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Column 090516 Wall

Monday, September 5, 2016

Surreal Trump-Peña Nieto Meeting Backfires on Peña Nieto

By Allan Wall

The meeting and press conference of August 31st, 2016, in which American presidential candidate Donald Trump met privately with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and both appeared publicly, was surreal. 

What will be the effect on Peña Nieto’s presidency and the PRI party?

The bigger question is, what is the Mexican government going to do if Trump wins?

When I first heard about Trump’s impending trip to meet with Peña Nieto, I thought it didn’t make sense.  After all, Trump isn’t the president.

However, although Trump is not the U.S. president, nor even the president-elect, he certainly acted as a president when he was there.  It may help him in the polls stateside.

As for Peña Nieto, the Mexican president was lambasted for bringing Trump to Mexico, and for the fact that Trump didn’t apologize for comments he made way back in June of 2015.  The latter criticism is ridiculous, as he couldn’t really force Trump to do so.

In regards to the first criticism, from a Mexican political point of view, what was Peña Nieto thinking?

Recall that the Mexican president had invited both presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, to visit him in Mexico.  Did he expect them both to visit?  Or neither?

Or that only Hillary (the favorite in Mexico) would visit? 

It really doesn’t matter what he thought, because once the public invitation was out there, there were several possibilities: both would accept, neither would accept, Hillary only would accept, or Trump only would accept.

Maybe Peña Nieto thought such a visit would help him in the court of Mexican public opinion, in which currently he’s not doing too well.  That sure didn’t work.

Bear in mind as well that Peña Nieto’s administration has less than two years to go until the presidential election of 2018.  A lot could happen before then though.

As for the Donald Trump campaign, the candidate has defied the odds and the negative predictions, and he is now within a few months of possibly winning the presidency.

There are signs that the Mexican presidential administration realizes that, and is hedging its bets.

One is the promotion of the Somos Mexicanos program designed to help Mexicans returning to Mexico from the United States.  I last visited Mexico this past June and July (see Observations following our Family’s 2016 Summer Trip to Mexico).  When entering Mexico, I noticed the Mexican immigration station had been remodeled to include a section for Repatriaciones (repatriations).  Does that mean the Mexican government is expecting larger numbers of Mexicans to return to Mexico?

In July, President Peña Nieto visited Washington where the Mexican president appeared in a joint press conference with American President Barack Obama, held the day after Donald Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.

In that press conference, Peña Nieto, who had previously likened Trump to Hitler and Mussolini (how original!) sounded much more statesmanlike.

“To Mrs. Hillary Clinton and Mr. Donald Trump, I want to express my highest respect”, said the Mexican president, pledging a “frank and open dialogue” with the winning candidate and future American president.

(Obama, on the other hand, proceeded to bash Trump.)

So maybe it was along the lines of Peña Nieto’s expressing respect for both candidates that he decided to tender the invitation. 

Anyway, what happened on August 31st is that Donald Trump made a lightning trip to Mexico and raised his presidential profile with the U.S. electorate, while Enrique Peña Nieto wound up getting bashed by political opponents and in the media.

In an interview with Carlos Loret de Mola, Mexican intellectual Enrique Krauze expressed indignation that Trump did not apologize in Mexico and pledge not to build a wall on the border and not to deport illegal aliens.  Did Krauze really believe Trump would do that?

Krauze continued the tiresome Nazi analogy, comparing Peña Nieto and Trump to Neville Chamberlain and Adolph Hitler in Munich in 1938.  Krauze even said that if Trump wins, the Mexican president should not meet with him.  Huh?

Rather than listen to Krauze, who after all doesn’t have the responsibility of administering a country, the Mexican government needs to ask itself – if Trump can shut down illegal immigration from Mexico to the United States, what is Mexico going to do about illegal immigration from Guatemala and Belize into Mexico?  For more on this question, see my recent article Would a Trump wall force Mexico to construct its own border walls?

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Allan Wall, an educator, resided in Mexico for many years.  His website is located at http://www.allanwall.info.

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