MEXICO CITY – The COVID-19 pandemic could have been a fraught moment for U.S.-Mexico relations — two leaders from opposite ends of the political spectrum facing the largest crisis ever confronted by either administration.
Instead, presidents Donald Trump and Andrés Manuel López Obrador are carrying on like old pals.
The men appear so chummy that the Mexican president, who has not traveled outside his country since taking office nearly 18 months ago, is talking about visiting his U.S. counterpart. It’s almost enough to forget that less than a year ago Trump threatened to put crippling tariffs on Mexican exports.
As a candidate, Trump said Mexicans crossing the border brought drugs, crime and “tremendous infectious disease” to the U.S. After taking office, he continued to promise to build a border wall and make Mexico pay for it.
But this month Trump called López Obrador “a very good friend" and praised his “tremendous intelligence.” His Mexican counterpart described their relationship as a “friendship” and said Trump had spoken to him with a lot of “fondness.”
The two have consistently denied observers any fireworks, and their common ground in the virus crisis appears to be an eagerness to reactivate their economies, which is sometimes at odds with warnings from health advisers.
The warmth between them recently yielded some benefit to Mexico. To complete an agreement among oil-producing nations to reduce production, Trump offered to make a deeper cut to U.S. production, because López Obrador said Mexico could not afford to.
Then on Friday, Trump appeared to grant a favor to López Obrador. The Mexican president said Trump called him and said that Mexico would get 1,000 ventilators by the end of the month with the option to buy more.