Mexico City, Mexico – As many voters took to the streets in major cities across the United States on Saturday to celebrate a victory for President-elect Joe Biden, the streets of the Mexican capital maintained their usual din of city noise.
But rest assured, experts say, while the people here may not be actively partying, the news represents a welcome change in rhetoric about the country and a White House that Mexicans see not as “rapists and criminals” but as “friends.” and neighbors “considered. ”
For many Latin American leaders, Biden’s election victory marks a return to a more civilized age, and relief seems to be the most widespread sentiment.
Argentine President Alberto Fernandez was one of the first to congratulate Biden, go a step further and tweet his praise for the American people in exercising their right to vote in record numbers.
In Central America, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez took the time to express his good wishes when Hurricane Eta caused heavy rains and triggered deadly floods and mudslides. He called Biden’s victory a “triumph that strengthens American democracy”.
Even the Venezuelan Nicolas Maduro offered a renewed readiness for dialogue with the new government.
While several heads of state and government welcomed the victory of the former Vice President Biden, the Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador kept silent suspiciously.
Mexico is holding back
Sources close to Lopez Obrador have said the Mexican President’s silence is an attempt to avoid provoking U.S. President Donald Trump before his term in office is over in the White House.
“With regard to the US elections, we will wait until all legal issues have been resolved,” Lopez Obrador said at a press conference. “I cannot congratulate one or the other candidate. I want to wait for the electoral process to end. “
It is a tactic that characterizes the kind of diplomacy politicians in Mexico who are forced to adopt it when dealing with the US, Mexico’s largest and most important trading partner.
It was a lesson Lopez Obrador learned in 2019 when Trump threatened to beat Mexico with 25 percent export tariffs if Mexico failed to implement an immigration policy tailored to US interests.
There is the idea that immigration policy will change under President Biden and that it will somehow favor Mexico. I disagree. However, I think the US will work together more to address the root causes of people trying to leave their countries.
With a Biden presidency, the tone for bilateral cooperation with Mexico on immigration is expected to be much softer, although questions still remain about how that softer tone will be translated into politics.
“Historically, Democrats have been kinder in their discourse,” said Wilma Gandoy, a Mexican diplomat and professor of international relations at Monterrey University of Technology. “But yourself [former President Barack] Obama was one of the presidents who deported most of the people. “
“There is the idea that immigration policy will change under President Biden and that it will somehow favor Mexico. I don’t see it that way, ”she added. “But I think we’ll see more cooperation from the US to address the root causes of people trying to leave their countries.”
Return to multilateralism
Just like in 2016, many people in Latin America watched the 2020 US elections very closely, although the coronavirus pandemic remains the most pressing problem in the region and around the world.
Many hope that a return to multilateralism can not only result in a faster end to the outbreak, but also correct significant setbacks in human rights issues made worse by the spread of COVID-19.
The Trump administration has forced tens of thousands of people seeking security at the border to wait in dangerous and precarious conditions.
In Colombia, one of the US’s most important strategic partners, Biden could ask authorities to pay more attention to human rights violations. More than 100 human rights defenders have been killed in the past year, but Trump administration officials have received few setbacks.
Trump’s bellicose attitude towards the socio-economic and political crisis in Venezuela could also give way to a negotiated political solution under the new democratic government.
Work to do
For Mexico and the nations of North Central America such as Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, Trump’s defeat means a policy reversal that, in the opinion of many human rights watchers, has exceeded the limits of international law.
“The Trump administration has forced tens of thousands of people seeking security at the border to wait in dangerous and precarious conditions,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.
As part of the controversial “Stay in Mexico” policy, the Trump administration heavily armed the governments of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras to sign a series of agreements that have forced tens of thousands of asylum seekers to stay in their own countries while their cases have been heard by US authorities.
The Trump administration’s policy of staying in Mexico has been criticized by human rights groups [File: Paul Ratje/Reuters]”Seeking asylum is a human right,” said Guevara-Rosas, adding that under Trump, thousands of people were held in immigration detention or were separated from their families.
These conditions have helped “commit human rights abuses that are not new to the United States but have been exacerbated by the Trump administration over the years,” she said. “We are therefore making very clear recommendations for the asylum system that we believe the Biden government really needs to prioritize.”
If Twitter is a barometer, the feeling is that Latin American leaders are optimistic about their future relationship with the US.
Many others in the region celebrate the US election turnout as a victory in itself that is a major example of a region of the world where presidential elections are not always fair or free.
However, this does not mean that the future Biden administration will not face challenges in re-establishing relations with allies and partners in Latin America.
Biden has inherited a U.S. image tarnished by four years of racist rhetoric and hurtful policies toward the most vulnerable citizens of Latin America. Repairing that image will be one of his first challenges when he re-enters the White House.