Mexico's 'problemita': The other border
Yesterday, I was speaking by phone with a Mexican friend. He is a successful businessman who is center-right when it comes to politics. He is torn between the two centrist candidates, Mr. Meade of the incumbent PRI and Mr. Anaya of the PAN.
He is concerned about leftist candidate Mr. López Obrador, who is currently ahead in the polls, but the lead is shrinking as he continues to speak in generalities without much substance.
AMLO, as his supporters call him, may win, but I hear a lot of concern from middle-class Mexicans about electing someone like that. So don’t bet on his election yet!
My friend and I spoke about the "caravan" of Central Americans going north. He called it our "problemita," or our little problem. I should add that Mexicans often use the word "problemita" to refer to a problem no one wants to talk about.
My friend told me to read a new article from ICG on the problems Mexico faces in the southern states:
Poverty and violence in the Northern Triangle of Central America (comprising El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras) are forcing hundreds of thousands of Central Americans to flee each year to Mexico.
Most are heading north due to deep economic insecurity. But 39.2 per cent of Central Americans surveyed in Mexico by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in December 2016 said they left their homes because they or their families were attacked, threatened, extorted or pressured to join criminal gangs; many in such circumstances would likely qualify as refugees, entitled to international protection under applicable laws.
They are going to or sitting in Mexico's southern states.
Welcome to Mexico's "problemita."
On one hand, they don't want these people or have allowed them to travel to the U.S. in the past. They've done their best to stop the flow, but now the Central Americans have figured out that caravans get international media coverage. In other words, they can't send the Mexican Army and push them back to their countries. They used to do that, but now the whole thing would be captured by international cameras or iPhones in the caravan.
On the other hand, Mexico's opposition to President Trump's border stance has sent mixed signals that Mexico has gone soft on illegal aliens. They really haven't gone soft, but Central Americans are hearing the Mexican political class call President Trump's tough illegal immigration stance as inhumane and so on.
So what are Central Americans doing? Well, they are going north and hoping Mexico will grant them asylum.
It's a mess – a "problemita," as my friend called it. Mexico always saw illegal immigration as a convenient way of sending young men north, who cut our grass and send a remittance to their mothers.
The problem is that Central Americans want to do the same thing by traveling through or moving to Mexico.
It's all enough to create a little resentment for illegal aliens in southern Mexico. There is a great quote in the article:
Xenophobia is now spreading across southern Mexico as anger festers over the arrival of unprecedented numbers of Central Americans in towns insufficiently equipped by the state to cope with the influx.
Yes, this is the "problemita" my friend is talking about. A big problem, don't you think?