John M. Ackerman
On Barack Obama’s first visit to Mexico as president in 2009, thousands of people spontaneously swarmed onto Mexico City’s grand Reforma Avenue to see whether they could get a peek at the 44th president of the United States as he passed by. Despite a long history of conflict between the two countries, the Mexican people were highly optimistic about the future of binational relations and believed in Obama’s message of hope and renovation.
In contrast, after the events of this past week, it will be difficult for Donald Trump to ever set foot on Mexican soil. Mexicans are a proud and dignified people and do not take well to being humiliated in public. Indeed, in response to the constant insults and lack of respect coming out of the new U.S. administration, Mexican citizen groups already have started to plan boycotts of Citibank, Walmart and other U.S. corporations. The newspapers and TV shows are full of biting commentary about Trump’s intolerant and aggressive behavior. At a rally a couple of weeks ago, one of the protesters even burned an American flag, something entirely unprecedented for more than a century in Mexico.
Trump is apparently confident that Mexico´s weak and highly questioned president, Enrique Peña Nieto, will eventually cave into his demands. As I have argued elsewhere, Peña Nieto was instrumental in making Trump’s victory possible and generally shares the same pro-corporate worldview. Trump’s real Latin American double is not Hugo Chávez or Evo Morales, as some misguided commentators have suggested, but Peña Nieto.
Peña Nieto´s first actions since Trump´s election have been conciliatory—some might say servile. At the beginning of January, he appointed Luis Videgaray, an economist with no diplomatic experience but with ties to Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, as Mexico's new secretary of foreign relations. And the day before Trump´s inauguration, Peña Nieto sent over Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán to the United States as a demonstration of his willingness to collaborate with the new administration.
But Trump has underestimated the response of the Mexican people. Even before Jan. 20, Mexico was already a tinderbox. The drastic reduction of international oil prices along with the collapse in the value of the Mexican peso—50 percent since Peña Nieto took power in 2012—has led to a serious fiscal crisis along with a jump in inflation. The government has responded with the highly questionable strategy of squeezing consumers through new taxes on gasoline and hiking the prices on public utilities, such as electricity...
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