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Trump’s Insults Are Pushing the Mexican Political System Into Dangerous Territory

Jorge Guajardo - Politico Magazine
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September 12, 2017
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You won’t like Mexico when it’s angry (Getty)

In his landmark 1985 book, Distant Neighbors, Alan Riding, then the New York Times' Mexico City correspondent, wrote that the Mexican president, in the days of the one-party state, was all powerful except for two things he could never do: 1) reelect himself (there’s a constitutional one-term limit for Mexican presidents) and 2) bring Mexico closer to the United States.

Mexico has a long, fraught history with the United States that is evident to Mexicans, but seldom understood in Washington. For Mexicans, the United States is the country that invaded and stole half of our territory. Mexican children, to this day, are taught about the “Niños Heroes,” the young cadets who defended the Castillo de Chapultepec, the 19th-century castle in Mexico City, one even wrapping himself in the Mexican flag and jumped to his death rather than be captured by the invading yanquis. Whether or not this tale is true, Mexicans learn from an early age that it is better to die with honor than suffer humiliation from our northern neighbor.

Since the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement, this anti-U.S. sentiment has faded—gone dormant, even. Mexicans have grown used to trading with the U.S., and the Mexican government has managed to convince its people that cooperation with the U.S. is better than antagonism. Mexicans have gone along, reluctantly. Anyone who knows a Mexican national will see that, beyond all the niceties and friendship between neighbors, there’s always a lingering suspicion of the United States.

Fast forward to two thousand and Trump. Mexico now wakes up to his tweets and humiliations. He doesn’t even offer the usual routine condolences after an earthquake kills nearly 100 Mexicans, even though we offered that and more after Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston. All our old suspicions are confirmed: The United States is not a friend. The United States is out to get us, again. We’re back to where we were before NAFTA.

In Washington, where I live, people tell me not to worry, not to pay attention to his tweets. “He’s just pandering to his base,” I am told. Perhaps. In Mexico, however, many believe Americans want to screw us, and Mexican politicians, like politicians everywhere, have to pander to voters if they want to win elections. No matter which of Mexico’s three main political parties they support, the demand is the same: Don’t submit us to humiliation from the United States. Not again. Not ever.

What U.S. observers see as a bargaining tactic for Trump, Mexicans see as a litmus test for our leaders. Any concession to him will be seen as cowering and politically unacceptable for any party, President Enrique Peña Nieto’s included.

Read the rest at Politico Magazine

Related: Populist Presidential Candidate AMLO Runs Against Trump While Copying His Campaign (Reason)


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