Trump Troops Play Into Hands of Nationalist Mexico Candidate

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. President Donald Trump has lashed out at Mexico so many times this week it’s hard to keep track. What’s easier to figure out is who will benefit from his attacks: a presidential candidate in Mexico known for his own nationalist leanings.

It began with a tweet on Easter Sunday where Trump warned that if Mexico didn’t stop a caravan of migrants from reaching the U.S. border he would end Nafta. The caravan of more than 1,000 Central Americans fleeing violence then became his argument to stop DACA, build a wall, pass immigration laws, and finally, to send troops to the border with Mexico.

That’s where Mexico drew the line. Sensitive to any questioning of its sovereignty, the government called on Trump to explain what the national guard would be doing there, and President Enrique Pena Nieto said there’s no justification for threats in U.S.-Mexico relations. That’s also when contenders for the July 1 presidential election chimed in, inserting Trump into an election that has largely been about local issues. While all of the candidates criticized the U.S. president, the one whose response rings truer is leftist frontrunner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

"Lopez Obrador could capitalize more on this than any other," Washington-based Eurasia Group analyst Carlos Petersen said in an interview. "It strengthens his position that he’s been critical of how the government has managed this, and that he could do a better job."

While Ricardo Anaya of a right-left coalition called the troop movement a "hostile" act and Jose Antonio Meade of the ruling PRI party condemned it as an aggression, Lopez Obrador went a step further, saying he’d form a human chain at the border.

"It’s very likely that Lopez Obrador will take the most advantage of this," Jesus Cantu, a political scientist at the Tecnologico de Monterrey. "For the everyday Mexican this represents an aggression and a position of weakness for the government."

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