This week I shared with you how the genesis of NAFTA was an investment bank’s attempt to take control of the Mexican oil. Yesterday, we looked at the arrival of México’s only fleet of supersonic interceptors and noted their retirement last year. The Mexican F5 Tigres operated in México for 34 years. They represent the ongoing evolution of the México-U.S. relationship from outright antagonism to friendly collaboration between neighbors. What the fighters demonstrate is how the United States manipulates international affairs to keep México under its domain.
Many of you reading this today invariable fall for the blame game of México’s incompetence, corruption or both as the cause of México’s predicament. It is a narrative that has been crafted over decades to create the illusion of México that serves U.S. interests. Make no mistake, there is corruption in México as well as infighting that serves the political purposes of the United States. But, there is also the ongoing interference in Mexican affairs by U.S. administrations to serve their political needs. These range from interfering in México’s internal affairs to limiting México’s international outreaches. To be clear, this is not unique to México, because the United States sees its future in controlling the affairs of other nations.
But México is in the difficult situation of bordering the most domineering country in the world – both economically and militarily.
The three issues that many of you first think about when it comes to the México-U.S. relationship are immigration, drug trafficking and corruption. Let us tackle the corruption issue first. México is highly corrupt.
With corruption comes the centuries old mentality of everyone for themselves at the cost of the others. There is a phrase I once heard in the United States and it describes the Mexican mentality that attempts to dominate other Mexicans by Mexicans who have some measure of control. Prosperity in México is a crab bucket where as one crab makes its way out of the bucket, other crabs force it back down. In other words, when one Mexican strives for better, other Mexicans tend to corruptly keep them down. It is a game driven by jealousy.
With that comes the inherent mentality of the mordida. As Mexicans, we blame the government for the corruption while not accepting that we, as Mexicans, are the cause of the corruption by participating in it and accepting it. We Mexicans cannot demand that the politicians avoid corruption when we, as Mexican citizens, force them to use corruption to be elected.
It must change and the change will only come when we, as citizens, start to do our part.
The second issue is the issue of immigration. Two facts are avoided by the United States when it comes to the immigration issue. The first is that the United States has always welcomed the Mexican cheap labor to drive the U.S. economy. It not only welcomes the labor, but it encourages it by playing the game of saying and publicly acting one way while not doing what it takes to resolve the issue.
The North American Common Market scam acknowledged that what México had to offer in the 1970’s and 1980’s was an abundance of labor. It is this unspoken reality that is whispered about by the industrialists and the politicians while playing the game of Mexicans unfairly invading the country. This smoke-and-mirrors game has created a broken immigration system that discourages working legally while encouraging undocumented workers.
Unlike other immigrants to the United States, the clear majority of Mexicans only want to come to the United States to work, make some money and then return to México. That is the fundamental and underlining thing that proponents and detractors of Mexican labor in the United States seldom discuss.
A simple work permit would solve the problem overnight.
However, there are those that believe that Mexicans shouldn’t be allowed to work in the United States because they believe it keeps wages down and limits the work pool. It is an erroneous belief in that those same believers of unfair competition from Mexican laborers, are the same consumers that complain about the high prices for goods.
Regardless, if their belief is to prevail then simply sanctioning companies for employing undocumented workers would end the problem as well.
But the smoke-and-mirrors game continues because politicians have learned that to blame the problems on México and Mexicans is the pathway into office. Once in office they soon realize that if they were to end access to Mexican labor, the result would be economically costly and thus they continue the smoke-and-mirror game of blaming Mexicans.
There are those of you who are arguing, but, but if the corruption ended in México then Mexicans wouldn’t need to come to the United States to work.
Yes, and no. Corruption is a part of the problem but it is not as simple as that as there are many complex geopolitical issues at play. Let’s focus on one fact that many ignore.
Mexican immigration has been declining since 2009. Why, is the question that many have not bothered to ask. The answer is simple, look at NAFTA. As the Mexican economy grew, due to NAFTA, the wages and jobs increased as well. But it is not as simple as that, the growth in the economy also increased quality of life and access to necessities like education. It is not perfect but the proof lies in the decline of the immigrants from México.
