Take Two®

News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by A Martínez

How the US relationship with Mexico has reached a breaking point

by A Martínez and Elizabeth Muñoz | Take Two®

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People hold posters in support of immigration during a protest in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA, outside of the U.S. embassy in Mexico City, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. President Donald Trump plans to phase out the DACA program that has protected hundreds of thousands of young immigrants brought into the country illegally as children and is calling for Congress to find a legislative solution. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte) Marco Ugarte/AP

After Hurricane Harvey ripped through Houston, officials from Mexico reached out and offered to help relief efforts in any way they could.

But when Mexico was hit with an earthquake that killed nearly 100 people last week, how did the U.S. respond?

Cue awkward cricket sounds. 

As well wishes from other world leaders poured in, President Trump was notably silent.

Then there's the issue of DACA being phased out and the possibility that hundreds of thousands of people will be deported. And the wall the president has repeatedly said Mexico will pay for. 

All this — and more — has put a strain on an already fragile relationship between two nations with a long history of distrust. 

Former Mexican diplomat Jorge Guajardo served as ambassador to China from 2007-2013 and now lives in Washington, D.C. where he's a strategic consultant. He recently wrote an opinion piece for Politico and the title serves as a warning: "You won't like Mexico when it's angry."

He talked to Take Two's A Martinez, and here are some highlights from that interview:

In this piece, you write about a Mexico that has always been deeply suspicious of the U.S. and how recent events have only amplified those feelings. How would you gauge the relationship between our two countries right now?

The relationship is still good, it's still salvageable. It's probably at a breaking point and we know how that would happen. If President Trump continues tweeting, attacking, humiliating Mexico the way he's prone to do, there is no question about it.

Why write that op-ed now? 

Since everything works between Mexico and the United States, you sort of take it for granted. No, that is not the way it has always been or will continue to be. If you have an angry neighbor, all this cooperation will come down and you'll start noticing it.

You mentioned the lack of response to the earthquake in Mexico. If Donald Trump had send out some condolences, would it all be OK? 

No. We didn't need anything from the United States. But would it have killed him to express solidarity or concern like most every other world leader did? It's the type of the thing that makes you say "This country is not our friend." In a time of need, they can't even pick up the phone and say "Hey, how are you? Is everything OK?" And the response would've been "Thank you, no, we got this. But thank you for calling." That's it. That's all we're asking for. When we can't get that, we realize this is not a friendly country.

You mention it's at a breaking point. Is there one particular thing that could take it in that direction? 

Yes. We are going through the process of renegotiating NAFTA. Apart from being a trade agreement between Mexico, Canada and the United States, NAFTA has been a key instrument for bringing Mexico and the United States together. The thing to keep in mind is Mexicans, we have it in our DNA to mistrust the United States. It's a country that stole half of our territory. It's a country that invaded us. However, due to NAFTA, the Mexican people have been convinced that it's better to be a good partner with the U.S. And right now, we are going through renegotiations. The problem is that while we're doing that, Trump has taken to Twitter to either attack, humiliate, offend Mexico and that may lead Mexico to the position of just having to step away from the negotiating table and say we will not reach an agreement with someone who continues offending that.

There was always a chance that NAFTA could be dissolved, but you think that it might be Mexico that starts that process? 

I live in Washington D.C. and every time Trump goes out and says "Build a wall. Mexico will pay for it" or "Mexico is a crime infested country" and all those things he likes to say about Mexicans. People in Washington tell me, "Oh, don't pay attention. He's just pandering to his base." Every foreign leader also have bases they have to tend to. And in Mexico, the entirety of the population is saying to not subject us to humiliation by the United States. Not again, not ever. Our national dignity is at stake and we will not trample it for a deal, no matter how good or beneficial it is.

What kind of relationship change would occur if NAFTA goes away between the United States and Mexico? 

Mexico has sort of cracked down on its southern border to stop the flow of migrants from Central America to reach the United States. In essence, we are doing the United States' dirty work. Why? We decided it's best to cooperate with our trading partner who's our good friend than to be antagonistic. You take away the good partner and there is no reason why we should be cooperating. That's one example. Another example: terrorism. Mexico has detained and handed over to U.S. authorities more than 200 people suspected of terrorist links that were thought to be plotting something in Mexico to end the United States. Thanks to cooperation, we've been able to work closely with them and stop them in Mexico. You take away the "we're in this together" and there is simply no political appetite in Mexico to cooperate. If that country is humiliating us, no matter how much political leaders want to continue that cooperation, it just won't work. 

Click on the blue play button above to hear the entire interview.

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