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Mexico Funds The Wall, The U.S. Grabs The IDB. Trump Doesn't Malign Latin America, He Mentors It

THE TWO AMIGOS Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (left) during a visit with President Trump at the White House in July.
Anna Moneymaker
Getty/White House Pool
THE TWO AMIGOS Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (left) during a visit with President Trump at the White House in July.

COMMENTARY This week offers more signs – including a South Florida poll – that President Trump's won his campaign to bend Latin America to his purposes.

Mexico is helping to pay for the wall.

That’s not Trumpista propaganda scrolling across your Fox News screen. It’s a reasonable conclusion anyone could draw from an Associated Press reportthis week that Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s government diverted millions of dollars from a regional development fund so it can renovate immigrant detention centers on Mexico’s northern border.

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Those are the same detention centers that President Trump strong-armed López Obrador into setting up last year to warehouse mostly Central American migrants seeking U.S. asylum. They’re holding pens meant to keep these migrants out of the U.S. In other words: they’re de facto modules of the border wall Trump pledged to build and make Mexico pay for.

Now it turns out Mexico is paying for some of it. And that’s one more reason, as he runs for a second term, to declare Trump victorious in his campaign to bend Latin America to his MAGA machinations.

READ MORE: Trump's Better Than Dems at Using Latin America as a Political Prop. That's Not Really a Compliment

Other reasons abound. This weekend Mauricio Claver-Carone, Trump’s U.S. nominee to be the new president of the Inter-American Development Bank, looks likely to be electedby its board. If he is it’ll mark a radical and controversial break with hemispheric tradition: Almost all the IDB’s lending is done in Latin America and the Caribbean, so the bank’s president has always been from that region.

No matter – even though the Miami-born Claver-Carone, Trump’s top Latin America advisor, is a conservative hardliner on U.S. Cuba policy who many fear may turn the IDB into a lender that demands loyalty to that political agenda. (Claver-Carone, who is Cuban-American, insisted to me that’s a false concern, that he instead wants to make the IDB more of a “financial heavyweight” for Latin America and the Caribbean.)

Mexico's de facto decision to help pay for Trump's border barrier is just the latest reason to declare El Donaldo victorious in his bid to bend Latin America to his MAGA machinations.

Keep in mind, Trump’s been insulting Latin America and the Caribbean from the moment he descended his golden escalator and launched his presidential campaign in 2015. Mexican migrants are “rapists.” Predominantly Black Caribbean nations are “shitholes.” Puerto Rican hurricane victims get paper towels and presidential sneers tossed at them. Even Colombian President Iván Duque, one of Trump’s key hemispheric allies, “has done nothing for us,” Trump said last year.

Still, enough countries in Latin America, from giants like Brazil to underdogs like Haiti, are poised to either pick Trump’s man for the IDB or reject a postponement of the vote until after the November U.S. presidential election – even though polls show Trump trailing Joe Biden. And that’s a pretty strong indication of the fear Trump strikes in their leaders.


It’s economic – à la the tariff threats Trump used to co-opt López Obrador on immigration. It’s political – like the cover Trump gives Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro when he defiles the Amazon rainforest or disses COVID-19 victims. And it’s legal – a reminder that Trump has ignored resounding evidence of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández’s electoral fraud and ties to drug trafficking in exchange for Hernández’s submission on a host of issues.

But, you might point out, the left-wing despots in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua – Trump’s “troika of tyranny” – have stood up to El Donaldo. True, Trump’s crusade to topple those authoritarian regimes has so far failed bigly, as he’d say. But he’s turned even that into a Latin American triumph.

Cuban-American Trump supporters rally in Miami Lakes this summer.
Alexia Fodere
Miami Herald
Cuban-American Trump supporters rally in Miami Lakes this summer.

This week’s Bendixen & Amandi International/Miami Herald pollshows Trump leading Biden among Miami-Dade County’s Cuban voters by a margin that’s heavier than a caja china on New Year’s Eve: 38 points. This despite the reality that a dictatorial communist regime is still bloviating in Cuba. Last week a University of North Florida poll showed two-thirds of Florida’s Venezuelan voters prefer Trump – even though lefty loon Nicolás Maduro is still hard at work destroying Venezuela.

Merely acting tough with Havana and Caracas has proven enough to win over the expats, including conservative Colombians, who could push Trump over the top in must-win Florida.

And that development fund Mexico’s López Obrador is plundering to help pay for Trump’s immigration barriers? It’s supposed to help the benightedly poor and violent Central American countries those detained migrants are fleeing.

That’ll tickle Trump, who cuts aid to Central America for breakfast. Which leads us to another revelation: All this time, Trump wasn’t maligning Latin America. He was mentoring it.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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