Trump’s wall was Mexico
The agreement reached on Friday night between the United States and Mexico leaves a bittersweet feeling and an air of defeat before the first real challenge that the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador has faced since he came to power six months ago.
The covers of the main Mexican newspapers used all kinds of flowery words to explain an agreement that avoided the 5% tariff on Mexican products that was set to be imposed on Monday.
The government of López Obrador renounced to several principles on migration that he considered important only a few months ago.
The policy of ‘open doors’ that started after his arrival to power was suspended and Mexico will increase border control and deportations “significantly” and deploy 6,000 National Guard soldiers to its southern border “to stop irregular migration.”
During the eight days that the American threat lasted, the Mexican delegation has suffered the particular negotiating style of US President, Donald Trump.
Every morning, the negotiating team, headed by Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, woke up with the offensive tweets of the president, about Mexico and its lack of migratory control on the border with Guatemala.
Trump deployed his old tactic of flooding the networks with tweets, about how he would increase tariffs by 5% on Mexican imports every month that passed without reaching an agreement.
Trump’s messages came every day like missiles to the Washington hotel where the parties were gathered.
For his part, López Obrador responded by calling a rally on Saturday in Tijuana, on the border with the United States. He called it a rally for the “dignity” of Mexico and the “friendship with the people of the United States.”
When an agreement was reached on Friday night, the US President announced it on social networks. He said it was a good agreement for both countries and thanked the president of Mexico and Ebrard “for having worked so hard”.
A source from the Mexican Foreign Ministry who asked not to be quoted, summarized the Trump strategy as “the art of kicking the dog and caressing it later”.
The agreed pact assumes that the United States will not tax imports and in exchange, Mexico will reinforce its border and increase the deportations of Central Americans.
After the agreement, the Mexican delegation tried to convey the feeling of victory. Ebrard said the pact was “satisfactory” and that the negotiating team considered it “good for the two countries.”
Obrador himself reoriented the approach of the Tijuana demonstration on Saturday, which went from being an act of protest for the “dignity” of Mexico to a civic march for “unity.”
However, despite the attempts to make it look as a victory, public opinion understands that Tump managed to turn Mexico into the wall that he had promised during the last election. Trump’s wall was Mexico.
One of the most unknown details has to do with the purchase of agricultural products. In announcing the agreement, Trump added that Mexico has also committed to buy “large quantities” of agricultural products from US farmers immediately.
Since coming to power in December of last year, López Obrador has launched an erratic immigration policy that has finally folded to Washington’s designs.
Shortly after coming to power, Mexico opened the door to thousands of Central Americans who entered the country freely. At the border they were received by friendly officials who provided them with water and food and a work and transit visa for one-year.
During those first four months, deportations fell by 38%, according to official figures, compared to the Peña Nieto administration.
The government of López Obrador wanted to set a distance from the president of the PRI and the police response to the first caravans of migrants. However, that policy lasted what Trump took to start tweeting about the Mexican threat.
Since then, in the months of April and May, police controls multiplied and search of houses was ordered in cities such as Tapachula, where migrants supposedly waited for the moment to continue heading north.
Deportations rose to 67% during the last two months with respect to the same period of Peña Nieto.
Internally contradictions followed. To implement the regularization plan for thousands of refugees, the executive reduced the budget of the Refugee Assistance Commission (Comar) by 20% and today it is an overflowed institution that has received 200% more requests than last year.
At the same time, López Obrador presented a Marshall plan for the countries of Central America that included investments in public works, energy and agricultural projects.
It appears to be an ambitious project to stop the migration in the countries of origin for which he requested the collaboration of the United States, but which was received with indifference by the Trump administration.
Paradoxically, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, the man in charge of announcing the demise of López Obrador’s migration model, is the man who has fought the most to implement a plan designed by the United Nations to face the crisis in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala in a more humanely way.