Mexico’s president could help bridge U.S.-Venezuela hostilities — and ease Maduro’s oppression

Miami Herald Editorial Board

With his typical grandiosity, the president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, congratulated Andrés Manuel López Obrador in his victory in the recent Mexican presidential elections: “Let the broad swathes of sovereignty and friendship of our peoples be opened,” Maduro said on Twitter. With López Obrador now in power, there is proof that: “Truth triumphs over lies and the hope of the great homeland is renewed.”

That warmth between Mexico and Venezuela could be a double-edged sword for the opponents of Maduro’s government. A recent analysis by the Associated Press indicates that the triumph of another leftist politician in Mexico could spell relief for the other leftist government in Latin America. That’s a new world order.

Up to now, the last two successive Mexican administrations have not been exactly friends with the leaders from Caracas. When the late Hugo Chávez ruled in Venezuela, Mexican President Vicente Fox openly criticized him for a poor human rights record, as well as for praising the Cuban government of the late Fidel Castro.

Back then, the disagreement between Mexico and Venezuela reached the point that the two countries withdrew their respective ambassadors between 2005 and 2009.

Back then, the attitude of Fox’s government violated the traditional Mexican policy of “nonintervention” in the internal affairs of other countries. To Mexicans that’s called the Estrada doctrine, which dates back to the1930’s and is named after its creator, Genaro Estrada, Secretary of Foreign Affairs. “Nonintervention” has often been the excuse used by totalitarian states such as Cuba and Venezuela to justify their support for other dictatorships. It was under the Estrada doctrine that the Mexican government refused to expel Cuba from the OAS in 1962 because of Havana's strong links with the Soviet bloc.

Mexico’s outgoing president, Enrique Peña Nieto, also had a forceful stance against Maduro, often joining the U.S. in its rebuke of the Venezuelan government. And the Mexican government had also been collaborating with the Trump administration to confiscate assets of corrupt Venezuelan officials.

And just last month, Peña Nieto’s government sponsored a resolution at the Organization of American States that would allow the OAS to suspend Venezuela on the charge that Maduro’s re-election on May 20 was fraudulent and illegitimate.

López Obrador has said that he will re-apply the Estrada Doctrine of non-interference when it comes to the affairs of other countries. “We will be friends of all the peoples and governments of the world,” he said after his victory two weeks ago.

If López Obrador moves Mexico away from hemispheric efforts to resolve the crisis in Venezuela, Maduro could breathe a sigh of relief as he takes off the pressure from a powerful Latin country.

However, López Obrador, much more pragmatic than Maduro, could take advantage of a new, more friendly relationship with Caracas to try to soften the intransigence of the Venezuelan despot and alleviate Venezuela's political and humanitarian crisis.

López Obrador is a man of the left, but not an extremist. He knows how to forge alliances and has expressed that the changes he proposes “will be done in accordance with the established legal order. The new Mexican president from the left could demonstrate to Maduro that the art of governing requires compromises. As a friend of Venezuela, he could exert an influence on Maduro and help create an environment conducive to negotiation and the search for a much-needed solution to the crisis in that country. Let’s hope so.