Venezuela, the United States and the Two Faces of AMLO

Venezuela is in turmoil. Venezuelan opposition leader, Juan Guaidó has managed to get an unknown number of the Venezuelan military to back him on his quest to overthrow Nicolás Maduro. Maduro refuses to give up power leading to clashes between pro-Maduro and pro-Guaidó supporters. Like all civil wars, the situation is fluid. And like all civil wars, foreign interlopers intercede to stake a claim in the future for Venezuela. The United States, along with the UK and most of South America – except for Bolivia – are actively supporting Juan Guaidó. China, Russia and Turkey along with some of their satellite states are supporting the Maduro regime. Most of Europe and México are calling for dialog.

On the surface it seems like México has reverted to its traditional foreign policy of self-determination. From México’s Estrada Doctrine, it is the people of Venezuela that must determine the future of Venezuela.

But like everything else with Mexican politics, support for dialog is masked in smoke-and-mirrors. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, colloquially referred to as AMLO, has a long history with the geopolitics between Venezuela and México. It goes back to Hugo Chávez, who brought Venezuela to where it is today.

When Vicente Fox took the presidency of México, he moved México away from its inward international politics towards a more engaged foreign policy that made México a more active player in international affairs. In 2005, both México and Venezuela removed their embassies from each other’s countries in response to disagreements in the trade agreements being negotiated at the time. Hugo Chávez accused Fox of being America’s “cachorro,” or a fool.

During the run up to the election of PAN candidate Felipe Calderón, Hugo Chávez argued that Calderón “stole” the election from AMLO in that election. Calderón compared AMLO to Chávez during the campaign.

The next Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto initially set out to normalize relations between México and Venezuela. However, upon the election of Donald Trump and the crisis in Venezuela, Peña Nieto was accused by Nicolás Maduro of kowtowing to American imperialism.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador argued that México “did not want to have fights with other governments” and has maintained the posture that México wants “dialog” to resolve the issues in Venezuela.

AMLO’s posture makes sense in that his politics closely resemble the politics of Hugo Chávez. Furthermore, AMLO has undertaken the previous foreign policy of inward-looking politics leaving international issues to be resolved by others. AMLO has reaffirmed again the Estrada Doctrine politics that led México’s foreign police for decades under the PRI government regime.

But, the smoke-and-mirrors of the AMLO’s stance on Venezuela is clearly seen when México enhanced interdiction of migrants crossing México to reach the United States is added to the mix.

Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro both accused Vicente Fox, Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto of kowtowing to American imperialism. Both Chávez and Maduro saw AMLO as a fellow traveler. But is AMLO supportive of the Maduro regime or is AMLO just an opportunist American proxy?

What? An American proxy for Donald Trump?

Look at the evidence.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador is so focused on internal politics that he allows Donald Trump to misuse him for Trump’s immigrant politics. Whether AMLO knows or cares about the issue of immigration does not matter because his actions speak loud and clear. If Trump demands that AMLO deport Central Americans, AMLO does as he is told.

It doesn’t matter that AMLO calls for “dialog” to deal with Venezuela because they are empty words. When Trump demands, apparently AMLO subserviently does as told as long as AMLO can focus on his internal politics of changing the politics of México.