By Maribel Hastings and David Torres
Last Sunday Donald Trump called Mexico an “abuser” because the country “only takes and never gives.” As the saying goes, “that’s like the pot calling the kettle black.”
Because not only have the immigration policies of this president been abusive, above all the separation of families at the border, losing track of the separated children, and even the deaths of six minors in custody at U.S. detention centers. It’s also the historic baggage that a declaration like that carries with it, when you think about the abuses committed by the United States not only in Mexico but in all of Latin America, half-tolerated and unjustly treated as a “backyard” to carry out strategic abuses in moments considered “dangerous” to U.S. national interests.
In fact, the historic relationship between these eternal “distant neighbors,” a phrase coined by journalist Alan Riding in his book about Mexico from the 1980s, has rather been an accumulation of good intentions, where the United States’ permanent discomfort with having to deal with a less fortunate economy has become the norm —in an inevitable geographic relationship that will always remain this way, like it or not, until the end of time.
That is, this country surely would have preferred another type of neighbor to the south which —even after an unequal relationship and constant bullying, particularly in the historical beginning of this bilateral relationship— would continue to be submissive and lacking in autonomy, bowing down to what the North would want.
The loss of the Mexican territory in the 19th Century, the interventionist threat of the U.S. in Veracruz in 1914, and even the punishing expedition of 1917 to persecute, in vain, the revolutionary boss Pancho Villa on Mexican land, point to an undeniable ambush to which the latest ultimatum —to gradually increase tariffs to products from Mexico if this country does not deter undocumented migration destined for the United States— is added.
That is, like all abusers, he blames others for a problem that he in fact created, morally, economically, historically, and above all, militarily.
In reality, it is precisely the U.S. interventions, at different moments in history and in different ways, that cemented the basis for the chaos and violence that envelops the countries from which migrants are fleeing today, particularly in Central America. A vicious cycle that is interpreted, here and now, as an “invasion,” but which the “Wheel of Fortune” establishes yet another reality full of economic disproportions with ever more brutal gaps.
It’s clear that many of the governments of these countries also do not have clean hands, and have been accomplices in the abuse. Many of these interventions were conducted with the endorsement and full knowledge of these very same governments, or through the assistance of corrupt militaries who did not hesitate to incarcerate, torture, and kill their own people. That is, in order to defend its military, commercial, and economic interests, the United States has toppled governments and collaborated with dictators when it suited them, and when they were no longer useful, had no problem in overthrowing them or bringing charges against the very same dictators who had become inconvenient.
This is a formula so obvious that its infallibility, up to now, must necessarily demonstrate the true essence of a country pushing regional misfortunes as a function of its national aggression. There is no mystery or critique in this; it’s a simple, Manichaean reality that has become a convenient normality for this economy and its power. That is how the system works, the experts would say.
Expansionism also brought this country to the Spanish-American War, which culminated in the Treaty of Paris in 1898, in which Spain renounces its territorial claim over Cuba cedes Guam and Puerto Rico to the United States, and also transfers its control over the Philippines to the United States for the modest sum of $20 million.
And how to forget the parade of overthrown governments that unseated Latin American leaders “uncomfortable” to the interests of the United States, ensuring the power of military men and dictators who violated the very rights the United States claims to defend.
That is, decades of abuse, violence, corruption, and forgetting have been a breeding ground that prevails, for example, in Central America, from where most of the families that continue to arrive at the crowded border originate.
Now, these families are seeking refuge in a nation that at one point in history intervened in some way in their own countries. What is happening is in large part is what the United States has sown and is now washing its hands of. Or, in the case of Trump, eliminating economic assistance programs for non-governmental organizations that are trying to assist their countrymen so that they do not become yet another tragic statistic at the U.S. border.
Each migrant and each family that arrives at this country searching for refuge is a product of a chain of abuses that have been registered in their nations’ histories and that of this country, linked precisely by that historical barbarism, and not by neighborliness that produces success across continents and regions, improving the functioning of societies that need to address and resolve their inequalities.
But unfortunately they say ignorance is bliss, and Trump is throwing rocks at our southern neighbor and people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.