According to new revelations, Donald Trump’s ‘Bully Diplomacy’ claimed its first victim on Friday 27 January. The US President allegedly “humiliated” Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in a “very offensive” phone call.
Details of the phone call
On 1 February, renowned Mexican journalist Carmen Aristegui spoke [Spanish] to US-based reporter Dolia Estévez, who claimed to have “obtained confidential information” about the phone call between Trump and Peña Nieto. Citing sources on both sides of the call, Estévez said:
it was a very offensive conversation where Trump humiliated Peña Nieto… They’re misleading us by saying ‘everything’s going really well’, ‘we spoke very amicably’…
The Trump Administration “doesn’t want to negotiate”, she insisted, but to “confront Mexico”.
According to Estévez, Trump used “a threatening tone”. And he allegedly said:
I don’t need Mexicans. I don’t need Mexico. We’re going to build the wall. And you’re going to pay whether you like it or not.
The US President also reportedly insisted that, if Mexico couldn’t deal effectively with its drug cartels, he “may have to send troops to assume this task”.
Trump’s bad attitude towards Mexico
Many Mexican citizens were shocked and saddened when Trump became President. This was because he had announced proposals during his campaign to deport millions of Mexicans from the US, and to build a “big, beautiful, powerful wall” on the Mexican border. And he essentially called Mexican immigrants drug dealers, criminals, and rapists in the process.
In spite of all that, Peña Nieto actually invited him to Mexico during his electoral campaign. This was very unpopular among Mexicans. And especially for a sitting president whose approval ratings had fallen to 23% in recent months. As the US is Mexico’s main trading partner, however, Peña Nieto’s diplomatic stance was perhaps understandable.
But according to Estévez, Trump actually told [Spanish] Peña Nieto in the 27 January phone call:
I really didn’t want to go to Mexico last August.
One of his most influential advisers had apparently convinced him to do so.
Since his inauguration, Trump’s stance has become no more diplomatic. In his first week as President, he insisted again that Mexico would pay for his wall. And when Peña Nieto insisted that it wouldn’t, Trump said: “If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting.” The leaders cancelled that meeting soon afterwards.
Will Peña Nieto stand up to Trump?
Although Estévez stressed [Spanish] that “Trump’s attitude was everything but constructive”, Peña Nieto allegedly tried to explain during the phone call that Mexico still hopes for a constructive relationship with the US. In short, she said:
Faced with this unusual assault, Peña was not firm. He stuttered.
This is not to say that we should sympathise with Peña Nieto. While Trump was clearly trying to assert his dominance in this conversation, the Mexican leader is no hero. He won the 2012 presidential election thanks to massive media support and alleged voter fraud. And his rule has been plagued by human rights violations, corruption, and unpopular neoliberal policies.
He has so far tried to avoid playing Trump’s power games, and that’s perhaps praiseworthy. But at the same time, he looks no closer to truly standing up to Trump’s aggression.
Overall, the phone call revelations show us the type of diplomacy that Trump is likely to use when he wants something from another country. And that’s worrying.
In 2005, The New York Times wrote that George W Bush was engaging in “Schoolyard Bully Diplomacy”. And that seems to be Trump’s school of thought, too. George Washington University’s Prof Hugh Gusterson says:
Trump is an insecure man who pumps up his ego by bullying others and publicly performing dominance over them… his first instinct—and with Trump the first instinct is also the last instinct—is to bully, bluster, and threaten.
This type of diplomacy, he insists, “often turns out to be disastrous”.
But that’s precisely the type of diplomacy Trump is currently employing with Mexico. And it’s unlikely to end well.
– Read more from The Canary about Mexico.
– See more TrumpWatch articles.
Featured image via Gage Skidmore/Flickr
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