BOGOTÁ —The declarations Donald Trump made in last week's inauguration speechmark a major shift for the United States on both the domestic and international fronts. His nationalist exhortations, and call for other countries to follow the same path, are the kind of dangerous demagoguery that often leads to war and misery.
Trump's claims that "for too long, a small group in our nation's capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost" and that "Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth" are not unlike words a new president might say in a 1970s Latin American capital, not to mention certain places in Europe in the 1930s.
The thanks Trump sent to "the people of the world" suggests imperial visions from someone seeking a universal mandate. Was he forgetting for a moment that inside the United States each state governor has more powers to handle his or her people's daily lives than anyone at the White House? He has shown little understanding of the world's complexities and the lengthy processes that have helped remove borders. These may be the ideas of someone who has only worked in his own companies, far removed from institutional realities such as the balance of powers or restrictions of international treaties.
There's no reason to think that, when harping on Mexicans throughout his campaign, Trump wanted to differentiate between Mexican migrants and those from El Salvador, Honduras or anywhere else in Latin America. If there were other Latin American countries bordering the United States, the Trump treatment would be the same, with insults and calls for a wall. Because ultimately, millions of Latin Americans have entered or want to enter the United States, or have children there.
For someone who talks so much about the injustices of a system co-opted by an indolent political elite, he ought to understand better than anyone the dynamics at work in so many Latin American countries. He would understand the reasons for migration and the tremendous commitment migrants can make to the country he now governs. He might be more considerate to Hispanic migrants and the work they do, so crucial to the U.S. economy in part because it is labor that so many Americans spurn.
The coming years will be a test for Latin America's strength and solidarity. Trump isn't just a problem for Mexico, which has already had its fair share of ordeals. This concerns all of our countries. We must not abandon Mexico, because from its border with the U.S. way down to the tip of the Southern Cone, we are all targets of a new policy and strategic vision. For so many reasons, from our shared histories to our current realities, we are all brothers with the Mexicans.
Our foreign ministries, which are sometimes shamefully used to curry favor with Washington, should be working on a common pact for a constructive dialogue with this administration. We must come together as a single Latin American bloc, because without a solid alliance, we won't be able to command the respect we deserve in the international power game. This is not the time for isolated ambition or opportunism. Any weakness on our part could have fatal consequences, any division will breed contempt. Because while me may hope for the best, with Trump now in power, we must expect the worst.