Mexicans have silently begun a campaign to debunk presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s bigotry, xenophobia and economic isolationism in an area where he is most vulnerable: the realm of accurate facts and figures.
To confront Trump’s daily Mexico-bashing, the Mexican government will launch a U.S. public relations campaign in early June. Meantime, a group of Mexican-American businesspeople is launching a lobbying group named American Mexico Public Affairs Committee, modeled after the pro-Israel AIPAC and other influential Washington lobbying groups. The new group has already started putting out facts and figures on social media.
“The best way to respond to xenophobic, or racist, or uninformed positions is with information, not with adjectives,” Mexican Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu told me in a recent interview.
To be sure, Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto, who has low popularity rates because of his poor handling of corruption and human-rights scandals, is hardly in a position to personally lead the charge against Trump.
If Peña Nieto did that, he would lose badly. Trump would shower the Mexican president with insults, calling him a moron who hasn’t been able to keep drug baron Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman from escaping from prison and who has yet to give a good explanation for his government’s dubious investigation into the 2014 disappearance of 43 students in the state of Guerrero.
Peña Nieto took a shot at Trump on March 8, when he said the U.S. presidential hopeful’s rhetoric is reminiscent of that of Hitler and Mussolini, but the Mexican leader has remained largely silent on the issue for months.
Now, I’m told by diplomatic sources, Peña Nieto has hired WPP and Burson-Marsteller public relations firms to design and execute a PR strategy in the U.S. It will include mass advertising and frequent responses to Trump’s attacks from Mexico’s new ambassador to Washington, Carlos Sada, who took office Thursday.
“The strategy will be to have higher visibility,” Sada says. “The idea is to not allow ourselves to become anybody’s punching bag for not having a mechanism to react to attacks.”
The privately run American Mexico Public Affairs Committee, which was registered in Texas on March 18, will seek to counter Trump’s concocted “facts” about Mexico with real figures from reliable U.S. sources. The group’s Twitter account, @AMxPAC, started putting out tweets in late April.
Arturo Sarukhan, a Mexican former ambassador to the United States and informal adviser to the PAC, told me that the group was founded by Mexican-American business people and that it receives “not one cent from the Mexican government or state or local governments.”
Sarukhan added that the group “is in the process of forming a non-partisan Super PAC to challenge or support both Democrats and Republicans, depending on their positions related to the Mexico-U.S. agenda.” He added, “Its objective is to send a signal there will be a cost to using Mexico and the Mexican diaspora as a political piñata.”
AMPAC and the Mexican government will counter Trump’s misleading claims that there is an avalanche of Mexican migrants coming into the United States, citing U.S. Census figures showing that the number of undocumented Mexicans entering the country has actually declined substantially since 2008.
To counter Trump’s claim in his inaugural campaign speech that most Mexican migrants are “bad people” and “rapists,” AMPAC tweeted that “Mexican immigrants generate $17 billion annually,” alongside a chart with Pew Research Center figures showing the details.
Responding to Trump’s almost daily accusations that Mexico is “killing us” in trade, the group tweeted that “40 percent of the content of Mexican exports to the U.S. was originally manufactured in the United States” — a fact that Trump conveniently fails to mention in his speeches.
Also, the group tweeted U.S. figures showing that the U.S. exports twice as much to Mexico as to China, and that Mexico ranks among the top three export markets for 33 U.S. states.
The AMPAC Twitter site is still rudimentary, and we will have to wait until June to see whether the government-paid PR campaign will be something more than a big money-maker for the PR firms. But it was time for Mexico and Mexicans to wake up and do something to stop being Trump’s punching bag.
Andres Oppenheimer is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org