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Feature 032816 Ruiz-PanAm Post

Monday, March 28, 2016

Mexico and Mexicans Should, Must, Reject Trump's Populism

By Rafael Ruiz Velasco (PanAm Post)

 Bravado, Victimization, Nationalism All Belong to Mexico's Political History

 “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” he declared in June. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” Donald Trump, June, 2016

This statement was not made during a casual conversation between friends or in a small business gathering. These words weren’t uttered by an American farmer who lives near the Mexican border or by the representative of a radical anti-immigration group.

They were made by a “serious” candidate to the presidency of the United States of America, the world’s most powerful country.

When Trump announced his candidacy last year, the reactions were varied. But the common denominator was that no one took it seriously.

Supposedly, Trump was just a businessman with somewhat of a rock star status. His candidacy would add a little flavor and humorous anecdotes to the presidential race, nothing more.

Trump’s candidacy is inevitable

Today, in March 2016, it is inevitable to have Trump as the official Republican Party candidate. Trump has swept the primaries and already has over 700 of the 1237 delegates needed to become the official Republican candidate, distantly followed by Ted Cruz and John Kasich.

He already swept aside seemingly strong contenders like Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and Rand Paul.

In Mexico, things had been taken calmly and with political correctness. Entrepreneurs, opinion leaders, and politicians in general were not even half as radical as Trump when answering his insults and disqualifications.

Fear? Lack of empathy? Disbelief? Maybe a little bit of everything?

Recently, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, preceded by former presidents Felipe Calderón and Vicente Fox, finally made a public statement regarding Trump.

He said that “whoever speaks ill of Mexicans clearly does not know Mexicans.” Although this statement was necessary, it came somewhat belatedly.

The Real Dangers of Trumpism

It’s finally time to respond to Trump. Sharing videos on social media and calling him “crazy," "fascistic," or "ignorant” is no longer enough.

What seemed like a bad joke has today become a real danger. When a man who could lead the world’s most powerful country — and Mexico’s largest trading partner— unscrupulously accuses us of being rapists, thieves, murderers, and drug traffickers, we are all at risk.

This is so for three reasons:

1.    Those Mexicans currently residing in the United States, especially those without immigration papers, will become easy targets for abuse and personal attacks.

2.    Mexico’s relationship with the United States can be seriously affected. While there have been some ups and downs, in modern times Mexico’s relations with our northern neighbor have always been generally cordial and collaborative. 80% of Mexican exports go to the United States, and 50% of our imports come from American producers.

3.    Mexico’s international image can be severely affected, with negative consequences for foreign investment, remittances, and tourism.

The Trump scandal gained new impetus with his proposal to build a wall across the border. The candidate said that not only would he build a thousand mile-long, US$8 billion wall, but also that Mexico would pay for it.

In a recent interview with Bob Woodward for NBC, he even hinted he would be willing to declare war against the Mexican government if it is not willing to cooperate with his “ambitious” project.

The Rise of Trumpism

Trump’s success in the primaries seems hard to explain to many, but I attribute it to the following factors:

Populism: Trump does not give American citizens lessons in morality or economics. He talks about what people want to talk about and promises solutions for everything, regardless of whether these are realistic, effective, or viable or if they fuel hatred, as the border wall issue clearly does.

Rejection of political correctness: Trump dares to say things that no one else would: racist statements, bawdy jokes, xenophobic and misogynistic comments. Many people, whether conservative or even liberal, erroneously perceive Trump as someone who says what they think and, far from paying attention to the content of his statements, they see this as freedom of expression triumph.

A hope for change: society in general sees Trump as someone who dares to challenge organizations that for decades have been all-powerful: Wall Street, the IMF, the government itself. They do not know for sure if he can really bring about change, but they are willing to give anyone a chance to represent something different from the status quo.

The power of the masses: when the wave of populism and political incorrectness begins to grow and gain strength, it means the masses are gaining strength. The vast majority of Trump’s followers are not interested in substantive policy proposals. They are being led by a social trend or fashion that at this point seems to be unstoppable.

Time to Stand Up to Populism

The outlook is uncertain: Trump still has a long way to go in his party and then against whoever becomes his Democratic rival (most likely Hillary Clinton).

However, Trump is giving future generations a lesson that we should already have learned in the history books: in politics, the best do not win. Those who know how to sweeten people’s ears come out on top.

Regardless of how absurd your proposals are and how much hatred you are promoting, the important thing is to win. And this is what Trump is doing.

As a free and independent Mexican, I think it’s time to act. I have no intention of allowing anyone to label me a criminal for the simple fact of being born where I was. I don’t intend to allow this kind of story to be repeated anymore.

What is happening in the United States should teach Mexicans a lesson about populism. Let us not forget that bravado, victimization, and populism served up for the masses are recurrent themes in our own political history.

It is time to start using and promoting values ​​like common sense, individual freedom, and cooperation as a means to spur economic growth. We have to promote equal opportunities by strengthening the rule of law and learning to respect others.

Only then will we avoid the triumph of absurd “Messiah” politicians who seek to victimize us all with their collective fantasies. Their fallacious, magic, and hate-promoting solutions have to be resisted. They do great harm to our environment and society.

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This commentary, "Mexicans Should Reject Trump’s Populism at Home," by Rafael Ruiz Velasco, was published in PanAm Post on Mar. 23, 2016 and reposted per a Creative Commons authorization.  Rafael Ruiz Velasco has a degree in Business Administration from Mexico’s Anahuac University.

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