MEXICO CITY — Leftist President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is enjoying a bit of a honeymoon with U.S. President Donald Trump, and he was effusive Tuesday in praising the U.S. leader’s restraint in not bringing up his proposed border wall.
Instead of confrontational talk, Lopez Obrador will get a visit by Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, and U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on Friday. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen also will be at the meeting at Lopez Obrador’ campaign headquarters.
One and a half years ago, Trump’s insistence on talking about the wall — and insisting Mexico pay for it — forced current President Enrique Pena to cancel his first planned official meeting with Trump.
But on Tuesday, Lopez Obrador said the wall did not even come up in a telephone call that he had with Trump on July 2, the day after his landslide election victory.
“President Trump has been very respectful. He hasn’t brought up that topic,” Lopez Obrador said of the wall. “And how nice that it hasn’t come up.”
“I thank him a lot, I say so sincerely, for the respectful treatment we have received from President Trump and the U.S. government,” Lopez Obrador said. “We are interested in having a good relationship with the people and government of the United States.”
Lopez Obrador, who is to take office Dec. 1, called Friday’s meeting “very good news.”
He said immigration, development and the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement will be the principle topics.
“We know that the best way to tackle the migration phenomenon and the problems of safety … is to spur development in Mexico,” Lopez Obrador said.
Lopez Obrador said he wants the U.S. to join in an “alliance for progress” to bring development and jobs to Mexico and Central America, a call that hearkened back to President John F. Kennedy’s program launched in 1961.
Lopez Obrador has a bit of nostalgia for the 1960s, Mexico’s last long sustained period of economic growth, and apparently hopes the U.S. will consider re-launching its own aid program from that era.
“What we want, from Panama to the northern border of Mexico and the United States to the Rio Bravo is for the people to have opportunities for jobs,” he said. “That’s our central focus.”
The Trump administration may be more interested in getting Mexico to agreeing to be considered a “safe third country,” meaning asylum seekers from Central America would have to apply for refuge in Mexico rather than at the U.S. border.
Lopez Obrador did not answer when asked if Mexico would consider such an arrangement, noting only that immigration shouldn’t involve “coercive measures.”
Pompeo had been scheduled to meet with President Enrique Pena Nieto and his foreign minister, Luis Videgaray, and also make a “courtesy” call on Lopez Obrador.
Kushner’s last known visit to Mexico was March 7, when he met with Pena Nieto and Videgaray without then-U.S. Ambassador Roberta Jacobson.
Lopez Obrador said Tuesday that since Pompeo will be accompanied by other U.S. officials, he will ask his proposed Cabinet to attend as well.