On 24 March 2021, Bolivia’s President Luis Arce made an official visit to Mexico to meet President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (“AMLO”). During the visit, Arce thanked AMLO for granting asylum to former Bolivian President Evo Morales in November 2019. But pleasantries aside, Arce’s visit may be part of a larger diplomatic plan designed by AMLO to seek alliances which confront neoliberal and right-wing governments in Latin America.
A Mexican diplomat commented, “Traditionally, the bilateral relationship between Mexico and Bolivia has been secondary and managed through the traditional means of diplomacy. At the time of Bolivian dictatorships, many Bolivian citizens spent their exile in Mexico and this helped to have a greater margin of understanding with the resurgence of Bolivian democracy.”
“Traditionally, the bilateral relationship between Mexico and Bolivia has been secondary and managed through the traditional means of diplomacy.”
Diplomat and expert in LatAm affairs, Mexico
Argentina has been a key ally in this strategy and President Alberto Fernández the brains behind it, convincing AMLO to take an active role in their efforts to have a common voice to confront US interests in the region.
Despite this, one of our political sources in Mexico had doubts about the strength of any relationship between Mexico and Argentina, “In the recent visit of President Fernández to Mexico and in the meetings he had behind closed doors with various personalities, he recognised – off the record – that a progressive alliance with AMLO, whose agenda is deeply conservative and even moralistic, would be difficult.”
AMLO and Alberto Fernández’s diplomatic efforts are trying to fill the void left by the collapse of the Union of South American Nations (“Unasur”), once seen as an opposing bloc to the Organisation of American States (“OAS”). However, the innovative aspect of this still nascent alliance is that neither AMLO nor his allies are aligning themselves with traditional left-wing regional bastions such as Venezuela and Cuba. Similarly, its efforts to confront the US stem more from promoting regional collaboration rather than active alliances with the US’ traditional opponents like Russia and China.
“In the face of a Brazil without a PT [Worker’s Party] government, countries like Argentina, Bolivia and Nicaragua sought a ‘new brother’ and AMLO’s Mexico took action.”
Former diplomat and Prof. at the UNAM, Mexico
In this context, AMLO’s meeting with Arce and rapprochement to Argentina could be seen as a wider diplomatic agenda in the framework of the Puebla Group, an informal alliance created in 2019 which seeks to be a forum for dialogue for left-wing Latin American political leaders. A former Mexican diplomat expanded, “The Puebla Group sought to refresh the heritage of the Sao Paulo Forum with a less bellicose articulation against capitalism and political opponents. However, in the face of a Brazil without a PT [Worker’s Party] government, countries like Argentina, Bolivia and Nicaragua sought a ‘new brother’ and AMLO’s Mexico took action.”