The crisis facing Joe Biden and the tragedy in Haiti have put Mexico against the wall. Humanism and nationalism have never been good companions; some “isms” may get along, but they usually get in the way of each other. The love that is dispensed on the basis of a passport, is usually mean with the rest of the human species.
Mexicans are caught right in this perverse paradox. The hard dilemma of choosing between immediate national interests and the solidarity promised so many times in the face of millions of desperate human beings. Opening borders to those seeking refuge from famines, political and racial persecution, violence and other calamities has never been a popular move among the citizens of a host country. Europe lives it with Syrian refugees and Colombia and Ecuador with waves of anguished Venezuelans.
Mexico has not been particularly kind to migrants from Central America. The ordeal and tragedies that our southern neighbors face when crossing our territory constitute a black page in the local geopolitical history, not to speak simply of a betrayal of decency itself.
Nor is it about demonizing unilaterally. The authorities and civil society could have done much more to prevent organized crime and scoundrels from targeting the most underprivileged of the underdog. But it is also true that it is immoral to accuse of immorality from the comfort of Mexico City to the inhabitants of the southeast, who observe the invasion of parks and sidewalks by waves of desperate human beings, with all that that entails. Let alone the increasingly intolerant local authorities, being overwhelmed and led to unsustainable situations, even though they had not even been able to respond to the needs of their constituents.
This is not exclusive to Mexico, I insist. With nuances it is happening in various areas of the planet. What is new or unique about our situation is that to this “natural” pettiness, justifiable or not but real, that leads to closing itself off from the suffering of others, Mexico has begun to receive a perverse bonus. A kind of reward for selfishness.
Joe Biden is in a rut and desperate to get out of it. In recent weeks it went from an approval rating of 49% to 41%, and its crash threatens to turn into free fall. Experts attribute it mostly to three phenomena. One, the disastrous departure from Afghanistan, about which nothing can be done except to hope that the issue disappears from the agenda, which will happen little by little. Two, the persistence of the third wave of covid-19, contrary to the optimistic omens of the federal government; although the fact that it focuses on republican states and vaccine resistance zones does offer a battlefield for building a defensive narrative. And three, the accelerated increase in migration as a result of the economic desolation caused in our countries by the coronavirus, but partly also as a result of the actual and presumed dismantling of Trump’s anti-immigrant policies. And although such dismantling is not entirely true, Biden’s generous proposals at the start of his government offer conservatives full ammunition to hold him responsible for the “assault by Hispanics” on their borders.
The first two factors, Afghanistan and covid-19, would have an expiration date in the medium term, but not the third, which will become the spearhead in the Republicans’ attempt to return to power. The factors that cause the expulsion of Mexicans, Caribbean and Central Americans to the United States are unlikely to change in the next two or three years. Neither are the pressures on the White House. A lose-lose situation for Biden, because hardening borders would lead him to imitate Trump and lose his own social base; But being perceived as the architect of a porous wall could cost him reelection.
It is precisely at this point where the Mexican government becomes a strategic ally. Moving the hardening of borders to the limits between Mexico and Guatemala represents for the White House a vicarious measure to reduce migratory flows and alleviate the problem, without paying the political bill. At this time, the pressure on the Government of the 4T is immense, although not aggressive; on the contrary, it is a constellation of incentives that for López Obrador will constitute pure oxygen.
The Mexican president is urged to lift the economy, recover the lost jobs and generate the shortages to give a chance to his seminal promise to alleviate the chronic poverty of the country. But private investment and the national economy in general have lost steam, after a momentary rebound, and threaten to stagnate; In such circumstances, sustained reactivation can only come from the possibility of taking a bigger bite out of the economic recovery experienced by the United States. In recent days AMLO has insisted on Mexico’s potential to replace US factories that are located on Asian soil, particularly in China. An argument that now finds extraordinarily soft ears in the White House.
The cruel reality facing the Mexican government, in theory committed to the underprivileged, now leads it to betray the cause of Haitians, the human beings most in need of help in the Western Hemisphere. It is not a question of crucifying the Mexican head of state in particular or removing a political slit; regardless of ideological positions, any other president would be doing the same. One should even recognize AMLO’s insistence on the need to invest and bring progress in the migrants’ areas of origin and his desire to involve the United States in the task. But obviously these are long-term strategies. For now, this is what it is. Haitians have been victims of all possible hells and there is no limbo in which they can take refuge or alleviate their pain within their own country. The Mexican authorities want the national territory, and by extension the North American, not to become that limbo. The incentives offered in return could be huge. I said, Realpolitik sucks.
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