What Did Mexico’s Politicians Gain from Trump’s Visit?
Mexico’s Finance Minister, Luis Videgaray, recently resigned. The reason seems to be the events of last Wednesday, September 31st, when Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump visited Mexico. The visit was not well received by the Mexican population. Due to their discontent, Videgaray seems to have been forced to resign; he is attributed to have been one of the main supporters and architects of Trump’s visit. Shortly after Videgaray’s resignation, Trump deemed his visit a success since he was able to influence the composition of the Mexican president’s cabinet. Success or failure, these are the events as they unfolded:
Preceding an important speech at Phoenix, Arizona—whose purpose was to clarify his stance on immigration—Trump flew to Mexico City, Mexico, to meet with the Mexican president, Enrique Pena Nieto, at Los Pinos, the president’s official residence. Trump’s visit also happens to be the first time a U.S. presidential candidate has visited Mexico officially. The visit was not without controversy, because Trump has built a large part of his platform by vilifying Mexico and Mexicans; in his presidential announcement speech, Trump explicitly stated that Mexico is mainly sending criminals and drugs across the border. His solution to the problem is to build a wall across the border that Mexico will pay for.
In an opinion piece for “El Universal”, a major newspaper in Mexico, titled “Why did I meet with Donald Trump?”, Pena Nieto argued that the purpose of the meeting was threefold: to express to Trump that the Mexican people are offended by his vitriolic discourse towards them and their country; to highlight the economic value of the relationship between Mexico and the United States; and to accentuate how the challenges posed by the border need to be solved in cooperation, because the many issues surrounding it affect both countries.
The meeting has come under scrutiny for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, it doesn’t seem to have achieved much; in his speech later that day in Phoenix, Mr. Trump stated that he is still going to build a wall, payed for by Mexico. President Pena Nieto responded by tweeting that he had explicitly stated to Trump, in private, that Mexico was not going to pay for the wall. If anything, Trump seemed to have benefited from the visit, since he had an opportunity to showcase his demeanor as statesman, appearing in a joint press conference following a private meeting with Pena Nieto.
It is also unclear why Pena Nieto would choose to host someone who could arguably be the most hated man in Mexico. Pena Nieto’s presidency has and is being marred by various scandals, an underperforming economy, incompetency, and corruption, which have led his approval ratings to drop to a low of 23%. In response to Trump’s visit, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, an acclaimed and renowned Mexican film director, wrote an opinion piece for “El Pais,” where he chastised Pena Nieto and went as far as calling his decision to invite Trump “una traicion” (a treason). By inviting Trump, Inarritu argues that he has given Trump “una oportunidad y plataforma” (an opportunity and a platform) to disseminate his hateful message, which in turn places millions of Mexicans in the United States in danger.
Trump’s visit has important implications, and although President Pena Nieto set up the visit with good intentions, it has clearly backfired and was a political miscalculation—it appears Pena Nieto and his advisors failed to account for Trump’s unpredictability. Did Trump’s visit help open a channel of communication with a potential U.S. president or did it just give Trump with a platform to bolster his credentials as someone who is worthy to take office? Wouldn’t Videgaray’s resignation and Trump’s unpopularity undermine the future relationship of the U.S. and Mexico if he were to be elected? One could also wonder if Trump’s credentials as a presidential candidate aren’t undermined by his hateful, and often misplaced discourse.
Trump’s discourse has a tendency to shed light on the downsides of immigration and doesn’t account for the many people that come to the United States as refugees, escaping hostile and dangerous environments. Ultimately, since they share a 2,000-mile-long border, the relationship between Mexico and the United States affects millions of people, and it is instrumental that there is an adequate, respectful and tolerant channel of communication to represent the interest of both nations and their citizens.