An article in the New Yorker details the Mexican government’s continued struggles with dealing with the Trump administration as it seeks to balance its interests with the demands of an angry populace.
“Among current Mexican officials, almost everyone I met offered commiserations about Trump, and many suggested that he was a bigot and a dangerous, reckless man. One went so far as to fantasize about the possibility that ‘Trump might end up like J.F.K.’ But for most the guiding principle was circumspection,” New Yorker staff writer Jon Lee Anderson wrote in a piece entitled “How Mexico Deals with Trump.”
The piece is set to be published in the magazine’s October 9 issue.
Trump’s “America First” platform encompassed ideas that are of concern to the Mexican government, including making them pay for a southern border wall and backing out of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The New Yorker piece says that Mexico’s relationship with the U.S. has been largely handled by its foreign secretary Luis Videgaray.
“‘He’s the puppet master,’ a Western diplomat told me. Luis Miguel González, the influential editorial director of the financial newspaper El Economista, agreed. ‘Videgaray is Peña’s Svengali,’ he said. ‘Since his return, Peña Nieto is a President in name only; the real power is Luis Videgaray,'” Anderson wrote.
Videgaray is reportedly close with presidential son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. The Mexican official stepped down as finance minister last year for orchestrating Trump’s visit to Mexico as a candidate, a trip that was widely criticized domestically.
The foreign minister, who has a doctorate from M.I.T., is viewed as a bright man, and has to struggle with demands from compatriots to tell the Trump administration off.
“Many people feel it would be better if we broke with the government of the United States,” Videgaray told the New Yorker. “We have to keep ourselves focused on our interests. Beyond all the rhetoric, there are the interests.”
Trump’s rise to power has set off anger at the Mexican government, with President Enrique Pena Nieto’s approval rating plummeting below 20 percent. Pena Nieto now faces a tough challenger from the left for the July 2018 election.
The New Yorker piece said: “[The likely populist challenger Andrés Manuel López Obrador] published a book entitled ‘Listen, Trump,’ in which he accuses the President of stirring up “Hispanophobia” and castigates Peña Nieto for failing to represent Mexico ‘with dignity.'”
Another key player in Mexico’s relationship with the U.S. is former president Carlos Salinas, who told the New Yorker about his compatriots’ struggle with national pride.
“Mexicans cherish the tradition of Mexico bravo—the historical ideal of their country as indomitable—and Salinas seemed pained to let it go. ‘What one would really like to tell Trump is what the placards say on the backs of buses in Acapulco,’ he said. He called for his secretary to bring him a newspaper photograph of a bus bearing an image of Trump and the message Somos mexicanos y tu madre te mentamos. (‘We’re Mexicans, and we say f*** your mother.’) Salinas laughed. ‘Popular expressions such as these are welcome, but the authorities must be contained in their responses,'” the piece continued.
The key issue on which the Mexican public is looking toward its government to perform well is renegotiating NAFTA, according to the New Yorker piece.
The implementation of NAFTA in 1994 was opposed by rural leftist guerrillas who claimed that much of the nation’s farms would be ruined due to cheap American imported foods.
Anderson discussed the issue further, stating, “The prominent journalist Alejandro Páez Varela spoke bitterly of Mexico’s reliance on the U.S.: ‘It’s made us one of the most obese people on earth, because we are now mass consumers of American junk food. It has created a class of superwealthy, consisting of a couple of dozen people who are closely linked to political power. It’s created fifty-three million very poor people for whom the only solution is to emigrate, en masse, to the United States and send remittances home.'”
The U.S., Canada, and Mexico are in the midst of NAFTA renegotiations with Trump continuing to threaten to pull out of the agreement.
The New Yorker article quoted a member of Pena Nieto’s party, saying that he has asked politicians to “have patience and prudence.”