Demo­c­ratic pres­i­dential hopefuls don’t know the name of Mex­ico’s current pres­ident, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. I Wiki­media Commons

When running for Pres­ident of the United States, one would think that can­di­dates would have some knowledge of what is going on in neigh­boring coun­tries. 

But when Tele­mundo reporter Guadalupe Venegas asked Demo­c­ratic pres­i­dential hopefuls Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D‑Minnesota, phil­an­thropist and bil­lionaire Tom Steyer, and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg about Mexico, had trouble even naming the pres­ident of Mexico. 

When Venegas asked the seem­ingly easy question of who the pres­ident of Mexico is, Steyer just said, “I forget.” Buttigiege hes­i­tat­ingly guessed the right answer. But Klobuchar hilar­i­ously tried to dodge the question until Venegas finally asked her, “Do you, I’m sorry to ask this, but do you know who he is? Do you know his name?”

Klobuchar unsuc­cess­fully tried to play it off by answering, “Yeah, yeah. I know that he is the Mexican pres­ident.” 

Venegas asked again, “But can you tell me his name?” And Klobuchar finally had to say no. 

But as amusing as the inter­change was, it’s deeply con­cerning that some of the people running for U.S. pres­ident cannot name Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador as the pres­ident of Mexico. 

If they don’t know Obrador’s name, then they probably also don’t know how messy Mexico is and how their eco­nomic sit­u­ation will threaten the U.S. economy. 

No matter how much U.S. offi­cials such as Trump and the Demo­c­ratic pres­i­dential hopefuls may try to ignore Mexico and lit­erally wall off its problems from our own, what’s going on in Mexico has and will always have ram­i­fi­ca­tions in the United States. So it might be good for U.S. politi­cians to start brushing up on their knowledge of what’s going on south of the border. 

Sadly, with rampant vio­lence, cartel power, and gov­ernment weakness, there is never a dull day in Mexico. Each year the murder rate in Mexico increases, and in 2019 it broke its own record with nearly 35,000 murders

Last week, a 7‑year-old girl was kid­napped, mur­dered, and left in a bag south of Mexico City. The week before, a 25-year-old woman was stabbed to death, skinned, and then had her organs removed. After the gruesome Jan. 17 killings of local musi­cians, the com­munity of Ayahual­tempa, Mexico is arming its children, ages 6 to 15, and training them to become vig­i­lantes

“We are sur­rounded by the bad guys, so we have to prepare our­selves to defend our town and our fam­ilies,” 13-year-old Luis Gustavo Morales said. 

Mean­while, El Chapo’s daughter had an osten­ta­tious wedding as she married the nephew of another well-known criminal. As the cathedral was locked down and closed to the public, the grandiose wedding was a reminder of the Sinaloa cartel’s power and the rest of the country’s weakness. 

The United States cannot keep ignoring its southern neighbor as the rule of law is con­tin­ually flouted and vio­lence con­tinues to rise. Besides the plethora of ethical and human rights abuses that should concern the United States, Mexico’s vio­lence will affect the U.S. economy, which at the very least, should concern U.S. leaders. 

Trump has been paying attention to Mexico, but responding in all the wrong ways. He thought that rene­go­ti­ating the North American Trade Agreement was enough to shore up the rela­tionship, but then promptly returned to vil­lainizing Mexico. 

“The Democrats want Open Borders. I want Maximum Border Security and respect for ICE and our great Law Enforcement Pro­fes­sionals!” he tweeted in 2018. 

In June 2015 when he was cam­paigning, Trump even went so far as to call Mexico an American enemy.

“And now they are beating us eco­nom­i­cally. They are not our friend, believe me. But they’re killing us eco­nom­i­cally,” Trump said when he announced his can­didacy. 

But Trump seemed to forget that Mexico is still an incredibly important trade partner and blocking out its problems will not solve issues. 

Many politi­cians focus on how dependent Mexico is on the United States for eco­nomic growth, which is unde­niable. The United States is Mexico’s largest trade partner and number one source of foreign direct investment. But Mexico is the United States’ third largest trade partner. Mexico ranks second as a source of U.S. imports, after China and Canada, and second as an export market for U.S. goods and ser­vices. Much of the bilateral trade between Mexico and the United States is par­tic­u­larly important because it happens in the context of supply chains, as man­u­fac­turers in each country work together to create goods. That means that many United States man­u­fac­turing indus­tries, such as auto­motive, elec­tronics, appli­ances, and machinery, all rely on Mexican man­u­fac­turers 

“The health of the Mexican economy cer­tainly affects the U.S. economy. Bilateral U.S.-Mexico trade totaled $671 billion in 2018, with Mexico ranking as the second-largest importer of American goods,” James M. Roberts and Devin DeCandia from The Her­itage Foun­dation explained. 

Vio­lence in Mexico actually costs money and dete­ri­o­rates its domestic economy, which in turn can hurt its trade with the United States. The Mexico Peace Index esti­mated that the level of peace in Mexico dete­ri­o­rated 4.9% in 2019, costing $268 billion and making it the third year of suc­cessive dete­ri­o­ra­tions that is costing Mexico lives and money. An investment in decreasing vio­lence would help the Mexican economy, which in turn will of course benefit the United States. 

“If vio­lence and its con­se­quential eco­nomic impact were reduced to the level of the five most peaceful states in Mexico, the resulting peace div­idend would amount to 10 trillion pesos over a four-year period,” the 2019 Mexico Peace Index dis­covered

A more peaceful Mexico will lead to a better economy for Mexico and also the United States. Any increase in peace in Mexico will lit­erally make the United States more money. Mexico is in shambles and that is the precise reason that the United States needs to pay attention and invest in any­thing that will decrease the vio­lence. And the first steps American offi­cials can take in helping Mexico is learning the Mexican president’s name. 


Abby Liebing is a senior studying history. She is the asso­ciate editor of The Col­legian.