Uncomfortable Neighbors

The arrival of Donald Trump in the United States government has not been easy for Mexicans. The border has become Trump’s favorite target as he unleashes his fury against immigrants and blames them for practically all the ills of his country.

In addition to his constant threats to renegotiate the free trade agreement, and claiming that Mexico fills its pockets with U.S. dollars, Trump is now determined to militarize the border. He has signed an order directing the Pentagon and other government agencies to do this. “It’s time to act,” said the secretary of Homeland Security, echoing her boss’s wish for military deployment to begin “immediately.”

In this way, Trump believes that he will stop the flow of drugs, contraband, gangs, criminals and people living in the U.S. without legal permission who, he assures us, enter his country through this border of more than 3,000 kilometers (approximately 1,864 miles). This announcement and the constant pressure to build a wall to separate the two countries is the “workhorse” of this administration: to instill a nationalist spirit and blame immigrants for all the ills of the country.

It is likely that the president of the United States is not aware of the effect he is having, but his comments, tweets, announcements and threats are a determining factor in the presidential campaign taking place in Mexico. The radical positions of the president have favored Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the populist and nationalist candidate who is leading in all the polls. MORENA’s* candidate is seen by many of his followers as the best option to face the absurdities that Trump pronounces against Mexicans.

Before such a banquet is served, López Obrador responded to the announcement of the militarization of the southern border: “We do not accept the construction of the wall or the militarization of the border. We are not going to allow Mexico to become a pinata for any foreign government.” This, incidentally, raised his standing in the polls and consolidated the support of those who reject the position of their neighbor.

With a weakened Enrique Peña Nieto — who, thanks to Trump, has been viewed as a leader without character — the populist option is gaining ground in the Aztec country. Hence, the pro-government candidate José Antonio Meade Kuribreña has entered the same field as López Obrador to send a message to the president of the United States: “Do not be fooled by Trump. Sending his army to the border would be an inadmissible grievance for our country.”

Today, the Mexican presidential campaign, instead of focusing on solving the serious security and corruption problems that affect the population, is more concerned about the messages that the U.S. president sends on Twitter and Trump’s rabid behavior toward immigrants. Everything seems to indicate that if he wants to, Trump can define the July 1 elections, and whether he likes it or not, his criticism of his neighbors will end up interfering with an election that will have a large impact on relations between the United States and Latin America.

*Editor’s Note: MORENA is the Spanish abbreviation for “Movimiento Regeneracion Nacional” (National Regeneration Movement), López Obrador’s party.

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