When Donald Trump gave a presidential pardon to Joe Arpaio, the racist former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, it must have set off alarms in Los Pinos* as they decided whether they can make a case for continuing to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Washington.
Arpaio’s pardon is one more confirmation that Trump is going to do everything necessary to fulfill his campaign promises, because he wants to be re-elected, whatever it costs and whomever he has to pay.
The president of the United States lives with the obsession of delivering everything he promised to the 34 percent of the electorate that delivered the keys of the White House to him. Trump doesn’t care about the popular vote because he already demonstrated that he can become president without that.
A little more than seven months into a four-year term, he wants to deliver on the campaign promises that gave him a win in the Electoral College by carrying out radical actions and abusing his constitutional powers.
Arpaio, a bitter enemy of undocumented immigrants, was formally charged by a federal judge on July 31 with criminal contempt. The accusation arises from the court order issued against the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, two years ago to put a stop to his unconstitutional persecution of undocumented immigrants. Arpaio not only disobeyed the federal court order, he persecuted undocumented immigrants more zealously. The former sheriff was convicted for discriminatory arrests of people he considered to be possible undocumented immigrants based on their racial profile.
Racial discrimination violates the Constitution of the United States. This coming Oct. 5, Arpaio was scheduled to be sentenced to at least six months in jail; Trump saved him.
The right to pardon criminals is a prerogative given to the president by the Constitution.
The case of Arpaio’s exoneration is special because Trump blocked a federal judge who was attempting to comply with a constitutional mandate on civil rights issues.
What Trump has done with Arpaio sets a negative precedent for freedom and the defense of individual rights, and for constitutional integrity.
For the conservative and racist faction that carried Trump to the White House, Arpaio is a hero for criminalizing undocumented immigrants. Trump is already more than a hero: He is the savior of the white supremacists.
On Tuesday, Aug. 22, during a campaign event in Phoenix, Arizona, Trump hinted that he would pardon Arpaio, in spite of the political cost and controversy that the decision would trigger. At the same event, the U.S. president let it be known that, although the renegotiation of NAFTA is already underway, he will end up rescinding the trade agreement with Canada and Mexico.
Three days after the Phoenix event, Trump pardoned Arpaio.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and his secretary of foreign affairs, Luis Videgaray, must bear this in mind. Trump doesn’t mince words.
What reason is there to continue negotiating with the United States and spending public money to organize the second round of renegotiations in Mexico City (Sept. 1-5) or paying for the expenses of the Ministry of Economy team to travel to Canada and, in October, to Washington? Trump is going to come through for his political base, as he demonstrated in the case of Arpaio.
Secretary of the Economy Ildefonso Guajardo said a few days ago that, with respect to NAFTA, Videgaray is the cabinet member who “has the whole picture.” This Tuesday and Wednesday (Aug. 29 and 30), Videgaray will be in Washington. We hope that he will consult with Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to finally do something to head off a major humiliation for Atlacomulco’s favorite son (Mexican President Peña Nieto) during his term in office.
Trump’s threat to NAFTA is the first big test that Videgaray must deal with while he learns the ropes as secretary of foreign affairs.
*Translator’s note: Los Pinos is the official residence of the president of Mexico.