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As U.S. Presidential Election Nears, Mexicans Fear Economic Impact


Remember when Donald Trump announced his presidency last summer and said this?


DONALD TRUMP: When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some I assume are good people.

CORNISH: Mexicans have not forgotten about that, and all week we've been talking to international journalists about the view of the U.S. election in their home countries. Javier Garza is with us today. He's a journalist in Mexico. He joined us via Skype from Torreon, which is in the northern part of the country. Welcome to the program.

JAVIER GARZA: Hi, Audie. Thank you.

CORNISH: So we've talked to other journalists from Russia, from China about name recognition of these two candidates. I assume it's pretty safe to say that the name recognition in Mexico for both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are pretty good.

GARZA: Oh, yeah. They're extremely well-known and not just in the context of the presidential campaign - I mean Hillary Clinton of course since the time that she was first lady. And Donald Trump - his fame as a businessman really predates his recognition as a politician.

CORNISH: Listening back to that piece of audio, is there anything that Donald Trump could say to make people forget about that comment or change, I guess, public sentiment there?

GARZA: I don't think so because even if he came out with a comment that is 180 degrees different from what he said last year, I don't think it would be believable.

CORNISH: What it is about the policies people are hearing about out of the U.S. election that worry them?

GARZA: Well, it's basically the rhetoric out of Donald Trump, talking about building a wall and then, you know, making Mexico pay for it, which is really - the reaction down here is basically mocking. But after you could get past the joke, there is a sense of worry in thinking, you know, if Trump gets to the White House, how is he going to affect the bilateral relationship that expresses itself most visibly in movement of goods and peoples - so basically trade and immigration.

So the worry is, what is he going to do once he gets to the White House? Is he going to tighten controls for Mexicans going into the United States even legally? Is he going to impose tariffs on Mexican exports?

CORNISH: As you've alluded to, Mexico is the U.S.'s third-largest trading partner, and Donald Trump has really railed against the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement - NAFTA - that was signed by Bill Clinton and essentially took away taxes on imports shipped between the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

But over the years Hillary Clinton has also backed away from NAFTA. Public sentiment in the U.S. seems to be backing away from globalization in trade. What's the view in Mexico about how this is being discussed?

GARZA: Well, there is a worry regardless of who gets the White House what is going to happen to NAFTA. Hillary Clinton's rhetoric on NAFTA isn't nearly as tough and as straight and as radical as Donald Trump's, so there might be less worry. It's more like an expectation of what's going to be the change.

The change is probably going to have to do with labor issues. That's understandable. But with Donald Trump, it's really a frightening prospect of what can happen and how the Mexican economy might suffer damage from it.

CORNISH: When we spoke to a journalist from Russia, he commented on the idea that Hillary Clinton is there seen as an extension of Barack Obama and policies that Russians don't like, don't support. When it comes to Mexico, are there aspects of the Obama legacy that extend to Hillary Clinton that make people view her in a different light?

GARZA: No, I don't think so because the Obama administration hasn't developed policies that have been rejected in Mexico. I mean I think one of Obama's policies that has been the most criticized is the number of deportations that have occurred under his presidency. Other than that, in terms of the bilateral relationship, there hasn't really been anything controversial.

Assistance to Mexico continued. In some cases, Mexicans look to the United States' judicial system to uncover corruption cases by Mexican politicians, and that's something that is recognized down here. So if Hillary Clinton is looked at as an extension of Barack Obama, I don't think that's a negative for her in Mexico just as it wouldn't be a negative if she is seen as an extension of Bill Clinton's presidency because Clinton is very popular in Mexico.

CORNISH: One difference with Mexico compared to, say, Russia or China, where the other journalists we've spoken to are from, is Univision - right? - a very powerful Spanish-language network that has great reach in the U.S. How have they influenced I guess the coverage - right? - even in Mexico. They've had a high-profile anchor clash with Trump.

GARZA: Yeah, well, Jorge Ramos is, you know - he's an incredible journalist. I think he's really a model of how journalism is meeting activism in this particular election in the case of immigration in the sense that he and others at Univision have been pretty open about taking up the cause of immigration. And I think that has helped tremendously.

It's also I think one of the factors that has kept Trump persistently covering his positions on immigration and his positions on Hispanics. They're the ones who have made sure that the issue doesn't go away.

CORNISH: Javier Garza, thank you so much for speaking with us.

GARZA: Thank you, Audie. My pleasure.

CORNISH: Javier Garza is an independent journalist from Mexico. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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