Jeremy Corbyn has been welcomed to Mexico as a guest of honour of the new populist Left-wing president, with Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador inviting him to his ranch to spend “Inauguration Eve” together, praising him as “my eternal friend”.
Mr Corbyn flew from London to the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, where Mr Lopez Obrador, a veteran activist and Leftist agitator, has a sprawling tropical ranch.
On Saturday he was in Mexico City, scheduled to sit down with Bolivia’s firebrand leader, Evo Morales, and with Mr Lopez Obrador himself.
On Friday, the day before the inauguration, Mr Corbyn and Mr Lopez Obrador – joined by legendary Cuban musician Silvio Rodriguez, a sort of Latino Bob Dylan, and by the president of the Spanish region of Cantabria – held an impromptu press conference in the lush grounds of the ranch.
“Jeremy Corbyn is now with us,” Mr Lopez Obrador tweeted.
Ahora nos acompañó Jeremy Corbyn, dirigente del Partido Laborista. Ya estamos por llegar a la Ciudad de México. https://t.co/KsW3D2dpgv
— Andrés Manuel (@lopezobrador_) November 30, 2018
He attached a five minute video, in which he praises British-Mexican relations, and emphasises – in a pointed nod at one of the most pressing items on his agenda – that he has gathered the select group there because they all defend migrants’ rights.
"We’re Hispanics, but we’ve got good relationships with all people, and all nations,” said Mr Lopez Obrador.
“In particular we have excellent relationships with progressive movements around the world, especially in the UK.
“We’re friends because progressive, democratic governments respect human rights – especially rights of migrants, who have the right to seek a better life.”
Miguel Angel Revilla, the Spanish politician, said the three Leftist leaders and the Cuban cultural ambassador had "a sort of conclave, about the future of the world, the future of humanity. We’re facing terrible challenges."
Mr Corbyn then responded, in Spanish, that: "The union of our people is very important. And the union of all people, for human rights and justice."
The video was published as the Labour Party leader prepared to spend Saturday at the inauguration besides Mike Pence, the US vice president, the King of Spain, and the presidents of Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Colombia and others.
Britain’s official government delegation is led by Caroline Dinenage, the minister for social care, and Mark Lancaster, minister for the armed forces.
The video also tells a more interesting story of a deep and lasting friendship – and one which Mr Corbyn hopes, augurs well for his own electoral chances.
“At a time when the fake populists of the far Right are gaining ground internationally – including in Latin America – President Obrador has shown that a progressive agenda for change can win power and take on the status quo,” a Labour spokesman told The Telegraph.
“President Obrador faces huge challenges in his mission of transforming Mexico, but Jeremy hopes his election will offer Mexico’s poor and powerless a real voice and a break with the failures and injustices of the past.”
The Labour leader described it as “a privilege and an honour” to attend.
And the visit by Mr Corbyn and his Mexican wife, Laura Alvarez, is the culmination of a friendship between two ideological comrades which begun more than a decade ago.
“People like Lopez Obrador for the same reasons as they like Corbyn – because of their integrity and authenticity,” said John Ackerman, a columnist and law professor at Mexico’s largest university, UNAM, who is close to both men.
His wife has been chosen as Mr Lopez Obrador’s anti-corruption chief, and he himself serves as an unofficial adviser. And, when Mr Corbyn made his last visit to Mexico City, in January, the pair made a point of catching up.
“Young people like them because they break the mold. Old people like them because they are perhaps nostalgic for the days when the state was strong. The challenge, for both of them, is to hold both sides together.”
But both men have spent years in a sort of mutual support society.
In September 2006, when Mr Lopez Obrador narrowly lost his first run at the presidency, Mr Corbyn was among a crowd a million strong in the Zocalo, demonstrating against what they saw was a “stolen” election. Two months later, in London, Mr Corbyn gave a speech declaring his friend the legitimate president of Mexico.
By that point Mr Corbyn had been in a relationship with Miss Alvarez, a human rights lawyer born in Mexico City, for several years.
The pair met in London, at a fundraiser in a Finsbury Park pub organised by her sister Marcela to raise awareness of her missing daughter Jasmin, abducted by her father in 1999. Jasmin was returned to her mother in 2003; by then Mr Corbyn was attending political events in Mexico City, accompanied, the local media reported, “by his girlfriend Laura Alvarez.”
The pair married at a hacienda on the outskirts of Mexico City in February 2012.
Ivan Pliego, a politics professor who was a witness at Mr Corbyn and Miss Alvarez’s wedding, told The Telegraph earlier this year the pair had a passion for social justice, noting there are “a lot of similarities in their political projects.”
“They both want to address the greatest need,” he said. “They both genuinely care about improving the lives of the poorest sectors of society.”
In December 2016, Mr Corbyn and Miss Alvarez, spending their Christmas holiday in Mexico, travelled to Mr Lopez Obrador’s home state of Tabasco.
Encuentro en Tabasco con Jeremy Corbyn, dirigente del Partido Laborista del Reino Unido. Hablamos sobre un gobierno mundial justo y fraterno pic.twitter.com/pYA3JUQy7d
— Andrés Manuel (@lopezobrador_) December 31, 2016
Mr Lopez Obrador captioned the photo of them together: “We talked about a global government of justice and fraternity.”
When Mr Lopez Obrador then travelled to London, in September 2017, to see Mr Corbyn, he took another photo, noting this time: “We went to the British parliament, invited by Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party.”
And when Mr Lopez Obrador won the election, in July this year, Mr Corbyn was among the first to call and congratulate him.
The two men are also firm ideological allies.
Mr Lopez Obrador was elected on a promise to root out corruption, reduce violence, restructure Mexico’s energy sector, respect the human rights of migrants and spur growth in the country’s most impoverished areas.
Estuvimos en el Parlamento del Reino Unido, invitados por Jeremy Corbyn, dirigente del Partido Laborista. pic.twitter.com/ZRfNaDLJTr
— Andrés Manuel (@lopezobrador_) September 6, 2017
“Lopez Obrador’s economic instincts are to take Mexico back to the 1960s,” said Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas and Americas Society. “He wants state intervention in the economy, is against free trade, and is a protectionist – especially when it comes to energy.”
He said that the “people’s poll” on the future of Mexico City’s controversial, extravagantly over-budget and environmentally disastrous – but much-needed – new international airport, had caused a chill among investors. The public voted to scrap the $13.3 billion project, and the peso plummeted.
Mr Lopez Obrador responded to criticism with a populist evasion, saying simply that “the people are wise.”
“The vote was hugely damaging to Mexican investors,” he said. “And he promises phenomenal poverty reduction schemes, but how will he pay for it if the economy takes a beating?”