MEXICO CITY— Mexico, like much of the world, watched in disbelief as the U.S. electoral map went red last Tuesday night. But as the initial shock of Trump’s victory starts to pass, some Mexicans are saying it should be a wake-up call for the country and cause for a new push for national unity.
Many people seem to agree with President Enrique Peña Nieto that Trump’s victory is “an opportunity” for Mexico. But they say it’s not so much about the bilateral relationship, rather Mexico getting its own affairs in order so it can stop depending so much on the gringos.
“I don’t know if the Mexican federal government was ready for this, but what we need today is for all the powers, all parties, all the social, economic and business forces to fall in line in order to face a very real threat,” Senator Armando Rios Piter, of the left-leaning Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), told Fusion.
The senator is pushing for legislation to shield Mexicans in the U.S. from Trump’s potential anti-immigration policies by proposing to retaliate against U.S. economic interests in Mexico if remittances are suspended or conditioned, inhabilitating funding for a wall or any public work that goes against Mexican interests, and enhancing consular assistance in the U.S.
Trump said in an interview with 60 minutes that aired Sunday he intends to immediately deport up to three million people.
Rios Piter is also calling on Mexico to reevaluate all of its treaties, including drug war and security cooperation, with the U.S. if Trump makes good on his promise of withdrawing from the North American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
“If Trump thinks Mexico is not a crucial actor, Mexico has the legitimate right to rethink all of its treaties and intergovernmental accords that have been built to help our American friends, neighbors and commercial associates,” he said.
It’s not just the lawmakers who are trying to mobilize the country to prepare for the Trump presidency. There’s also a consumer-led push for Mexicans to use their collective purchasing power to buy local and shield Mexican businesses against economic retaliation by the U.S.
“We’ve always looked up to our neighbor, but it’s time to look at ourselves,” said Karla Mawcinitt, former communications director of ProMéxico, the government agency charged with promoting Mexico’s image abroad. “We need to empower ourselves economically, not them.”
Since Trump became president-elect, Mawcinitt has taken to social media to ask Mexicans to change their purchasing habits to benefit Mexico.
“Trump could end NAFTA and that’s going to hit us severely,” she said. “We need to start thinking about substituting imports with Mexican goods.”
Mawcinitt claims she’s not supporting a new era of protectionism and isolationism, rather an opportunity for Mexicans to put Mexico first.
“If you can go on vacation, chose Mexico. If you are going to buy avocados or honey, buy them from Mexican growers and companies. It’s not about picking a fight with the United States, it’s about uniting,” she said.
Many Mexicans are echoing that call.
Social media has been using the hashtag #MexicoUnido (Mexico United) to encourage Mexicans to spend their tourism money in Mexico rather than travel to popular destinations in the U.S. Others are encouraging Mexicans to boycott U.S. companies like Walmart.
“We don’t have an alternative. Let’s support and consume Mexican products.”
“It’s time to look out for our interests. Without negativity, angst or pessimism. It’s time to be ourselves.”
“Mexico must take advantage of this opportunity to go forward and stop depending so much on the Americans.”
The Mexican business sector seems nervous about Trump’s win, but eager to unite. Peña Nieto last week held talks with business leaders to plan ways so local companies can employ Mexican nationals who get deported by Trump’s incoming government.
“There’s plenty of uncertainty. We don’t know where the peso-dollar exchange rate will end up or how exports will be affected. The Mexican business community is very worried,” said Eduardo Bravo, a Mexican businessman living in San Antonio who sits on the board of the American-Mexico Public Affairs Committee (AMxPAC), a registered lobby in the U.S. created in the wake of Trump’s political rise and a surge in anti-Mexico rhetoric.
Bravo said AMxPAC will continue to promote bilateral relations, and warns that nationalism in Mexico could get ugly if allowed to grow unchecked.
“There’s a big risk of thinking with your stomach instead of your head,” he said. “Mexico could go back to those anti-yanqui sentiments of the ’70s. It sounds like a very nice idea, patriotism and everyone against Trump, but we must be careful.”
Bravo thinks it’s simply not realistic to say Mexico can cut off from the U.S. Both economies are too interdependent and an anti-American nationalism could prove wildly counterproductive.
“It’s a great opportunity to unite, but we could end up falling into populism and the global anti-establishment trend ourselves,” Bravo said.
The Peña Nieto administration, meanwhile, is hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. The Mexican President phoned Trump last week to congratulate him and reiterate Mexico’s willingness to continue working with the U.S. According to a press release, Mexican Foreign Affairs Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu also met with Mexico’s Ambassador and 50 consuls in the U.S. to “design plans for protection and consular assistance” while “reiterating that the rights of Mexicans inside and outside of the country will never be negotiated.”
It also remains to be seen what the Trump effect will be on Mexico’s own 2018 presidential election.
Some analysts claim Trump’s win could help presidential hopeful Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a left-leaning Mexican politician who’s run for president twice before and has been labeled by his critics as somewhat of a “populist demagogue.” The comparisons between Trump and Lopez Obrador seem far fetched, but they both appeal to an angry base of voters, talk about rigged elections, and have massive followings by preaching anti-establishment messages.
But the nationalism that could surge in Mexico would be different from the racial exceptionalism promoted by Trump during the campaign. Though Mexican nationalism does have the potential to turn into anti-Americanism, for now it seems to be based on a needed effort to make the country more self-reliant and less dependent on the U.S. for stability and opportunities.
Edgar Reyna contributed to this report.