The U.S. presidential election is getting close scrutiny in Mexico. Given the nature of the dependent relationship of Mexico with the United States, Mexicans tend to pay far more attention to U.S. politics than U.S. citizens do the Mexican political world.
And in 2016 the interest south of the border is running at a fever pitch.
The big reason, of course, is Donald Trump. The Republican contender’s continued vows to expand the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and make the United States’ southern neighbor pay for it, as well as his comments that Mexico was exporting rapists and other criminals to the United States, have earned him almost universal condemnation in the Aztec Republic.
Former Mexican President Vicente Fox’s viral comment last week to newsman Jorge Ramos — “I am not going to pay for this f… wall!” — only upped the ante for Trump, who in the thick of the most recent Republican debate promised to build the wall higher.
Felipe Calderon, Fox’s successor from 2006 to 2012 and also an ex-president from the conservative side of Mexican politics, then entered the ring with a condemnation of his own, not only repeating Fox’s likening of Trump to Hitler, but labeling the Republican contender a racist who poses a danger to U.S. society as well.
“Why? Because Trump is sowing anti-American hatred in the whole world and that seed could grow in the future into difficult conditions for Americans worldwide,” Calderon said.
Mexican Congressman Alejandro Ojeda, representative of the center-left PRD party and vice-president of the lower chamber of Congress, joined in the fray, denouncing Trump’s rhetoric as “neo-Nazi and authoritarian.”
Ojeda urged stronger stands against Trump from President Enrique Peña Nieto and other senior Mexican officials.
Stepping up to a boiling plate, Mexican Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu blasted Trump’s border wall and other postures. “(Trump) sounds racist and ignorant because he is that way,” Ruiz Massieu was quoted in a Feb. 28 article in Proceso newsweekly that was based on statements she made to the Washington Post.
“We are absolutely sure that this is not the way in which people from the United States think. The U.S. is a country founded on tolerance, openness and the acceptance of people from other countries,” Massieu said.
From left to right on the Mexican political spectrum, it’s hard to find anyone with positive comments about Donald Trump.
Trump’s run for the White House has made its mark on U.S.-Mexico diplomatic relations. During a Feb. 25 visit to Mexico City, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, while not naming Trump, apologized about comments made about Mexico during the primary campaigns.
The billionaire’s campaign is even stirring up the expat community in Mexico; messages in English against Trump were recently visible on the streets of Puerto Vallarta. In the view of Mexican analyst Luis Linares Zapata, initial dismissals of Trump’s prospects have been turned on their head by the businessman’s string of primary victories.
“Few now wager on his failure, despite the different reasons their negative predictions were based on,” Linares wrote this past week. “(Trump’s) slogan of remaking the greatness of the United States sounds appetizing to adherents filled with revenge and arrogance, who are among the many that feel attacked by multiple rivals and enemies. The lack of trust in and the rejection of politicians in the traditional mold (Washington elite) is an additional characteristic of his supporters.”
Linares considers Trump’s stump for the White House an outcome of more than three decades of the neo-liberal (free market, trickle down) economic model that left “sharp wounds to the body and the spirit of extensive layers of the population,” resulting in a generalized discontent that is dually manifested on the right and on the left. “Both (political tendencies) seem for now if not to dominate the election environment, then at least to catalyze it,” he wrote.
Another U.S. presidential hopeful is also making a growing splash in the Mexican media, but in stark contrast to Trump’s bid, delivering messages that resonate south of the border. Virtually unknown in Mexico until now, he is U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders from Vermont.
Sanders’ movement for a “political revolution” has inspired a slew of commentaries in the Mexican press. For pundit Carlos Aguirre, Trump and Sanders personify “two worlds in confrontation,” with the former representing a conservative, economically unfair society based on an ideology of “exaggerated nationalism” and international aggressiveness.
“That’s why Trump’s discourse has been racist and discriminatory,” Aguirre contended in La Jornada.
Trump’s political model, Aguirre continued, means “economic inequality as the basis of the world economic system, removing the environment from the center of the agenda, (not) complying with human rights, and (not supporting) popular and other struggles that, with weakness, Barack Obama and other international actors defended.”
