The Trump Shock in Latin America

MEXICO CITY – Despite US President-elect Donald Trump’s crude behavior, insulting rhetoric, and vicious incitement over the past year and a half, the mantra in the coming days will inevitably be that it is time to move forward. His opponent, Hillary Clinton, and President Barack Obama have already wished him a successful presidency.

Outside the US, the focus will be on damage control, to protect US-European relations, NATO, and ongoing diplomatic efforts in the Middle East. But there is one world region that cannot possibly adopt a forward-looking attitude: Latin America.

For starters, since the start of his campaign, Trump has dismissed Mexico’s national interests and maligned its people’s character. He has repeatedly promised to deport all six million undocumented Mexicans living and working in the US, and to force Mexico to pay for the construction of a wall on the US-Mexican border. And he has said that he will renegotiate the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), scrap the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and discourage US companies from investing or creating jobs in Mexico.

It is rare to see an advanced democracy elect a leader who is so openly hostile to a neighboring country. And while Trump has not singled out any other Latin American countries in this way, his proposals would nevertheless affect many of them, if not all. Every Central American country is a source of migration to the US, as are many Caribbean and South American countries. Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Peru all have large populations of documented or undocumented nationals in the US, and they will all feel the effects of Trump’s policies, if they are enacted.