But there remain other forces at play. The purchase of the F5 Tiger II’s by the Mexican government demonstrates how the United States attempts to limit México’s growth. México, encouraged by the United States’ stated policy of encouraging the purchase of U.S. weapons systems and the bolstering of each country’s militaries to offset the rise of communism sought to purchase 24 fighters from the United States in the late 1970’s. Because the U.S. elected a pacifist president, Jimmy Carter, the government of México was told no on the purchase of the aircraft.
In response, México went to other countries. When it decided that it wanted the Israeli Kfir fighters, the U.S. government stopped the sale by enforcing the engine veto. The United States impeded México’s bolstering of its military force.
When Ronald Reagan was elected, México, encouraged by the Reagan apparent friendliness towards México, purchased a dozen Northrop F5 Tiger II’s. It is important to note two things. The first is México has never been a threat to the United States nor has it ever threatened the country. The second is that the fighters were not given to México, they were purchased.
Unfortunately, it does not end there. Ronald Reagan had a vision of the collaborative union of three nations for the benefit of each other. Whether Regan’s vision was driven by his fear of communism, the industrialists’ attempt to take control of the Mexican oil, a true belief of the proposed union or a combination of all is open to debate.
However, for the Mexican government it faced a moment of truth that it needed to act upon. It needed to fundamentally change the Mexican culture of uncontrolled birthrates to deal with a huge workforce without jobs while at the same time moving México away from its oil dependence and agriculturally-based economy. It needed to industrialize.
Mexicans are generally distrustful of the intent of the United States and this translates into the political circles. The idea for a common market included access to U.S jobs for Mexicans. The United States wanted the cheap labor and the Mexican oil. It wanted México to relinquish control of the Mexican Peso. The obvious reason is that by giving up control of the Peso, México further submitted itself to the United States.
Mexicans, like foreigners, tend to place the blame upon the Mexican government as inept and, or as corrupt.
But the NAFTA accord demonstrates that the Mexican government can act for the benefit of the country as well.
NAFTA was intended to keep México subservient to the United States by allowing free access to the U.S. labor market for Mexicans as well as taking México’s oil. The NAFTA agreement that was negotiated did not give Mexicans free access to the U.S. labor market, but it also did not give full control of the oil to the United States.
As much as some economic sectors in México decry the NAFTA agreement and the government of Carlos Salinas de Gortari, there is no denying that NAFTA has resulted in an industrialized México and a reduction of immigration from México to the United States. Those that do not believe it just need to look at the trade portfolio México now has – especially in automobiles, computers and other consumables.
For all its faults, the neoliberalists, under Salinas de Gortari, created a México with an ability to defend itself from Yankee imperialism by leveraging the number of free trade agreements México has with other countries. Again, it is not perfect, but when Donald Trump threatened NAFTA, it was painful for México, but not deadly. This is because the reality of U.S. manufacturers establishing in México is not about labor costs, as the narrative is commonly held, but rather access to 60% of the world’s GDP. Again, the drop in immigration from México also bolsters this idea.
Unfortunately, with NAFTA, there also came the unintended consequences. Corruption is still an issue and as such it has created the problem of narcotics trafficking.
Again, the common narrative is that it is México’s fault.
That narrative misses two very important facts.
The first is that the United States precipitated the problem by attacking the Colombian traffickers without dealing with the underlining problem of the consumption in the United States that makes it a lucrative illicit business to be in. United States politicians tend to ignore the simple fact that without consumers there would be no illicit drug trafficking.
But since the blame México game is a politician’s ticket to office, the smoke-and-mirrors game exasperates the problem for México. Not only is the political rhetoric from the United States one of blaming México, but the United States does not have the political will to address the problem. Not only does it ignore the consumers, but it does little to attack the money that fuels the drug problem. The United States is the largest economy in the world and as such not only does the money for the drugs come from the United States but it also benefits the drug dealers by how it is funneled into their pockets.
Of course, the guns make it that much more difficult for the Mexican authorities to tackle the problem. There is something inherently wrong with drug dealers having better weapons then the Mexican state. It is easy to place the blame on corruption in the Mexican government, but what about the corruption in the United States that allows the guns into the hands of Mexican thugs? How about the corruption that allows the drugs through cities like El Paso, Texas on to the consumers nationwide?
It is all part of the blame México smoke-and-mirrors game.
