Mexico: a view from Germany

As I arrived in Germany a month ago, I thought that everybody would ask me about Mexico’s current political situation, our relationship with Trump or the migrant crisis on our Southern border.

Mexico is, after all, one of the world’s biggest economies with more than 120 million inhabitants.

Yet nobody cared.

But make no mistake, we can’t put the blame on the Germans. It’s our fault.

Over the course of the past decades, Mexicans have managed themselves to become irrelevant in the global arena.

Yes, there might have been some efforts -especially during the last administration- to “bring the world to Mexico and to show Mexico to the world” but so far, our country is still away from exerting real political influence in the international stage.

If we compare Mexico to Brazil or Turkey, two growing regional powers just like us, we could see how those countries have managed to push their political agenda with quite relative success.

Brazil and Turkey might not have the same leverage as China or India, but nobody would argue against the fact that they are key strategic actors within their regions.

Yes, Brazil also suffers from corrupt governments, lack of proper infrastructure or an outdated educational system just like Mexico; yet Brazilians do believe they must exert a much more active international policy if they want to become the power horse of South America.

During the past weeks, wild fires on the Amazon have prompted international criticism towards Brazil, yet Bolsonaro has somehow managed to use the current situation to strengthen his country’s stance on various issues such as global warming, international peace keeping operations and maritime security.

One may dislike Bolsonaro’s awkward political manners, but at least his country has a voice.

By the way, Brazil is much more than the Amazon crisis.

Just as Macron was criticizing Brazil precisely over that matter, the Brazilian Navy continued its submarine program with the help of, well…France.

Yes, the French are helping Brazil to build four modified Scorpene SSKs and one SSN (nuclear-powered submarine).

In the next ten to fifteen years, Brazil will be the only Latin American country with such naval capability, aiming to protect the country’s vast maritime resources in the so-called Amazonia Azul.

With the recently-acquired helicopter carrier HMS Ocean, the Gripen fifth-generation fighter and several high-tech defense programs, Brazil is ready to exert a much more active muscle both regionally and globally.

One thing is a media-empowered crisis (yes, the Amazon situation is not a new thing at all) and quite another is Brazil’s strategic stance towards the 21th. Century.

In regard to Turkey, we may also dislike President Erdogan’s position towards the free press or actions against his country’s democratic institutions, yet from a real-politik perspective, the Turks are the de facto strategic buffer between Asia and Europe.

As Bruno Macaes points out in his marvelous book “The Dawn of Eurasia”, under the leadership of Erdogan, Turkey transformed itself from a holiday resort -where Europeans would spend their money- to a regional power horse that doesn’t need Europe as it used to be.

Yes, Europe is still important to Turkey, but the Turks are no longer thinking to become an active member of the European Union anymore.

Turkey is also walking away NATO, acquiring Russian state-of-the-art air defense systems and building an impressive naval force that may rival the Italian and Spanish navies in the coming decade.

I don’t underestimate the huge social and political challenges that Turkey is facing, but at least the Turks understand that this brave new world -in the words of Anja Manuel- requires boldness and strategic thinking.

By the way, I’m comparing Mexico to Turkey for its economy is about the same size as ours -around USD $2.3 Trillion in PPPs according to the World Bank.

For us Mexicans, the key questions remain the same: do we really think that our country doesn’t deserve an active role in the international arena?

Are we going to pretend that the world out there doesn’t really affect us?

Are we going to remain a past-driven society instead of designing a better, brighter future?

I’m afraid we are running out of time.

Actually, while we keep looking for answers, Brazil and Turkey -and perhaps many other countries- will be way ahead of us.

 

Photo: National Museum of German History, Berlin. August 2019.

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