Mexico: Can it stop the wave of migrants heading north?

Donald Trump has reverted to his “incendiary and provocative rhetoric against Mexico,” said Federico Berrueto in Milenio. The U.S. president warned last week that if the Mexican government didn’t stop Central American migrants from crossing into the U.S., he would shut all 330 ports of entry along our two nations’ 2,000-mile border. His administration also said it would terminate some $700 million in aid to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, the three countries that have sent the most migrants north. The threats are preposterous. Cutting aid to Central America will further hurt these already impoverished, crime-ravaged countries and increase the exodus of desperate people; closing the U.S. border will damage both our economies. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has refused to address Trump’s threats directly, merely saying that he will act “with great prudence.” That’s the right call. Trump won the White House in 2016 in part by demonizing Mexico, and he hopes that the same strategy will guarantee him re-election in 2020. It’s ugly, but “the demagoguery over there should not be answered with demagoguery here.”

In the short term, Mexican officials must ignore Trump, said Jorge Fernández Menéndez in El Debate. They can work more productively with members of the U.S. Congress who represent border states, which have much to lose from a closure. But in the long term, we need to step up the policing of our southern border. Most of the migrants fleeing Central America are simply seeking a better life in the north, but in their midst are “gang members and drug traffickers.” For the safety of our own citizens, we can’t leave “the southern border open to massive entry.” López Obrador has helped fuel this “unprecedented humanitarian crisis,” said El Diario de Juárez in an editorial. Fearing negative headlines about the mistreatment of migrants, he ordered police to “avoid physical coercion” and let all Central Americans cross our southern border. Hundreds of thousands of people have now walked the length of Mexico “in subhuman conditions” to chase the American dream. Women, men, and children suffer from blistered feet and broken bones, thirst and hunger, cold and heat. Many fall prey to criminal gangs as they wait for months in Tijuana for the chance to present their asylum claims to U.S. officials. Where are the authorities in all this? “Where is the United Nations?” Mexico is failing these people.

All Mexico can offer is “banana diplomacy,” said Cecilia Soto in Excélsior. The Mexican president met informally last month with Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, who has expertise in nothing but failed real estate deals. López Obrador said Kushner assured him that Trump would provide a $10 billion development fund to create new jobs and opportunities in Central America. But it’s now clear that Kushner does not speak for Trump, who not only canceled the $10 billion plan but also withdrew millions in committed aid. Next time, López Obrador should leave diplomacy to the experts in the Foreign Ministry.