Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, on Thursday, targeted U.S. voters, advising Hispanic American voters to oppose Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the upcoming 2024 presidential election, accusing the Republican of exploiting the plight of migrants to gain favor with the electorate in an attempt to win votes.
His attacks on the Republican Florida governor follow February comments in which he accused past Mexican presidents of conspiring with U.S. officials to facilitate corruption in his country.
DeSantis announced his candidacy for the 2024 presidency Wednesday, pledging to make a number of conservative reforms, including finishing building the border wall former President Donald Trump started.
The Florida governor’s comments were the most recent as part of a series of campaign promises he has made as part of an appeal to conservative voters and even law and order Latinos.
The Mexican president rebuked those comments, saying DeSantis is just another politician looking to score points across different demographics.
“All of his playing politics with migrants was because he wanted to be the Republican party candidate,” López Obrador said during a press conference. “I hope the Hispanics of Florida wake up and don’t give him a single vote.”
DeSantis, hailed by conservatives for denouncing “sanctuary cities” where migrants can shelter from federal law, said he would enforce immigration laws and take a common sense approach to asylum.
“Day one, it’s a national emergency. We will mobilize all resources to construct the border wall, shut the border down,” DeSantis told Fox News in a recent interview.
The Florida governor said that, if elected, he would enact policies similar to the previous administration’s “Remain in Mexico,” policy, which forced asylum-seekers south of the border while their U.S. hearings were pending.
López Obrador, who has accused Republicans of targeting migrants, was a strong critic of the Trump administration for its immigration policies.
The Mexican president came to power in 2018, one year after Trump assumed office on Jan. 20, 2017. Once he took power however, he made concessions to Trump to secure Mexico’s borders to slow down the migration flow.
López Obrador’s targeting of his conservative predecessors
The Mexican president has not limited his accusations against American conservatives. He recently targeted past Mexican conservative presidents, even going as far as to try and implicate his predecessors in criminal scandals.
While the current Mexican president is hoping for a successor on the left, his party may face considerable resistance from the opposition, especially in light of his recent comments implicating past conservative presidents Vicente Fox and Felipe Calderón in criminal scandals.
López Obrador’s accusations came after a New York jury convicted former Public Security Secretary Genaro García Luna in federal court, marking him the highest Mexican official to be found guilty in a U.S. court.
López Obrador has made loose allegations implicating Calderón since García Luna was in charge of the nation’s law enforcement apparatus from 2006 to 2012, when he served as Mexico’s president.
He has also insinuated there could be charges against Fox as well although no evidence has surfaced against either of the conservative presidents.
The Mexican president went as far as to suggest in February that he would help get Garcia Luna’s sentenced commuted in exchange for implicating the past conservative presidents.
“I would say, as president of Mexico, for the good of the country, that hopefully he will do it in exchange for informing about whether he received orders or gave information to the former presidents Fox and Calderon,” López Obrador said of a possible sentence reduction in exchange for implicating the past conservative presidents.
He also accused the U.S. government of conspiring with past conservative leaders to help facilitate Mexican public corruption despite federal prosecutors charging Garcia Luna.
“He even got prizes from U.S. authorities, it is not possible they didn’t know,” he said.
“I think the U.S. government should, now that the investigation has started, get to the bottom of this and also investigate officials from the DEA, the CIA and the FBI who were involved at the time, because there was without doubt cooperation, they worked together,” the Mexican president said.
To date, no evidence has surfaced that any of López Obrador have any basis in fact against the past conservative presidents or U.S. officials.
The Mexican president has pledged to respect the law, not run in 2024
Whatever the case, the current Mexican president may not be a spur in the side of American and Mexican conservative leaders alike for much longer.
Mexico’s constitution only permits presidents to serve one six-year term, which is coming to an end for López Obrador next year.
While some of his supporters have encouraged him to amend the constitution so he can run again, López Obrador has dismissed proposal and instead said he will in fact depart as scheduled. His term will end before the next U.S. election in November 2024, and he is now seeking a successor to be elected in June 2024.
Shortly after coming to power, in March 2019, he signed a declaration in which he vowed to never extend his constitutionally mandated six-year term limit in office.
“Never, under any circumstance, will I try to perpetuate myself in the position that I currently have,” the Mexican president said in the document.
His comments have special meaning since, several Latin American leaders have amended their laws, permitting them to extend their re-election options, namely leftists such as Venezuela’s late president Hugo Chavez and President Evo Morales in Bolivia.
Colombia’s conservative former president Alvaro Uribe also unsuccessfully tried to change the law and run for a second term.
Growing concern about foreign interference in U.S. elections
It is currently unclear whether the U.S. State Department will review López Obrador’s public comments as potential attempt at election interference, a growing concern the agency has been looking at since the 2016 presidential elections when foreign governments, namely Russia, were exposed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe and a Republican led Senate Intelligence Committee for using social media and other forums as a means of influencing American voters.
In July 2022, the State Department issued a $10 million reward for any information on foreign interference in U.S. elections leading to the identification or location of “any foreign person, including a foreign entity, who knowingly engaged or is engaging in foreign election interference, as well as information leading to the prevention, frustration or favorable resolution of an act of foreign election interference.”
Examples of that could include running bot farm campaigns or malicious cyber activity as well as tampering with databases.
Since 2020, the State Department has warned about election interference operations from Russia and Iran.