Autonomous University of Social Movements (AUSM)
JANUARY 16-31, 2017

1 – Trump’s border wall is Peña Nieto’s escape valve
2 – AUSM Programs

1 – Trump’s border wall is Peña Nieto’s escape valve
On January 25, President (really!?, we still can’t fathom the concept) Trump formalized a campaign threat to build a wall along the Mexico-US border – and force Mexico to pay for it.  The announcement came on the same day Mexico’s Foreign Minister, Luis Videgaray, reportedly a close friend of the Trump family, began preliminary discussions in Washington for a visit by President Peña Nieto. This was widely reported as a diplomatic blunder and a slap in the face to Peña Nieto.  It’s possible the Idiot in Chief (yes!, that’s more accurate than President) Trump truly is so ham-handed, or perhaps so egotistical, that he needs to embarrass foreign leaders in public.  British Prime Minister Theresa May, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Japanese Shinzo Abe all reached out to Trump in the early days of his Idiocy, only to be embarrassed publicly within days. In any case, Peña Nieto came under mounting pressure from an increasingly nationalistic domestic audience and canceled the visit, originally scheduled for January 31.

But there may be something else happening in the case of Peña Nieto, who is increasingly detached from the Mexican people.  On January 25 his approval rating stood at 12% according to La Reforma, a center-right newspaper, largely because of a series of policies directed at making the rich (mainly the political class) richer, including privatization of Pemex.  Government corruption has always been a problem in Mexico, no matter the party in charge, but under Peña Nieto the levels surprise even seasoned observers.  To site only the most recent example, former Veracruz Governor Javier Duarte of Peña Nieto’s PRI stands accused of stealing $2.5 billion in federal funds. In this context, a brave and stalwart Peña Nieto defending Mexico’s dignity by canceling a meeting with Trump is just what the doctor ordered.  A political and business class, nervous about the level of popular uprising associated with the gasolinazo, quickly came together around a call to support Peña Nieto in his confrontation with Trump.  Even the centrist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the leading candidate for the presidency in 2018 and normally a stalwart critic of Peña Nieto, rallied to the unity call.

Trump makes for an easy boogeyman in Mexico, not that he doesn’t deserve his horrible reputation.  But on the verge of an inevitable renegotiation of NAFTA, simultaneous with a political class looking to benefit from the privatization of Pemex, Mexican elites need a nationalist rallying cry that will distract popular sentiments.  The last time Mexico privatized a major part of its patrimony, the national telephone company TelMex, it created the wealthiest man in Mexico and third wealthiest in the world, Carlos Slim, plus a political class that benefited from bribes for decades of legislation permitting monopoly pricing.  In comparison to Pemex, TelMex was small potatoes.  In this context, nothing could be more convenient than a renewed outbreak of nationalist spirit, always smoldering below the surface in Mexico-US relations.

On January 27, Trump and Peña Nieto spoke for an hour by phone.  One can only speculate on the real content of the call, but the two men clearly have an agenda largely isolated from their populations.  While the mainstream media plays up a brewing diplomatic crisis, expect future nationalist rhetoric on both sides of the border to obscure the real agendas of business elites and political classes.