Nov 22, 2018

5. Changing of the guard adds uncertainty to U.S-Mexico relationship

Peña Nieto (left) makes way for López Obrador. Photo: Carlos Tischler/Getty Images

On Dec. 1, Mexico’s leftist president-elect, Andres Manuel López Obrador, will be inaugurated in Mexico City. It's likely to be just hours after Mexico's outgoing president, Enrique Peña Nieto, joins with President Trump and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau to sign the NAFTA replacement deal in Buenos Aires.

Why it matters: Trump has insulted, threatened and scapegoated Mexico since the day he announced his presidential campaign. The signing ceremony will underscore Peña Nieto's decision to, as Mexico’s ambassador to the U.S. Gerónimo Gutiérrez puts it, “remove political rhetoric from negotiations.” But López Obrador’s arrival signals a new, unpredictable era for the crucial relationship.

Catch up quick ...

  • Mexico City was the first foreign capital Trump visited as a presidential candidate, in August 2016. Peña Nieto paid a big political price for welcoming Trump, and for declining to go punch for punch with him in the two years since.
  • He has portrayed the trade deal as vindication of his approach. After a term plagued by crime and corruption, though, Peña Nieto limps out of office as one of the least popular presidents in recent Mexican history
  • López Obrador won his convincing victory in July’s election on promises to fight corruption and inequality. A charismatic populist, he has played the role of both revolutionary and pragmatist, and it’s not always clear which version Mexico elected.
  • Case in point: López Obrador has both reassured investors by backing the trade negotiations, and terrified them by pledging to halt construction on what would have been the world’s biggest airport. Likewise, he has written a book — Oye Trump — criticizing the U.S. president, but also invited him to his inauguration. (Vice President Pence will go instead).

Where things stand ...

  • Gutierrez, Mexico's ambassador, says he expects a deal to end U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs on Mexico, and Mexico’s counter-tariffs targeting agriculture, by next week’s signing or shortly thereafter. That would leave the slate clear for López Obrador, at least on trade.
  • But speaking at the Brookings Institution on Tuesday, Gutiérrez said that despite the breakthrough on trade, the U.S. and Mexico are “not quite there” in terms of forging a new, better relationship.
  • The primary obstacle is immigration, he says, and the relationship will remain at a “critical moment” until a solution is found.
  • Trump and López Obrador discussed the issue in a call last month that both said was productive and friendly. Their approaches differ widely, though: Lopez Obrador wants big investments to address the root causes of immigration, while Trump has done just the opposite.

The big picture: Gutiérrez was joined on stage by Tony Wayne, a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico now at the Wilson Center. Wayne said the U.S.-Mexico relationship “touches more Americans’ daily lives than any other.” The direction it takes now will depend on López Obrador, and on Trump.

Go deeper

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

Countries where novel coronavirus cases are falling may be hit with a "second peak" if they relax restrictions too soon, World Health Organization emergencies chief Mike Ryan warned during a briefing Monday. "We're still very much in a phase where the disease is actually on the way up," he added.

By the numbers: Almost 5.5 million people have tested positive for the virus as of Monday, and more than 2.2 million have recovered. The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world (over 1.6 million from 14.6 million tests). The U.K. is reporting over 36,900 deaths from the coronavirus — the most fatalities outside the U.S.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 5,498,849 — Total deaths: 346,306 — Total recoveries — 2,233,180Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 1,662,768 — Total deaths: 98,223 — Total recoveries: 379,157 — Total tested: 14,604,942Map.
  3. World: Italy reports lowest number of new cases since February — Ireland reports no new coronavirus deaths on Monday for the first time since March 21 — WHO suspends trial of hydroxychloroquine over safety concerns.
  4. 2020: Trump threatens to move Republican convention from North Carolina — Joe Biden makes first public appearance in two months.
  5. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks over Memorial Day.
  6. Economy: New York stock exchange to reopen its floor on Tuesday — White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Charities refocus their efforts to fill gaps left by government.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 55 mins ago - Politics & Policy

LATAM Airlines files for U.S. chapter 11 bankruptcy

A LATAM air attendant aboard one of the company's planes in March. Photo: Kike Calvo/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

LATAM Airlines Group SA said in a statement early Tuesday the firm and its affiliates in in the United States, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S.

Why it matters: Latam is Latin America's largest airline and its shareholders include Delta Air Lines. CEO Roberto Alvo noted in the statement the coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on the airline industry.