TIJUANA, Mexico — President Donald Trump might be bragging that he got some concessions from Mexico in the tariff-immigration deal, but Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is also celebrating it as a win.
A crowd of thousands gathered on the streets of Tijuana on Saturday afternoon to hear López Obrador give a victory speech, the day after he inked a deal to avoid Trump's threatened tariffs on all Mexican goods if Mexico didn't stem the migrant flow. Mexico ostensibly agreed to clamp down on Central American migrants traveling north to the U.S. by deploying national guard troops to the southern border with Guatemala, and by expanding a program that makes asylum seekers wait out their cases in Mexico.
But Mexican officials say they didn’t actually give up very much. “They were all things we had already agree to do,” said Gilberto Herrera Solórzano, a representative of the federal government in Tijuana.
If anything, the deal gave López Obrador political cover to pursue controversial policies he was pursuing anyway — policies that contradict his human rights–oriented rhetoric on migration. And it showed how adept he has become, after six months in office, at playing both sides of an issue: At the same time that he promised the U.S. he would crack down on migrants, he also promised increased funds to support Central Americans who found themselves stuck in Mexico and a renewed focus on solving the migrant crisis at its roots.
Judging by the crowd on Saturday, which included prominent migrants rights activists from Tijuana and nearby Mexicali, the approach worked.
“Internally, we disagree with a lot of things,” said Sergio Tamay Quintero of advocacy group Angeles Sin Fronteras. “We don’t want them to militarize the southern border, just like we told Trump not to militarize [the border with the U.S.]. But right now, we are uniting around our president. We have to support him.”
This segment originally aired June 11, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO