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Donald Trump is inspiring a new generation of Mexican nationalists

Donald Trump's threats to deport illegal Mexican immigrants back to Mexico and to seal off the border are stimulating a nationalist backlash in Mexico.

Mexicans have organized over the past week mostly in response to Trump’s strict immigration policies and the recent wave of deportations which have swept the country, but they’re also protesting more pressing domestic issues such as their weakening currency, high fuel prices, the rise in crime and drugs, and importantly, current President Pena Neito.

The incumbent leader can’t run for another term in the 2018 elections, and there’s already a lot of talk about who’s going to succeed him. Some people are pointing to former presidential hopeful and leftist Andres Manuel López Obrador, who has been described as an “anti-Trump” by some publications, but it’s still far from certain what his political future will be like. What is known, however, is that President Nieto’s successor will be elected based on a confluence of domestic and international factors, both of which will be intimately tied in with Trump.

Although many of Mexico’s many socio-economic problems precede Trump’s election by many years, he’s heightened the civic and economic nationalism that many Mexicans feel towards their larger northern neighbor, and this can’t help but become a serious driving factor in the country’s politics over the next year.

Moreover, there’s a curious correlation between the slide in the Mexican peso and Trump’s election, with some analysts saying that it’s due to Trump promising to renegotiate or outright scrap NAFTA and others forecasting that Mexico will be in for more domestic troubles if the American President succeeds in deporting millions of illegal immigrants – some of them extraordinarily violent – back to the country.

No matter what the real reason might be, and it’s not yet clearly established, it’s evident that Trump’s policies are having a serious impact on Mexico’s domestic situation.

Take for example his promise to deport 2-3 million violent illegal immigrants, and possibly millions more who haven’t committed any violent crimes but are illegally using government benefits. This could swamp the Mexican job market with millions of people who might be unable to find work, despite the country having exhibited impressive growth over the past few years prior to Trump’s victory. Even worse, some of the deportees might join the drug cartels and exacerbate the wave of violence which has already led to so much communal devastation in the country. 

The very fact that Mexicans are already protesting, however, shows that there’s a clear tendency to blame Trump and the US to an extent, or at least use them as a scapegoat distraction. Usually when this happens, outside observers call it “nationalism”, so let’s call it what it is and see it through this prism.

With that being said, it’s uncertain at this early moment in time precisely how the rise in Mexican nationalism will play out at the polls, and whether it’ll boost a left-wing candidate or a right-wing one, but either way, it looks unlikely that it’ll be to the benefit of any moderate-technocratic candidate, and might put a lot of pressure on the present authorities to take a harder line towards the US. That, as we all can safely assume, will probably lead to a backlash from Trump and the continuation of this cycle of suspicion which will only feed into both side’s revived nationalisms and potentially lead to dramatic and unpredictable consequences.

DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution.

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