Some opinion writers in our country have been theorizing in recent times that the most convenient result of the American election for Mexico would be the reelection of Donald Trump. It is the resurgence of a prevailing notion among pundits and business leaders in Mexico that,in decades past, Republican administrations were better for Mexico than Democratic ones.
Some hard-facts could be used to prove that notion when examining the history of both nations, however, we must remember some Republican administrations, like Reagan’s, where the agenda went off course due to bilateral issues (the kidnap and murder of a DEA agent in Mexico) as well as regional and multilateral issues (conflict in Central America). Let alone the current, Republican but just in name, administration that has broken all paradigms and principles of our bilateral relationship that had been established through almost three decades, prodding our country and countrymen like a political piñata. One could even argue that beginning with the Bush Sr. administration, one that cemented the notion that Mexico benefits of GOP rule thanks to the negotiation of NAFTA.; and without regard to which party ruled until 2016, the bilateral agenda gained (clearly with complicated moments emanating from our asymmetric negotiating standpoint) traction and strategic direction. It happened with Clinton investing political capital to ratify NAFTA, and presenting an financial recovery plan for Mexico, and with Bush jr and Obama’s bet on an integral relationship based on shared responsibility as a basic premise of our bilateral agenda.
Even up to a month and a half ago, when Senators Warren and Sanders still contended with Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination, it was understandable for some in Mexico to be nervous about a candidacy by either senator: in the particular case of Sanders (and I include myself in the list of those worried), due to his intention to renegotiate the USMCA, his absolute opposition to NAFTA, and positions he’s held in the past about topics and interests that are fundamental for Mexico in the United States like immigration and gun control. But now, with Biden as the de-facto candidate, there should be no doubt as to who, Trump or the former Vice President, is a better option for Mexico.
On one side, a man that understands the bilateral relationship, who has made it deeper and played a central role -in the senate and the White House- in all the topics of our agenda in the past three decades: The approval of NAFTA in 1993, the financial recovery plan in 1994, the removal of the unilateral drug certification process in 2001, the support of the Kennedy/McCain immigration reform proposal in 2007, or the creation of a structure for cooperation on security, justice, and intelligence from both the legislative and executive branches. On the other side, Trump and his policy of blackmail, diatribe, ambush, and permanent contamination of the relationship with Mexico, using a small path through which he threatens punitive unilateral measures to obtain concessions in the bilateral agenda with Mexico. He’s done it with migration and commerce, from there he went to drug trafficking and terrorism. Anyone’s willing to bet he wont do use it again for, I don’t know, measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, or water rights along the Rio Bravo, or Mexico’s tomato exports?
I’m not suggesting a Biden administration would be a field day for our country either. For starters, we’ll have to pay for the perception -whether we liked it or not- that our current and previous governments went along with Trump. Biden will be less harsh -both publicly and privately- about the issues facing our country at the moment. But without a doubt, when it comes to the mature, synergic relationship with the United States that we have all bet on for years, the best scenario would be a Biden victory come November.
Nonetheless, the most maddening and false argument that is thrown around nowadays as to why we would benefit from a Trump victory is that he’s the only true check on our president. It’s true; our president has tried -be it due to conviction or fear- to avoid by all means necessary any conflict with the American president, which is not bad in and of itself. I’ve supported the idea that he shouldn’t get in a raucous fight with Trump, even though courage does not have to exclude politeness; we must recognize that Trump has gotten away with it when it comes to topics where he has clearly stepped the line. Lets make this clear: betting Mexico’s future on an extension of the Trump administration would be like giving control of the church to Martin Luther. Once the renegotiation of NAFTA was carried out, all that he cares about now are matters of border security, immigration, and now drugs, fentanyl in particular. Other than those matters, which form a key part of his campaign narrative to the hardliners, Trump would do nothing to defend Mexico’s democracy, or its system of checks and balances, the separation of powers and autonomous agencies, or human rights, free speech, free press, the right to question power, a free and fair economic system, or a diverse and inclusive society. Donald Trump gives a damn about those topics.
So, if you’re hoping that four more years of Trumpism will contain public policies with which you disagree in our country, you’ll have to wait for pigs to fly. and, we must remember, quoting Oscar Wilde, that “when gods wish to punish us, they listen to our prayers.”
- Arturo Sarukhan. Former Ambassador to the United States under Felipe Calderon (2006-2013) as a guest Op-Ed writer at El Universal newspaper.