An increasing number of political figures in Mexico are attacking the U.S. president to buttress their own political careers, The Hill reports.
During a visit to Washington on Monday, Mexican Congressman Braulio Guerra took time away from his busy schedule of meetings with U.S. lawmakers and business leaders to sue President Donald Trump at the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights for “seeking to destroy the planet”.
Guerra, a high-ranking Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) lawmaker and likely future senator, is the latest in a long line of Mexican politicians who have looked to get attention by attacking Trump. With federal elections coming in 2018 and Mexican politicians in a frenzy to increase their profiles, many are turning to Trump as an easy target.
Presidential front-runner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a populist left-of-center firebrand, sued Trump in January at the United Nations over alleged human rights violations stemming from Trump’s immigration enforcement policies.
Former President Vicente Fox has also joined the fray, going viral on social media with a series of videos panning Trump for his proposal to build a wall between the two countries.
Experts say the rhetoric from south of the border is bound to increase as the Mexican campaign season ramps up, The Hill adds.
“There’s just no doubt that in the context of Mexican presidential elections next year, that when the U.S. president says things like, ‘Mexico will pay for the wall,’ that candidates will respond,” said Christopher Wilson, deputy director of the Woodrow Wilson Institute’s Mexico Center.
“The candidate that responds with less vehemence will be losing out,” Wilson added.
Some wonder whether the rhetoric will damage ties between the two countries, which have steadily improved since their low point in January, when Peña Nieto canceled a visit to Washington over Trump’s insistence that Mexico pay for his proposed border wall.
“The relationship with Mexico has improved substantially in the last few months,” Senator Marco Rubio told The Hill earlier this month. Despite Trump’s unpopularity in Mexico, Peña Nieto’s administration has largely stayed out of the fray.
“The government so far has really resisted temptation to join in and has very cautious as to what they say and how they react to the president’s statements,” Wilson said.
Peña Nieto is scrambling to complete the renegotiation of NAFTA before election season starts in full in January, while trying to avoid an image of kowtowing to Trump’s rhetoric.
“It seems to me they’re playing a waiting game. They’re right now trying to keep the NAFTA renegotiation on a positive track,” said Wilson.
At the same time, improving relations between Mexico and Trump, or the mere perception, can lead to trouble. Peña Nieto’s government is already receiving flak for its decision to quietly mend differences with the Trump administration.
Senator Armando Ríos Píter, an independent presidential candidate who favors comparisons to French President Emmanuel Macron, told The Hill that Peña Nieto’s silence amounts to an “implicit acceptance” of Trump’s policies and even “complicity by omission”.
While experts agreed Trump-bashing could strain the relationship, some anti-Trump proposals have already yielded measurable gains for Mexico.
Ríos Píter has specialized in generating viral social media content with an anti-Trump message. He once climbed the dividing border fence between Tijuana and San Diego, and recently held a press conference near the same spot to promote his “raise salaries, not walls” bilateral agenda.
In February, Ríos Píter presented a bill in the Mexican Senate that would replace American corn imports with produce from Brazil and Argentina. Still, in a country rattled by internal violence and a string of corruption crises, Trump bashing may be a second-tier issue in the 2018 election.
“We have to see what the issues in the presidential campaign in Mexico are going to be,” said Andres Rozental, a former Mexican diplomat and expert on the bilateral relationship. He added that many candidates, starting with López Obrador, are likely to pick corruption as the central issue of their campaign.
“If that’s the agenda, then I’m not so sure the U.S.-Mexico relationship is going to be as definitive in deciding who wins,” Rozental said.