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January 26, 2017

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https://www.thenation.com/article/dont-expect-mexicos-elites-to-stand-up-to-trump/

Thoughts from the perfesser on the validity of this? Seems to rob Peña of agency, but also reinforces my own ideas about where power lies in this relationship. And the worst-case it lays out is keeping me up nights.

That Nation article doesn't sound like there would be an effective capitulation. Mexico is profoundly screwed either, and I'd expect serious political challenges to said elites, despite all the gendarmes...

X: the worst case is indeed pretty bad. But I don't agree with the gist of the article. It reads a bit incoherent, in fact.

First, Mexico isn't dependent on direct aid from the United States. The entire Merida initiative since 2008 has come to only $2.5 billion. All U.S. aid came to $586 million in 2015. In contrast, Mexico's federal budget was around $270 billion that year.

Second, Grandin is simply wrong when he writes, “Mexican elites are much more dependent on the billions of dollars the United States gives its gendarmes in military aid to keep their own hungry citizens at bay than the United States is on Mexican policing.” The statement is weird. First, see above paragraph. Second, American aid goes to fighting organized crime. I can't say what will happen in the future, but right now that putative mass of rebellious hungry citizens being held down by U.S.-financed Mexican security forces exists only in Grandin's imagination.

Third, Mexican nationalism is in fact a thing. President Peña has been trying to pretend that Donald Trump was a completely normal U.S. presidential candidate and is a completely normal U.S. president. That pretense broke down this week. As you say, X, Peña has agency. He's been choosing to be conciliatory against the mass of Mexican public opinion. But now he's run out of capital. He can't conciliate Trump. I'd agree with Grandin that he won't be as hostile as he could over the next 1½ years, but again (as you suggest) that's on Peña himself rather than some group of comprador “elites.”

NAFTA will not be renegotiated on Trump's terms, although it may be unilaterally abrogated (de facto or de jure) by the United States. I will be astonished if that proves to be wrong.

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