at the Brazilian Embassy in the United States, who cannot identify himself for fear of reprisal, said Brazilian officials fear cowardly remarks by Bolsonaro or his sons could destabilize relations between the countries .
Officials in the presidential office, who were not authorized to speak officially, said Bolsonaro had taken a more pragmatic tone, at least since Wednesday, following the advice of his advisers.
Earlier this week, some of the more ideological elements in Bolsonaro’s office believed in a victory for Trump, but since then diplomatic staff have made contact with Biden’s campaign.
López Obrador’s cordial relationship with Trump, meanwhile, was often seen as unusual for a leftist politician, but it had a professional basis.
Partly that’s political realism: In 2019, Trump threatened to impose crippling tariffs on Mexican goods unless López Obrador cracked down on Central American migrants crossing Mexico to reach the US border. Mexico complied, rounding up the migrants and sending them back to their countries of origin.
But there were also moments of apparent true friendship between the two. López Obrador was one of the few world leaders who still wanted to praise Trump on Saturday.
“President Trump has been very respectful to us, and we have made some very good deals, and we thank him because he did not interfere and respected us,” said López Obrador.
And López Obrador angered many at home and in the American Democratic Party when he made his first – and so far the only – trip abroad as president over the summer to meet with Trump to celebrate the promulgation of the new US-Mexico-Canada free trade agreement. , which the two leaders saw as fixing the problems of the old North American free trade agreement of the 1990s.
López Obrador did not meet Biden or his campaign team on this trip, and the injuries are still apparently there, even though the Mexican president said he knows Biden and has a “very good relationship” with him.
Texas 20th District Democratic Representative Joaquin Castro wrote in Spanish on his Twitter account that the refusal to congratulate Biden “represents a real diplomatic failure on the part of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, at a time when the entering Biden he administration seeks to launch a new era of friendship and cooperation with Mexico. “
Representative Jesús García, a Democrat from Illinois’ 4th District, wrote in a similar vein to López Obrador that “the American voters have spoken and Joe Biden is our president-elect. He won fair and square. Don’t miss the boat.
Democrats are unlikely to be as vindictive on Mexico as the Trump administration once seemed, with its focus on building a border wall and threats of tariff sanctions. But a Biden administration that only quietly urges Mexico to limit migrant crossings could leave López Obrador in a more uncomfortable position.
Mexico could easily have cracked down on migrant caravans in 2019 and 2020, as appeasing open pressure from the United States is understandable enough if unpleasant at home; but asking Mexico to do so without overt threats would be more costly politically for López Obrador.
The Mexican president might fear retaliation during Trump’s short time in power, but his failure to mend feelings of pain with Biden’s team is already exposing López Obrador to criticism at home.
“To quote (Mexican singer) Juan Gabriel,” What do you earn? “” The El Universal newspaper said in an op-ed Sunday. “Donald Trump will be president for two more months, but Joe Biden will be president for another four years! And we’ve already started this relationship on the wrong foot. “
Former US Ambassador to Mexico Antonio Garza disagreed.
“It seems a bit awkward, and maybe a first missed opportunity. But the day of the inauguration will hardly matter, ”he said.
Garza, now a lawyer for the White & Case law firm in Mexico City, wrote that he was “confident that the Biden administration will be committed to a strong relationship with neighbors in the United States, and that in light of the The importance of Canada and Mexico to trade, immigration and security that the focus will be on resolving these issues in cooperation. “
“Listen,” he added, “there are just too many other hot spots in the world for our next president to follow this misstep.
Associated Press writer Mark Stevenson reported this story in Mexico City and AP writer Debora Alvares reported from Brasilia, Brazil.