Mexican presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador appears in Mexico City. / Image via Shutterstock

One man is far ahead in Mexico’s July 1 presidential election polls: Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Known as AMLO, the former Mexico City mayor is making his third attempt at the presidency. This time feels different.

“Mexicans, just like British and Americans, are infuriated with the status quo,” said Rafael Fernández de Castro, director of the University of California, San Diego’s Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies. “They are mad at the political elite.”

AMLO is running as the nominee of the leftist National Regeneration Movement, or MORENA, which he helped form. His opponents are Ricardo Anaya Cortés, 39, with the conservative National Action Party, or PAN, and José Antonio Meade, 49, of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which returned to power six years ago with the election of Enrique Peña Nieto.

This is also the first election where independents not affiliated with a major party have been allowed to collect signatures to launch campaigns. One candidate, Jaime “El Bronco” Rodriguez, is running without any party at all.

AMLO has name recognition and has learned from past errors, developing a campaign with very few mistakes and risks, Fernández de Castro said.

Although President Donald Trump made Mexico a central part of his 2016 presidential campaign and continues to use the country to fuel his rhetoric and policies around free trade and immigration, criticism of the United States has not played heavily in the Mexican presidential election.

“Trump has really represented a sea of change for how Mexicans feel about the U.S.,” Fernández de Castro said. “There is some resentment.” But, he added, “the U.S. has not been bashed in the Mexico election because at the end of the day, we all recognize that the U.S. is so important to Mexico that we have to be the adult in the room.”

Major issues in the election so far include corruption and the insecurity and violence that continues to plague Mexico.

The second presidential debate in Tijuana brought up a lot of issues connected with the United States, like immigration. The Union-Tribune’s Sandra Dibble has a handy breakdown of the president debate at the border.

“Mexico needs to do much better to take care of deported Mexicans and taking better care of the human rights of those passing through Mexico,” Fernández de Castro said. “I will say all of the candidates are worried about the way Trump refers to immigration. Everyone is worried about the wall. There is a consensus in Mexico that the border is fairly secure, and this is time when there are historical low numbers of Mexicans trying to come into U.S. It’s hard to understand the harsh rhetoric against Mexican immigrants.”

Fernández de Castro also said there are roughly 200,000 Mexicans in the United States registered to vote, of which he expected 50,000 to 100,000 to cast votes.

“This will be the third time Mexicans in the U.S. can absentee vote and to me, this is only the beginning,” he said. “There are millions of potential voters, so if we were to have in the near future a close election, we may have Mexicans in the U.S. deciding the election. This is very telling in how the U.S. and Mexico re-integrate not only economically, but politically.”

The Union-Tribune also caught up with some Mexicans in the United States who voted in April. There are more than 11,300 registered Mexican voters in San Diego, according to the Union-Tribune.

  • In the past few months, 113 politicians — including 43 candidates — in Mexico have been killed. (Vox)

Child Separation Continues

As the federal government continues prosecuting all adults who cross the border illegally, the practice of separating migrant children from their parents continues — with backlash, finger-pointing and still no apparent system in place to ensure all families that have been separated will be reunited if a parent is deported.

Here are some noteworthy stories and updates from the past two weeks:

Global Tariff Wars Will Have Big Local Impact

Trump placed tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from Mexico, Canada and the European Union at the end of last month. In response, some countries put retaliatory tariffs on certain goods coming from the United States. Mexico’s tariffs, predominantly on agricultural products, went into effect last week.

“The steel and aluminum tariffs — they’re real and they have huge implications for everyone, not just in those industries,” Paola Avila, vice president of international business affairs for San Diego’s Chamber of Commerce, told me.

“We already have high costs of housing, high construction costs — and that just went up,” she said.

The cost of domestic steel has increased significantly already, Avila said. While jobs would be added in the steel industry, jobs will also be lost in other industries that use steel and now need to cut back.

Avila said the increased costs in aluminum could also impact San Diego’s craft beer industry, which uses lots of cans and bottles.

The Brewers Association, the American Beverage Association and several other stakeholders wrote a letter to the president about some of the unintended consequences of the tariffs. They said a 10 percent tariff on aluminum would cost beer and beverage producers $256.3 million; a 20 percent tariff would cost $512.5 million and a 30 percent tariff would run $768.8 million.

Melissa Floca, an associate director of UC San Diego’s Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies, said she has concerns about uncertainty for businesses looking to invest in our region.

“The real risk of all the rhetoric and actions around trade is that it makes the region less of a safe bet for companies looking to invest,” Floca said. “It means when global companies are looking to place their production companies, their [research and development], they’ll think, ‘North America is crazy right now.’”

Both Avila and Floca said that the close economic ties between Baja California and San Diego can help the region through uncertain times, but that San Diego should still be worrying about the broader trade discussions.

“I think that our region does a great job of thinking about how the U.S.-Mexico relationship makes us competitive and there are lots of people in the public and private sector on both sides of the border who are truly invested in making that economic relationship work for our community,” Floca said. “That’s a counter-balance to this negative rhetoric, but I do think over the medium term, a strong North America is important or our economy. It’s not that San Diego and Tijuana are competing against each other; it’s that we’re working together to beat China.”

More Border News

Maya was Voice of San Diego’s Associate Editor of Civic Education. She reported on marginalized communities in San Diego and oversees Voice’s explanatory...

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