Mexico is not a threat to the United States as the two bordering countries are stronger together, a former Mexican president told a Sarasota crowd on Wednesday.
“That’s the real message we need to reemphasize,” Felipe Calderon said, leading the Ringling College Library Association Town Hall Lecture Series at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.
Delivering a message of cooperation, Calderon, who was president of Mexico from 2006 to 2012, talked about “The Mexico-USA Relationship, a View from the South,” in which he highlighted how Mexico is an ally, not a threat to the United States as has been portrayed by U.S. President Donald Trump.
“Mexico is a great partner for the United States, for the American people,” Calderon said to the full crowd in Sarasota. “It is one of the best partners. Don’t lose this partner. Don’t lose this ally. Don’t lose this friend.”
Throughout his campaign and into the early months of his presidency, Trump has promised to build a wall at the U.S. border with Mexico — not a good idea in order to continue to be allies, Calderon said.
“We need to try to understand that the only way in which we can improve the quality of life of the people on both sides of the border is through cooperation,” Calderon said.
Calderon highlighted how important Mexico is to areas such as trade, tourism and national security, arguing that Mexico isn’t the real threat to the United States.
“Most of the Mexican people are honest and hard-working people,” he said. “We are not the enemy.”
The North American Free Trade Agreement has been great for both countries, Calderon said, adding that for Mexico, it has created better jobs with better pay.
“But also on the American side, 1.1 million families depend on the export of American products to Mexico,” he said. “Mexico is the second-largest buyer of American products in the world. If we try to stop or deter the trade with Mexico, the American workers will suffer as well. We need to reemphasize and strengthen our bilateral relationship instead of damage or blow that bilateral relationship — especially with trade.”
With respect to Mexicans coming to the United States, the net migration from Mexico is now negative, Calderon said, as there are more Mexicans going back to Mexico than coming to the United States.
“The immigration from Mexico is not the issue,” he said. “We, the Mexicans, we are not the enemy of the United States. We are a powerful ally. It has been a powerful ally and there’s a lot at stake trying to worsen this relationship. Fortunately, I think things have been more moderated already, and I hope those things will continue in that way.”
The Americans are quickly losing the image of being the supportive friend and neighbor, Calderon warned.
“The Americans are losing in a few months what took several decades to get, which is a better image around the globe,” he said. “As long as the American image in Latin America is worsening, that is creating more anti-American feelings, more anti-American politicians and more anti-American support for those politicians — and yes, that is increasing.”
Polarization is becoming the norm, particularly in the United States, Calderon said.
“I believe that’s not good,” he said. “To be polarized in the way we are right now here in the States will divide the societies.”
Prior to his lecture, Calderon met with local media as well as two Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School students who sat on either side of Calderon during the media roundtable.
“This is really interesting,” said senior Ian Sharff, 17, who lives in Bradenton. “It is a great opportunity. It is really exciting seeing a former foreign leader.”
Fellow Saint Stephen’s senior Jonathan Boyd said he is really lucky to have the opportunity to meet Calderon.
“It’s not every day that you get to meet the former president of any country,” the 18-year-old said.
Ringling College Library Association Town Hall Lecture Series for 2018
- Jan. 22, 2018: Former CIA Director John Brennan
- Feb. 12, 2018: Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham
- March 5, 2018: Michael Lewis, author who wrote “The Big Short,” “Moneyball” and “The Blind Side”
- March 19, 2018: Siddhartha Mukherjee, a cancer physician, researcher and author
- April 9, 2018 : Reshma Saujani, who is founder and CEO of Girls Who Code