U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson kicks off his six-day Latin American tour as he arrives in Mexico City today.
While it's expected that his diplomatic sojourn will include attempts to garner support for sanctions and other measures against the Venezuelan government, a bipartisan team of U.S. lawmakers have urged him to address growing paranoia. That is, alleged "Russian meddling" in Latin American elections, particularly in Mexico.
In a letter sent to Tillerson, Republican Senator Marco Rubio and his Democratic counterpart, Bob Menendez, noted that they are “increasingly concerned” about Russian influence in Mexico's 2018 presidential election, as well as other elections taking place in the region this year.
The senators went on to state that “weak electoral systems can be easily exploited and manipulated by malicious actors like Russia.”
A more common motif accompanying Tillerson's travels will be the question of Venezuela and the country's president, Nicolas Maduro, despite a pre-agreement reached between the government and political opposition in the Dominican Republic Wednesday. A senior U.S. State Department official said at a briefing this week that the United States will employ every last one of its "political, diplomatic and economic tools to address the situation in Venezuela," according to VOA News.
Tillerson's first stop in Mexico City will, more likely than not, involve talks focused on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, and the contentious promise made by U.S. President Donald Trump to build a “great, great wall on our southern border. He claimed he "will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”
Countering the barrage of tirades coming from their northern neighbor, Mexican voters, according to polls, have rallied behind Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a leftist nationalist and former mayor of Mexico City, as their preferred presidential candidate.
Francisco Gil Villegas, a professor of international relations at the College of Mexico, commented that “what has been a good relationship between the two countries right now is fragile and delicate.” He added that “on the government level, they have avoided a crisis. On the citizen level, there is a lot of anger.”
After visiting Mexico, Tillerson will travel to Argentina, Peru and Colombia, as well as a final stopover in Jamaica on Feb. 7.