Want to end the drug problem? End it at the source – the consumers.
Even with the onslaught of the U.S. political smoke-and-mirrors game and the difficult and sometimes seemingly unsurmountable process of changing the inherent Mexican culture of the mordida, México has significantly advanced in the last two decades.
Again, look at the two facts conveniently ignored by many, the drop in immigration from México to the United States and the substantial growth of the Mexican economy.
But the Yankee imperialism continues to attempt to subjugate México.
Today it is Donald Trump and his hatred of México.
México dropped it guard in recent years believing that the United States was ready to be neighborly towards México. Proof of this lies in the integration of the militaries of the two countries that led to the quiet retirement of the air defense squadron by México last year. For many years, the Mexican military had kept a firm distance from the United States military because it did not trust U.S. politicians.
Many Mexican officials still have an inherent distrust of the United States. They argued and continue to argue against depending too much on the United States to put México under a United States security umbrella. I know some of you are knee-jerk reacting that México has no external threats and thus it does not need to worry about outside threats while others are pointing out that a United States versus México war is very lopsided. These arguments miss the point about trust between neighbors.
México believed that the time for Yankee imperialism had ended and that the time for neighborly friendship was at hand.
We were sadly mistaken.
Many of you reading this essay wrongly assume that my dislike for Donald Trump has to do with calling Mexicans rapists and his focus on deporting immigrants at all costs.
Trump’s attacks on México was a stark reminder for me about the false narrative that politicians use to create the illusion that México is to blame for all that is wrong in the United States. Never mind that México has never threatened the integrity of the United States. Never mind that México has never been proven to be the source of any attacks upon the United States. Never mind that México has no offensive weapon systems and thus it cannot be a threat to the United States.
The United States narrative is that México is like North Korea, a serious threat to the United States. Thus, we are faced with the wall.
But like all United States politicians that use México as the whipping post to rile up U.S. nationalism for the elections, once in office the reality hits them straight across the face forcing them to quietly leave everything as it was.
Donald Trump promised the electorate that México would pay for the wall. Donald Trump promised that he would end NAFTA, if México was unwillingly to make substantial changes.
Have you noticed that México isn’t paying for the wall?
Have you noticed that the NAFTA negotiations have quietly been scaled back?
Do you know what the most frustrating thing for me is?
It is the many farmers who supported Donald Trump’s bid for the presidency. They are suddenly demanding that Trump dial back his rhetoric about NAFTA because some, like the corn farmers, have realized that a trade war with México would hurt them as well.
It is the voters married to undocumented immigrants, or who know undocumented immigrants that are suddenly alarmed that their loved ones are being deported as well.
It is the voters who own land on the border who are now faced with a fence, or wall going down the middle of their properties.
It is the voters who believed the political rhetoric that it was México’s fault that they lost their jobs. They voted for a man who promised them jobs but are now realizing that the jobs aren’t coming back because it wasn’t México, but automation and other factors that resulted in the job losses.
They voted for Donald Trump without realizing the true ramifications of his political rhetoric.
I have no problem with the Trump voters who believe in a white country or the voters who truly believe that a United States without Mexicans is the country that they want. They are true to their beliefs and elected the individual that personifies their wants.
For those on the sidelines, including the Mexicans, that argue that in the end not much will change under Trump, I respond by pointing out that the damage has already been done.
For many generations, Mexicans will remember the Yankee imperialists personified by Donald Trump who reminded us that the United States should not be trusted. México is better prepared but not completely independent of the goliath to the north. But as we lick our wounds and look to strengthen our position, we should remember that we are better off continuing to seek our own path with other countries.
The immediate path is China, the second largest economic of the world. The European Union is imploding due to Brexit, leaving China as the next viable partner.
Politically, economically and for friendliness sake, México kept its distance from China by not willing to engage it economically. China has seen the opportunity to engage México because of Trump’s politics. México has no reason and much to gain by engaging China.
Today, China on the world stage is as dangerous to U.S. foreign policy as the Soviet Union was and Russia is today.
That is the legacy that Donald Trump is leaving for future United States citizens, a México ambivalent to United States international needs and a country with no need to become closer to the United States. Instead, México will remain friendly, but distant to the United States while it remembers that the Yankee imperialists are alive and well today.