Trump And The World

The Wall Of Trump: Stand Your Ground, Pena Nieto!

Climbing the fence between U.S. and Mexico in Tijuana
Climbing the fence between U.S. and Mexico in Tijuana


SANTIAGOFinally. The Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto reacted correctly to the new U.S. President Donald J. Trump, canceling the meeting they were scheduled to have last week. Mr. Peña Nieto seems to have come into his own!

Trump had asked for the meeting, to discuss trade, immigration and above all, frontier security. That frontier that the new American president seems to believe must become an unbreakable barrier to stop the entry of a bunch of rapists and criminals from Mexico.

Peña Nieto's reaction was hardly gratuitous. It follows a terrible piece of discourtesy Made in Trumplandia: a high-level delegation led by Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray, the former finance minister removed from his post for engineering the fiasco of Trump's visit to Mexico during the U.S. presidential campaign, had flown north for a visit to fine-tune the details of another meeting between Trump and Peña Nieto. That is when, in the latest move of his neverending political poker game, Trump decided was the perfect moment to sign his executive order to formally build the despicable wall he has been promising, and loudly repeat what he kept saying in his campaign: That Mexico would pay for it.

From that moment, the pressure on Peña Nieto peaked, and this time heard the people's outraged clamor demanding an end to the repeated slaps of denigration being thrown at Mexican dignity. It all seemed like a resuscitation of the United States' past humiliations of Mexico, even the original usurpation of vast tracts of its territory in the mid-19th century.

From Left of the Mexican political spectrum, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the demagogue who almost won the 2006 presidential elections and will very likely run in 2018, proposed that Mexico denounce the U.S. moves at the United Nations. On the Right, where one of the fiercest critics has been the former president Vicente Fox and his one-time foreign minister Jorge Castañeda, the president was being urged to take a tough line with Trump.

Peña Nieto's reaction surprised Trump and his government, leading him to distort the facts, not for the first time, and claiming that both presidents had decided to cancel the meeting, when in fact it was Peña's decision. Trump also said he would be forced to seek out other formulae to allow Mexico to finance his wall.

Before and after

It is notable that Trump should not have seen the radical changes the NAFTA free-trade treaty has brought to Mexico. Before NAFTA, Mexico was a land of profoundly anti-American sentiments, a feeling fanned by its governments both in their bilateral policy and in various international settings.

With the treaty, Mexico began a new phase of important structural reforms. It paved the way for a modern, multiparty democracy (instead of one, ruling party, the PRI, which held all the power until 2000), with freedom of expression and reporting (when PRI governments previously controlled the press by controlling paper importation). The markets began to open and allow more competition and the economy stabilized, in spite of imperfections, moving away from the big financial shocks of the past. This meant a reduction of migrant flows toward the United States, to the point where they are significantly less now than they were 20 or even 10 years ago.

In addition Mexico has become the second largest recipient of U.S. exports, a great friend and strategic ally, so necessary at the present historical juncture when fighting terrorism, drug trafficking and corruption are priorities.

Certainly, we cannot attribute all these improvements in Mexico to the United States. Obviously most of the credit goes to Mexico and its political will to make changes, but nor can one ignore how far NAFTA helped forge these changes.

These are precisely Mexico's great assets against Trump. And, yes, the fight is against Trump, not the United States. We all know there is an ample majority of Americans that understands Mexico's importance to their country, and appreciates with embarrassment that this little war against Mexico is the fruit of ignorance, inexperience and the type of populist leadership that feeds on "enemies' to keep its supporters fired up and lively.

So stand firm Peña Nieto! Time is on your side. Trump is opening so many fronts simultaneously that he will not be able to fight all his battles. Nor would one be surprised to his support base starting to melt away soon.

As for Mexicans, as former President Fox said, they are small but "feisty," and the Trump humiliations has done nothing but stir patriotic sentiments. Trump will start to feel that across the border, wall or no wall.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!