US
President López Obrador's 'coup' rhetoric and criticism of US electoral posturing?
In an interview with LPO, Andrew I. Rudman, the director of the Mexico Institute said he believes that "an important piece" of the Mexican President's comments are connected to Mexico's mid-term elections, which are scheduled for June 6.

Statements by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador accusing the United States of promoting a ‘coup' against him is political posturing tied to Mexico's January 6 elections and likely ‘expected' by the US government, according to Andrew I. Rudman, the director of the Mexico Institute at the influential Washington DC-based Wilson Center.

In early May, López Obrador said that the Mexican government had sent a formal diplomatic note to the US asking that it suspend funding for Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity (MCCI), a group that investigates political corruption.

The group's funding includes funding from the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

"It's interference, it's interventionism, it's promoting coup plotters," he said at the time. "A foreign government can't provide money to political groups." Since then, López Obrador has not shied away from the accusations.

In a press conference this week, for example, he compared the current US government's role to that of Ambassador Henry Lane Wilson, who played a vital role in the fall of Mexican revolutionary and President Francisco I. Madero.

In an interview with LPO, Rudman said he believes that "an important piece" of the Mexican President's comments are connected to Mexico's mid-term elections, which are scheduled for June 6.

The group's funding includes funding from the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

Some polls have suggested that support for AMLO's Morena coalition may be slipping.

"He's in the middle of a campaign," Rudman said. "I think that may have driven some of AMLO's rhetoric. For years, or decades in Latin America, attacking the US has been part of political campaigning."

In reality, however, Rudman said he finds "it hard to believe he would really believe that transparent US support of NGOs is really a coup'.

Additionally, Rudman said that he believes it is likely that "a lot" of the Mexican President's political rhetoric is "expected" by the US government, particularly ahead of next week's visit to Mexico by US Vice President Kamala Harris.

"US governments are always aware of the political dynamics in another country," he said. "I also think that what AMLO says in public, particularly in the midst of a campaign, is not necessarily what he says in private."

I think that may have driven some of AMLO's rhetoric. For years, or decades in Latin America, attacking the US has been part of political campaigning

"I think the issue will come. I suspect he will raise the issue of US support for NGOs, including some accused of plotting coups," Rudman added.

Earlier this week, Mexican newspaper Milenio revealed that USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) have provided approximately $591.5 million to organizations operating in Mexico between 2019 and the end of May 2021.

Rudman said that he thinks that US support for Mexican civil society organizations - which in many cases dates back decades - will be part of any response that Kamala Harris will have to make if confronted with López Obrador's concerns.

"I suspect [the response] will be something along the lines that the US government is transparent about its support for groups that advocate for transparency, good governance and the rule of law," he said. "We do it all over the world."

On Thursday, the White House announced that the Biden administration was establishing "the fight against corruption as a core US national security interest."

As part of this effort, the White House vowed to curb illicit finance, hold corrupt actors accountable, build international partnerships and improve foreign assistance. ‘

In a statement, President Biden said that "the United States will lead by example and in partnership with allies, civil society and the private sector to fight the scourge of corruption."

"But this is a mission for the entire world," he added. "We must stand in support of courageous citizens around the globe who are demanding honest, transparent governance."

Rudman said that that while some in Mexico might take the statement as criticism, it "shouldn't be seen as an attack" on AMLO, who is himself an avowed crusader against corruption.

The White House vowed to curb illicit finance, hold corrupt actors accountable, build international partnerships and improve foreign assistance

"I think it can be interpreted as the US government said our priorities are the same as one of [AMLO's] priorities," he said. "It would be a mistake to assume that the statement that anti-corruption matters is intended to be an attack on Mexico."

In a call with reporters on Thursday morning, a senior administration official said that anti-corruption would form an important part of Vice President Harris' trip to Latin America next week.

"The essence of the memorandum...is that the US government is placing the anti-corruption plight at the center of its foreign policy, so we very much want to prioritize this work across the board," the official said.

"In terms of the Vice President's trip, I don't want to get ahead of any announcements that are going to be made on the trip, but I can say that anti-corruption in the region is a major focus for the administration and will be a focus of all her conversations while she's traveling." 

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