Our security, and yours…
I honestly didn’t have the time (or energy) for more than a rough translation of “Trump, ave de tempestades para México en materia de seguridad” in the latest issue of Proceso (Issue: 2090, 20 November 2016, pp 14-19) … on the newsstands today… but it was important to bring Jorge Carraso Araizaga’s reportage on the possible effects of the incoming Trump Administration’s effect on Mexico, in economic issue and our “war on (some popular US consumer favored) narcotics” as seen by US experts out in English as soon as I could.
I skipped several paragraphs that were just detailed examples of various points, or paraphrased them (usually indicated in brackets: [ ] ).
The Trump administration will be a hurricane for Mexico. It threatens to demolish our security. Its simplistic ideas – building a wall or deporting migrants – will translate into major problems for this country. Add to that the uncertainty and contractions of Trump’s discourse, and the Mexican goverment will need to reshuffle its own priorities and prepare for scenarios that might arise. U.S. experts agreee.
MEXICO CITY (Proceso) .- The Enrique Peña Nieto administration must prepare for the worst. Security experts agree that Donald Trump’s hard line towards Mexico has to be taken for granted.
At best, even if some of its measures are merely cosmetic, the profile of the new US administration may lead to greater militarization in the fight against drug trafficking – a strategy that at present has left about 200,000 people dead in Mexico.
In fact, the Mexican president and his security cabinet will have to consider retaliatory measures even if Trump and his collaborators – given their tilt to the radical right – are determined to foster a hostile relationship, diverging on questins of migration and drug trafficking.
We are likely to see a return to the situation of the 1980s, defined as that of “distant neighbors” by the American journalist Allan Riding in his book of the same name, documented mistrust and confrontation between governments of Miguel de la Madrid and Ronald Reagan.
Now it may be even worse, warns Vanda Felbab-Brown, Senior Fellow at the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence in the Foreign Policy program at the Brookings Insititute, one of Washington’s most influential think tanks.
Felbab-Brown has no doubt that the previous and present Mexican administrations been improvising and done very little to consolidate a long-term drug policy. She says the two presidents [Calderón and Peña Nieto] have put repression of “cartel” leaders over institutional reforms, With the Trump victory, things will get worse. Or at least, more uncertain, she said in a telephone interview.
The ties built during the decade of “Plan Merida” in cooperation in the areas of security, including military assistance and intelligence, could be undone by the arrival of white supremacists in the White House, according to Maureen Meyer, director of the Mexico Program at the non-governmental Washington Office of Latin America (WOLA).
“I dont know hw cooperation can continue,” says Meyer. Trump has in his view NAFTA as well as migration and border security. During the campaign, he said almost nothing about foreign policy, and even les about Latin America. He refered to narotics trafficking, specificially about Mexican heroin, but from the perspective that it wasn’t good for Mexico.
Felbab-Brown agrees: “It is very difficult to say what will happen. The president-elect has said so many contradictory things during the campaign, and gave few specifics… [other than] reiterating his wish to deport undocumented persons and stop drug trafficking, without mentioning the internal issues in Mexico, where various gangs struggle for control of the [business]”
But, “The only sure thing is that he will take a hard line with Mexico”. This could be cosmetic, or it could have real impact. The first might be something like constructing an extremely costly wall, which would then require more National Guard units, helped by better technology. Taking a hard line, but of little impact.
But, he would also be capable of … destroying NAFTA, imposing tariffs on the Mexican market, which would signficantly damage the country’s economy, raisie the levels of unemployment and underemployment, stimulate crime, and force more people to emigrate to the United States. That would be a contradictory policy, destroying NAFTA while making the border less secure.
[Two or three years of that and Trump’s contradictory policies would force] business and institutional interests to seek cooperation with Mexico. “I hope he applies the most cosmetic of measures, before he implements a policy that would be a disaster for both nations”.
[… Speaking about boreder security, an issue where Felbab-Brown thinks that Trump is particularly ill-informed, believing that a wall or fence, and not cooperative intelligence and legal work will resolve issues, she uses the phrase “distant neighbors”, the title of Alan Riding’s 1985 book about Mexican-US relations, during the de la Madrid (in Mexico) and Reagan (in the United States) era, one in which relations were] “hostile, or at least distant. It was a difficult time, but I imagine much of what went on then is applicable to this scenario.”
Should Trump adopt an agressive policy [towards Mexico] Peña Neito’s government — facing an election in 2018 — might respond: “If you’re not going to work on a joint security policy, nor focus on institutional development, nor intelligence agencies here, then thanks… but no thanks”.
That is, Mexico could lose interest in cooperation, especially if there is a border wall. Drugs would continue to flow north, by sea or air, although without collaboration between the two governments, it would also be more difficult to inspect trucks entering the United States as well.
If the Trump administration turned to an even more hostile policy, acting unilaterally in economic
matters, such as abrogating NAFTA, the Mexican government could take reprisals in several ways. For a start, it could terminate “Plan Merida” and cancel any security cooperation, or cooperation in controlling migration from Central America …
WOLA’s Maureen Meyer […] says that the United States could return to trying to erradicate and detect drugs, in place of the evolution [within Plan Merida towards institution and justice reforms, the focus would return to military activity. Whether the Department of Defense or the State Department has the upper hand in Latin American-US relations would be an open question. The Proceso article notes that spending by the Pentagon for training in America tripled between 2007 and 2014. Mexican forces have received training from the Green Berets, among others, recently].
Mexico needs to define what it wants from the United States, and negotiate on that basis. Meyer expects that Mexican anti-narcotics assistance would be cut to levels similar to that of other countries [which under Plan Merida was a focus of US spending: 2.5 Billion dollars between 2008 and 2015].
[… Next February, when the State Department prepares its foreign assistance budget, there will be some idea of how cooperation the Trump Administration is willing to provide for these types of programs. Asked about the possiblity of returning to the old “certification” programs … under which Mexico and other country’s were “certified” based on their own cooperation with US demands for narcotics control… Meyer answered that the anti-immigrant thrust of the Trump campaign could have an effect in Congress, which could make assistance funding conditional on other matters. But, in the short term] Mexico’s priority is NAFTA, whether renegotiated or abrogated.
But, also important is what the Peña Nieto adminstration will want to propose, when it comes to cooperation….
“We ope that it [the Mexican administration] decides to work on insitutional weaknesses, like in the police and judicial system, which require much more than mere equipment”
Regarding human rights, … the President elect was supprted by torture supporters, making it difficult to see him taking up the cause as one of his priorities.