President López Obrador has been accused of being “submissive, timid and cowardly” in the face of United States President Donald Trump’s latest threats towards Mexico, but lawmakers from the president’s own party defended his non-confrontational approach to diplomatic relations.
Trump took to Twitter yesterday to threaten to close the southern border next week “if Mexico doesn’t immediately stop all illegal immigration coming into the United States.”
He also wrote that “Mexico has for many years made a fortune off of the U.S.” – presumably referring to Mexico’s trade surplus with the United States – “but they just take our money and talk.”
The latest aggressive tweets continue a long tradition of Trump using Mexico as his punching bag.
As he has done on several occasions since taking office in December, López Obrador yesterday refused to be baited by Trump’s threats.
“We want to have a good relationship with the United States, we’re not going to argue,” the president said.
Later in the day, López Obrador asked supporters at an event in Veracruz whether he should reply to Trump every time that he refers to Mexico.
“No,” the crowd shouted back at him. “Is it true that we should have good relations with the government of President Donald Trump?”
“Yes,” they responded, to which López Obrador quipped, “look at the people, the people are wise.”
He then asked people to put up their hands if they believed that the government “should act with prudence” in its relationship with the Trump administration.
The majority of attendees duly raised their hands, drawing a smile and applause from López Obrador who remarked, “that’s my people.”
The approach of the president – and that of his government more widely – to dealing with Trump and the United States government was criticized by the national president of the opposition National Action Party (PAN) at an event yesterday in San Luis Potosí.
“The submissive, timid and cowardly attitude that the government has had with respect to Donald Trump and his position against Mexico concerns us. We ask the federal government [to show] bravery, strength and dignity to defend Mexicans. We can’t have the government simply responding with silence,” Marko Cortés said.
There has been “a shameful silence” in response to Trump’s threats to close the United States border, Cortés charged, although Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard did address those threats in a Twitter post yesterday morning.
“Mexico does not act on the basis of threats. We are a great neighbor,” Ebrard wrote.
“Ask the million and a half Americans who have chosen our country as their home, the largest community of Americans outside the United States. For them we are also the best neighbor they could have,” he continued.
Senate president Ricardo Monreal said he will ask lawmakers from all political parties in the upper house to come together to sign a parliamentary note that will be sent to the United States Congress to denounce Trump’s insults and threats towards Mexico.
“We’re going to make use of our parliamentary diplomacy . . . We’re not going to tolerate harmful and insulting attitudes towards Mexico,” he said.
However, the Morena party senator predicted that the U.S. president will only harden his attitude and language about Mexico as part of a strategy to win support in the lead-up to the 2020 election.
Trump will seek to get out of his “muddle” of domestic problems by accusing Mexico of doing nothing to help stem immigration to the United States and “vociferating against global migration,” Monreal said.
“We must understand that he’s worried about votes because a lot of people have withdrawn their support for him due to his xenophobic, racist and intolerant attitudes,” he added.
The senator asserted that López Obrador has acted prudently in the relationship with Trump and the United States government.
“Obviously he won’t confront the United States with a scornful or forceful attitude but rather one of respect . . .” Monreal said.
“However, President Trump mustn’t confuse prudence with weakness,” he added.
Héctor Vasconcelos, another ruling party senator and former ambassador to Denmark, also defended López Obrador’s decision to not respond to Trump’s “broadsides” against Mexico.
“Imagine if the president of Mexico entered into this dynamic of [making] statements that are increasingly violent, that could even become slanderous. That would be to move towards a situation that would jeopardize the bilateral relationship. The president of Mexico cannot enter into a competition to see who makes more violent statements,” he said.
“. . . We can’t let ourselves get hooked and respond to broadsides with more broadsides,” Vasconcelos added.
Like Monreal, the senator contended that Trump’s latest outburst was politically motivated.
“Unfortunately, this issue of the migrant caravans is entwined with the agenda and electoral calendar in the United States,” Vasconcelos said.
“There are elections there next year. De facto campaigns have already begun and that has further clouded a complicated issue. The statements and threats of President Trump have more to do with satisfying his electoral base with a view to next year’s elections than anything else.”