Self-described democratic socialist Sanders is the flip side of the political coin, constituting a “fresh option” and the best choice for liberal and egalitarian tendencies developing in the modern world, according to Aguirre.
Guillermo Almeyra, leftist intellectual and veteran La Jornada columnist, compared Sanders’ grassroots campaign to the “best traditions of the U.S. people,” recalling the labor, Marxist and anarchist movements of the early 20th century (many of which emerged in immigrant communities) and the memories of Wobbly leader Big Bill Haywood, activist Mother Jones and historic Socialist Party presidential candidate Eugene Debs.
A once-vibrant U.S. left was suppressed by war-fanned “super-patriotism,” the Red Scare after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and the repression of the McCarthy era in the 1950s, Almeyra wrote, arguing that subsequent developments in both the global political and economic spheres, including the disappearance of the Soviet Union and the economic downturn in this country, eventually opened a new political space in the United States for the revival of left — or at least New Deal-style — politics that carry implications far beyond U.S. borders.
“As in the 1930s, the prolonged crisis is impelling a new radicalization of broad sectors of youth, especially among women who are very discriminated against,” Almeyra wrote.
“Support for Bernie Sanders, who is a permanent adversary of the wars, invasions and coups organized by Washington, and a constant critic of the control of society, culture and information by big capital as well as the corruption of the establishment, only partially expresses this cultural evolution and change in politics at the roots,” Almeyra wrote.
Sanders’ advance, Almeyra wrote, is worrisome to the right-wing in the United States and abroad because “it shows that an important part of the youth of the nation are breaking with the dominant ideology and don’t regard socialist ideas as so abhorrent and anti-patriotic.”
Sanders’ critiques of financial oligarchies, wealth inequality and political corruption are familiar themes in Mexican politics. And feedback from Sanders’ platform seems to be drifting back into Mexico, where voters will elect new leaders this year in a number of states and municipalities.
Almost sounding like a Mexican Bernie Sanders, Chihuahua gubernatorial hopeful Javier Corral said in Casas Grandes last week that a living wage was among the profound economic, political and social changes needed. Corral took a jab at wealth concentration, asserting that 92 percent of the wealth in Chihuahua was controlled by only 20 percent of the population.
Corral is running for governor under the banner of the historically conservative National Action Party, but his bid for office is supported by individuals long active on the left. More and more, the burning issues of Mexico and the U.S.-rigged economies, skewed income distribution, decent wages and access to education and health care are converging.
In a commentary for Cambio de Michoacan entitled “Bernie Sanders: The Hope of the Impossible,” Hugo Rangel Vargas tagged Sanders’ candidacy a watershed for the United States.
The Sanders campaign, he affirmed, is renewing debate about the “true content of North American democracy,” while spotlighting proposed labor, education, health-care, environmental and political reforms that would benefit not only the United States but the entire world.
Similar to Almeyra, Rangel noted Sanders’ popularity with a significant sector of U.S. youth, as well as the grassroots fundraising strategy underpinning the 74-year-old senator’s run. Like Aguirre, however, Rangel cautioned about Sanders’ ability to govern as president in a political environment riddled with contrary congressmen and governors.
“Nonetheless, the enormous energy that has popped open the door of utopia through which have passed thousands of young volunteers and citizens with their individual donations has rendered Bernie’s campaign structure a powerful political organization,” Rangel wrote.
“They could be the social reinforcement in the streets of North America that push hope to reality. ‘Feel the Bern’ is not only an intelligent publicity slogan; it also represents the yearnings of a society that seemed destined to be thrown out onto the street,” he wrote.
Sources: Proceso, February 28, 2016. Article by J. Jesus Esquivel. El Universal/EFE, February 27, 2016. El Diario de Juarez, February 25, 2016. Arrobajuarez.com, February 25, 2016. La Jornada, February 14 and 24, 2016. Articles by Guillermo Almeyra and Luis Linares Zapata. La Jornada (Aguascalientes edition), February 14, 2016. Article by Carlos Aguirre. Cambio de Michoacan, February 12, 2016. Article by Hugo Rangel Vargas.