The meeting between Enrique Peña Nieto and Donald Trump had little to do with Mexico, with Mexican citizenry, or the “respect” that the president could demand for his compatriots. In the end, it has nothing to do with the promise of continued relations between the U.S. and Mexico in the event of a hypothetical triumph by Trump. The real theme of the joint conference was Central America.
Notwithstanding political suicide or outright stupidity, there seems to be no reason for why a president with a 23% public approval rating should receive in an official capacity a man who is public enemy number one for Mexicans. Rationally, that would be our thought process, but neither Peña Nieto nor Trump have any basis of rationality in their speeches. Theirs is a total disconnect not only from what is rational, but also from any politically rational response to a near unanimous public rejection. One of them governs without any indication that he recognizes the crisis all around him; the other is the disassociated type who understands sufficiently well that if there is anything that can unite individuals with apparent differences, it’s their fear of the Other. And that is what took [Trump] to Mexico.
Peña Nieto is a leader who is sufficiently withdrawn from his own reality that he can accept the visit of a nascent fascist under the pretense of a hypothetical future profit tied to something that the Mexican government is already doing on its own: ignoring, victimizing, or criminalizing undocumented Central American migrants. Neither Trump nor Peña Nieto had anything to lose.
The notion of respect that Peña Nieto asks for Mexican people and their land does not pass through the recognition of their dignity, something their own government denies them. The notion of Trump’s [sudden] respect toward Mexican people also refuses to acknowledge his own enormous error in disregarding the political capital in the Mexican population’s ability to vote in the U.S. What is at play is neither respect nor the sovereignty of Mexican territory, nor is the dignity of its citizenry on either side of the border. The encounter between Trump and Peña Nieto sought to rescue two nearly dead victims of their own negligence. They sought to rehabilitate their own public image at the expense of others who don’t exist for Trump, Peña Nieto, or the Mexican state unless when it comes to expel them. These “others” are from Central America.
The relationship (hegemonic from its base) between Mexico and nations from the Northern Triangle of Central Americas and between Mexican-Americans and Central American migrants in the United States fluctuates between complete ignorance and criminal dehumanization [of Central Americans], a reason for which to date there has been no estimate for the number of Central American victims of disappearance, torture, sexual exploitation, slavery, or murder in Mexican territory since 2010, the year in which the Central American humanitarian crisis became public. When Mexico sees us, it is either to victimize or criminalize us. Trump noticed it, used it, and seeks to utilize it toward his favor by means of Peña Nieto and his pseudo-proclamation for the dignity of his people, whom he himself has ignored throughout his administration.
The criminal migrants Trump speaks of, and of whom he referred to as Mexicans in the first place, arrive at the U.S. illegally; they rob, rape, and murder—actions which the Mexican and Mexican-American population recognize as characteristic of the gangbanger, the one who is fundamentally Guatemalan, Honduran, or Salvadoran. They are the criminals. Trump was mistaken from the beginning because, comprehensively, to him everything that is between the southern border of the U.S. and the South Pole is Mexico. Begging your pardon, the criminals are Central American, not the sacrificed, noble, and dignified Mexican compatriots of Peña Nieto.
If Mexico “reacts” to the Central American humanitarian crisis by an exponential increase in deportations of Central Americans citizens, the U.S. reacts by way of the Alliance for Prosperity, a not-so-subtle revival of Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress, and a direct inheritor of its titanic interventionism in the systems of intelligence, public safety, and justice in the “beneficiary” countries. Directed toward the Northern Triangle of Central America (Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala), the Alliance for Prosperity (AP) promises disbursements in the millions to these nations in exchange for guarantees in the advancement in three central areas: the fight against corruption and delinquency, putting a stop to irregular migration, and the strengthening of institutions. The most immediate results of the AP have been actions against the financial structure of gangs in Honduras and El Salvador, as well as the proposal of policies of joint persecution of organized crime and extradition treaties between the Northern Triangle countries.
There is little to nothing that the United States can do within Central American territories that can stop the flow of irregular migration. It has tried everything: investment in populations with high mobility, information and disinformation tactics about the migration process by way of the media, among others. Where the Alliance for Prosperity, Mexico’s foreign policy, and the Secretary of State of the U.S. fail is in not understanding that the cause of Central American migration is today primordially motivated by the need to survive: Central Americans either migrate or risk being murdered. This is a humanitarian crisis. The battle ground for stopping it is not in the socioeconomic rehabilitation of Central America, but in the border between Guatemala and Mexico.
In the imaginary of Peña Nieto and Trump, the migrant is an archetype. For the Mexican migrant, the archetype is of a person for whom the costs of hard work are marked on their face; for the Central American, the migrant archetype is of a young man, between 14 and 28 years of age, tattooed, throwing up gang signs. It is from this migrant, Trump and Peña Nieto have discovered, that both [countries] have to defend themselves. Nothing is said of the rising numbers of migrant mothers that leave their countries with their children because the desert is less threatening than urban and undeveloped zones in the north of Central America. Nor is anything said of the unaccompanied minors whose parents barely managed to put them on a bus to Guatemala because the maras gave them 24 hours to get out of their community. The Central American migrant is always a criminal for Peña Nieto, for Trump, and now as expected, for the Mexican-American community ready to cast votes.
Nothing unites people more than fear of the Other who is not like us, and both idiots know it. Nothing unites like an external threat and the instrumental alliance between two criminals who are both alike is the best example of how dangerous conditions are for that Other who has no part in this conversation, who only dedicates their time to look for their dead in their own community, in the neighboring country, in Mexico. Commercial accords and the dignity of the Mexican citizen have little to do with Trump and Peña Nieto’s joint declarations. The message is singular: the wall is not for you, good Mexicans. It’s for the Others. The others from the south. You, continue living your life, exalt your nation with your labor and dignity. The war is for Central America.
The feasibility of creating a border wall is irrelevant to a certain degree, as is the electoral viability of Trump. If it is Clinton who gets to the White House and the wall is never built, the Alliance for Prosperity will continue hanging over Central America, the collaboration of the Mexican state will continue to serve as the main line of defense against irregular migration from Central America. The mass deportations from Mexico will continue as they have, if not increase. But the discourse in consideration, the one that creates and amplifies terror, and that today stated that the Mexican citizen is sure to have a place in the Grand Project for Progress in the North, the threat has been established. That threat comes from San Salvador, from San Pedro Sula, from Escuintla, 14 years of age, with a backpack on their shoulders, and a rosary around their neck.
Translation by Victor Interiano