Opinion

Biden reactivates good neighbourly relations

Joe Biden, President of the United States

With the risks of a long and damaging impeachment process, even for his presidency, behind him, Joe Biden is beginning to take his first important steps in the global sphere, of which he is once again a part after his return to the government of the world's leading power, now from the privileged vantage point of the presidency. The prolongation for months, or even more than a year, of the political process against his predecessor was a spectre for Biden that has been conjured up, but which would have meant constant headaches for him and his hard core due to the continuous drip of testimonies in favour of the former president (and also against him) and for being a wall against his idea of uniting the country and overcoming the polarisation that has reigned since Trump came to power. Now that this danger has disappeared, the administration is rushing to achieve cruising speed on domestic and foreign affairs, and as always, among the latter, meetings with North American neighbours Canada and Mexico are the most important. 

The new US president's first meeting with his northern neighbour, Canada's Justin Trudeau, had many elements worth analysing in the context of the new international relations that are emerging in the midst of the pandemic. The first is that it has followed the course of the times: non-face-to-face, with the two leaders meeting with their teams in front of LED screens that connect them bilaterally with the guest country. Diplomacy is rapidly becoming accustomed to these meetings via the internet, like last week's G-7 or Friday's Munich Security Conference, which marked the multilateral baptism of the new White House tenant. It is impossible to confide in the ear; leaders have to make do with gestures and the language of glances to understand the secret codes that would otherwise run swiftly from mouth to ear in the buildings where high-level meetings are held between different countries. Trudeau has connected with Biden, and has offered to revive the common front that both should never have dropped, especially on issues of mutual concern: the defence of the environment that should unite them, cooperation and understanding with the third vertex of the triangle, Mexico.

Some argue that Biden's relations with López Obrador will be less fluid than Trump's with the Mexican president. Although the opposite would be logical, given the Democrat's theoretical ideological proximity to the Mexican head of state. The policies that AMLO has tried out on issues such as the tax burden are proof of the ambiguity of his true profile as a leader. Despite the countless front pages and headlines against the border wall promoted by the New York president, Obama's Democratic governments had already activated this physical separation with Mexican lands, the origin of so many migrants to the Rio Grande, and had even expelled hundreds of thousands of people without papers during his presidency. If the Canadian north represents Biden's heads of the coin, Mexico may represent his tails, with which he may have some sleepless nights, although he will do well to cultivate relations between the two countries. 

What Biden projects with regard to Cuba and, by extension, Venezuela, will be another matter. The prestige of his external action with his closest neighbours will be at stake here. The Cuban exile community in Florida, which has been complemented in recent years by an avalanche of Venezuelan exiles who have landed in Miami in the face of the repression of Maduro's illegal regime, will not tolerate a return to the policy of rapprochement with the dictatorship that Obama built up, with his frequent photographs with Castro and his visit in March 2016 as symbols of his diplomatic softness towards Havana despite the lack of openness and democratic movements of communism on the island.