Until now, it has been generally believed that the era of left rulers in Latin America was over. In December 2017, Sebastián Piñera of the National Renewal party, won in Chile after right-wing forces came to power in Argentina (2015) and Brazil (2016). Three leading economies of the continent had right-wing governments. It all changed on July 1 with the sweeping victory held by Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the candidate representing the country’s Left. His party Morena, the National Regeneration Movement (Movimiento Regeneración Nacional), was formed only in 2014 to lead Obrador to victory over other candidates from political parties that have ruled the country for the entire century. Now he has enough power for implementing drastic changes. The Mexican revolution took place 101 years ago. This is the first time the Left have come to power.
One of the president-elect’s promises was standing up to Donald Trump if need be. His election is a blow to the United States influence in Latin America. The US and newly elected Mexican presidents don’t see eye-to-eye on NAFTA, bilateral trade and border security.
During the race, Obrador had to deny the rumors that originated from the United States, not Mexico, that he had received money from Moscow. As in the course of the 2016 US election, the invented stories were spread around. Then US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said he had seen “signs” of Russia’s meddling into Mexican election campaign. The affirmation was left unconfirmed as the official offered no details but US Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Tim Kaine (D-VA) lost no time to chime in. So did Enrique Ochoa Reza, the chairman of the Mexican Institutional Revolutionary Party that lost the election. Rumors remained rumors but media did its part to make people believe the concoctions were true. Andres Obrador used the strongest weapon against lies – humor. He jibed the stories to win even more popular support.
During the 128 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations there were few downturns to cloud Russia’s relations with Mexico, the second most populous nation in Latin America with as estimated population of over 120 million, which boasts the fifteenth largest nominal GDP in the world and the eleventh largest by purchasing power parity. Its economy is strongly linked to NAFTA – the economic union US President Trump wants to end so much, replacing it with separate deals. Perhaps, this is the time for Mexico to diversify its economic partners. Russia, China and other BRICS nations can offer a good alternative to the rocky relationship with the northern partner having become so unpredictable recently. Obrador’s victory may provide an impetus to the development of Russian-Mexican ties, including energy, security and political interaction on the global stage.
The sanctions imposed by the US and the EU have prompted Moscow to expand contacts with other world economies. Russia has a strong diplomatic presence in such countries as Brazil, Venezuela, Columbia, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, and Cuba. Promoting ties with the nations of the region through cooperation with CELAC is one of directions of Moscow’s foreign policy. Russia’s Foreign Policy Concept states that “Russia remains committed to the comprehensive strengthening of relations with the Latin American and Caribbean States taking into account the growing role of this region in global affairs.”
Russia’s strongest trade relationships are Brazil and Mexico, which together account for about half of all of Russian trade in the continent. The Russian twin-engine MC-21 short-to-mid-range airliner with a capacity for between 150-211 passengers offers a potential lucrative deal Mexico has paid interest in. In January, the Mexican Association of Importers and Exporters (ANIERM) opened its trade office in Moscow. Mexico is eager to explore a partnership with Russia to purchase and assemble helicopters. Mi-35M and the Mi-28NE combat helicopters as well as Mi-17 military transport rotary wing aircraft are under consideration. Russia’s Lukoil energy giant has won two tenders to expand its drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Grupo Maseca and Nemak are operating in Russia.
Experts believe that Obrador’s election is a good chance to spur the Russian-Mexican cooperation in all spheres. President Putin also expressed hope that with Andrés Obrador at the helm, the bilateral relationship will get a new impetus. The two leaders will meet at the upcoming G20 summit, scheduled for November 30–December 1 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.