The middle of a pandemic is a strange time to take your first overseas trip in 19 months as leader. Especially when you have to fly coach on a commercial airline and suffer a layover in order to meet the U.S. president.
The decision by Mexico’s Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to travel to Washington brings multiple risks. There’s the health threat to the 66-year-old leftist who for months spurned social distancing — and who, as a self-professed “man of the people,” eschewed visits abroad because he said his biggest priorities were at home.
Another danger is the White House jaunt thrusts AMLO, as he’s known, messily into Donald Trump’s re-election efforts. His northern counterpart Justin Trudeau declined an invite to come, citing other commitments.Lopez Obrador has carefully built a rapport with Trump, even as the president lambasted Mexico for its drug cartels and crime rates, for migration flows into the U.S. and for allegedly taking advantage of America on trade.And, as Eric Martin and Nacha Cattan explain, while some in Lopez Obrador’s inner circle fret about the optics of the trip, Mexico’s leader is focused on repairing his pandemic-ravaged economy. He needs trade moving with the U.S., and Trump’s help.
Lopez Obrador can’t afford to have today’s meeting (which includes a dinner) veer off track into thorny issues like Trump’s border wall or Mexico’s energy policies. Trump recently called AMLO “really a great guy.” The measure of success will be in what he says afterward.
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Out of sync | Trump’s latest salvos about Confederate flags and statues — and his attacks on racial-justice protesters — may resonate with core supporters. But, as Ryan Teague Beckwith reports, the rhetoric is increasingly out of step with the way most Americans think in 2020.
Next steps | A number of top Trump advisers want to undercut the Hong Kong dollar’s peg to the U.S. dollar — perhaps by limiting the ability of Hong Kong banks to buy greenbacks — to punish China for chipping away at the city’s political freedoms. Still, the idea hasn’t been elevated to senior ranks in the White House and faces opposition from some who worry it’d hurt the U.S. more than China.
- The news was met with skepticism by traders who said it’d be hard to implement. One called it a “fairly whacky idea.”
- The U.S. imposed travel restrictions on Chinese officials determined to be “substantially involved” in restricting access to Tibet, prompting a retaliatory visa move from Beijing.
Continued chill | The U.S. hasn’t requested a meeting with North Korea, Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun said, as he met top South Korean officials today in Seoul in a bid to restart negotiations over Pyongyang’s nuclear program. A top North Korean diplomat said this week the regime had no intention to “sit face to face” with the U.S.
Treason case | A former journalist who’s an adviser to the head of Russia’s space agency was jailed on suspicion of treason in a case that’s stoked concern about increasing pressure on the media. The Federal Security Service said Ivan Safronov is suspected of passing information on arms sales and other defense matters to a North Atlantic Treaty Organization country it didn’t name. Safronov denies any wrongdoing.
Virus violence | Thousands of protesters clashed with police in Serbia’s capital after the president said he’d reinstate one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns amid a spike in Covid-19 cases in the city. Riot police used tear gas to repel mostly right-wing demonstrators who briefly broke into Belgrade’s parliament building in the worst violence against President Aleksandar Vucic since he came to power in 2014.
What to Watch
- Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses the European Union parliament today at the start of Germany’s six-month presidency of the bloc and ahead of next week’s summit on the economic recovery fund.
- Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is set today to unveil a $2.5 billion program to pay the wages of more than 200,000 young workers in a bid to pull the U.K. economy out of its deepest slump in centuries.
- Libya’s crude protection may be just half its total capacity in the coming years due to repeated shutdowns of facilities amid a continuing civil war, the state oil company said.
- With the Supreme Court poised to issue decisions covering birth control, religious rights and Trump’s efforts to keep his financial records private, a spokeswoman announced Chief Justice John Roberts was hospitalized last month for a forehead injury from falling while exercising.
And finally … Digital advertising platforms run by Google, Amazon and other tech companies will funnel at least $25 million to websites spreading misinformation about Covid-19 this year, the Global Disinformation Index research group says. In one May 19 ad delivered by Amazon, a L’Oreal product was promoted on Americanthinker.com next to an article titled “Is Big Pharma Suppressing Hydroxychloroquine?”
— With assistance by Kathleen Hunter