Mexico wakes up to reality of Trump presidency

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The weather here in Mexico City reflects most people’s mood at the moment – it’s miserable, chilly and it feels like winter has arrived.

But Mexicans barely noticed the driving rain on Tuesday night as they gathered to watch the U.S. election results come in.

Mexicans fear a Trump presidency could bring economic pain (Reuters)
Mexicans fear a Trump presidency could bring economic pain (Reuters)

There was, initially, a feeling of celebration. A party had been organised on Facebook in the event that Trump lost – thousands were ready to head to the Angel of Independence, an iconic landmark in the centre of the capital, to celebrate his exit.

But instead the atmosphere turned funereal. As results started coming in, people drifted away from bars where they had gathered and went home. The feeling here is one of shock and disbelief. I’ve asked several people how they feel and their responses have been similar. “Hijole,” they say – the best translation for that really is “jeez” or “gosh”. Then they pause, laugh nervously and say “Who knows?” They can’t quite get their heads around it.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto tweeted on Wednesday morning, congratulating the U.S. for its “electoral process”. He later said in a press conference that he had congratulated Mr Trump when the two men had had a respectful conversation.

He reiterated too that Mexico was ready to work together to help their bilateral relationship, emphasizing how the two countries are friends and allies.

Mr Pena Nieto has been criticised for giving Mr Trump the red carpet treatment (EPA)
Mr Pena Nieto has been criticised for giving Mr Trump the red carpet treatment (EPA)

But it will hold little weight here. People are still angry that their leader invited Mr Trump to Mexico and gave a man who had been so rude to Mexicans the red carpet treatment. Mr Trump’s win will do nothing for President Pena’s already low approval ratings.

Mexicans are fuming about the political rhetoric that has come from the Trump camp during the campaign – the references to them being criminals and rapists, the constant talk about illegal immigration.

Mexicans working in the U.S. bring back around US$25bn (£20bn) a year in remittances. Mexicans believe they contribute to the US economy and are offended that Mr Trump doesn’t value that.

However the threats that the U.S. will build a wall on its southern border and Mexico will pay for it are laughed at in Mexico. People don’t really think it will happen so it’s not a real worry.

Money worries

What does worry Mexicans is the economic pain that could come from a Trump presidency.

As the results came in overnight, the peso fell by as much as 13% – the biggest drop in more than 20 years. It has since regained some of its losses but nevertheless the falling peso is a major talking point here.

Whether it’s the Trump effect or anger over Mr Pena Nieto’s leadership, people are fed up with their purchasing power continually falling.

But what happens when Mr Trump becomes President and starts implementing changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) as he’s promised? These are real threats that worry Mexicans.

Finance Minister Jose Antonio Meade and Central Bank Governor Agustin Carstens held a brief press conference early on Wednesday. It was more about reassurance than anything concrete – telling the world that Mexico was financially stable enough to weather the storm.

But as one commentator wrote in El Universal newspaper on Wednesday, black clouds hang over the country, especially when it comes to trade.

The weather forecast is set to remain gloomy for the next five days, much like the outlook of the average Mexican.

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