The last few months have taken an unexpected and spectacular turn with the election of Donald Trump to the presidency and his frivolous, authoritarian and anti-Mexican discourse. Mexico has always been at the mercy of the “giant of the north,” and though it has been rhetorically opposed to its neighbor, the United States has served it well. With the signing of NAFTA in 1994, Mexico entered the world of commercial globalization—and increased its dependence on the United States.
After the defeat of the authoritarian and corrupt Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, in 2000, the conservative governments of Fox and Calderón of the National Action Party, or PAN, consolidated this dependency. Today, with Peña’s PRI presidency, 82.7 percent of Mexico’s non-oil exports go to the United States, the country with the largest direct investment in Mexico. Trump’s planned revision of NAFTA would be an economic catastrophe for Mexico, and it would affect jobs and commerce in the U.S. as well.
Mexico’s dependence on the U.S. has other aspects. Both countries have benefitted from an unwritten accord in which cheap Mexican migrant labor, both legal and illegal, has helped improve the economy in large regions of the U.S. and at the same time buoy the Mexican economy, as immigrants send billions of dollars back home to their families—at a tune of $26 billion a year now. It should also be noted that those immigrants invest and spend between 15 to 20 times more in the U.S. than in Mexico, according to the Pew Research Center. Wealthy non-immigrant Mexicans also have some $100 billion deposited in American banks. One can imagine the effect of the repatriation of five or six million immigrants to Mexico, where jobs are scarce and wages are very low.
Other billion-dollar factors are the illicit drug traffic from Mexico to the U.S. and the illegal traffic in arms from the U.S. to Mexico that fuels the violent war among drug cartels and against the Mexican government forces. Trump will not be able to stop this with his “border wall” unless he also deals with the excessive consumption of drugs in his country, the world’s largest consumer of illicit drugs. On the other hand, Mexico depends on the growing U.S. tourist trade, which generates some $12 billion annually and is growing by 20 percent a year. Meanwhile, Mexican tourism to the U.S. produces about $20 billion a year.
Contrary to what Trump is saying, the United States does not suffer from this interdependence or lose out in its relations with almost any other country or region in the world. The fact is that the U.S. is an imperial state that almost always imposes its will, whether for good or evil, through its economic and military power, despite supposedly being a leading example of democracy. The U.S. tends to impose, dominate, invade, declare war, and decide who governs and who doesn’t, though modern civilization increasingly limits these actions. These actions are often taken covertly, so American citizens know little of them. Nor do they find out about the abusive foreign and commercial policies of their country. And, in the end, they benefit from those policies.
Many of those gullible and guileless citizens voted for Trump and support him now, trusting in his exaggerated, arrogant, partial and often untrue speech. He has sold them the falsehood that countries like Mexico compete on an equal basis with the United States and take advantage of its generosity. He claims he is going to put their country first, protecting it against those supposedly taking advantage of its good will, whether they are countries, corporations, religious groups, refugees or migrants. He says he is going to make America great again, ignoring that to do so would depend on countless circumstances, and not his will.
His slanted speech that obscures and distorts the truth attracts many people who want their country to continue to be the leader, and who want to get better jobs. They don’t realize that the U.S. is an imperial bully that can decline and lose its power—not to a weak neighbor like Mexico, but through its own actions. The U.S. is no longer the leader in things like education or democracy, and its exaggerated wealth lies in the hands of a very few while ignorance, inequality and poverty increase.
American commercialism and excessive consumption destroys nature as the proliferation of banal ideas, entertainment and high technology leads to a uniform and robotized population that elected a narcissistic, abusive, deceitful, manipulative, anti-political billionaire con artist as president of the most powerful country on the planet. The U.S. cannot provide its citizens with even the most basic social benefits of a civilized country, because even those are for sale. A once powerful empire is now on the decline.
Victor Reyes is a translator, teacher and native of Puebla, Mexico.