Bob Bestler

Trump would be wise to keep Mexico close

I hope President Trump was just kidding around when he reportedly told the president of Mexico he might send troops across the border to take care of all the “bad hombres.”

My family happens to like Mexico. We spend a week or two there every couple of years: my wife, my daughter, two of my grandsons.

We love Mexico and we love Mexicans. They could not be nicer to us – and not just in the resorts where their job is to be nice. Even out in the towns we visit.

So I really would hate to see Mr. Trump declare war on Mexico and I hope his people are correct when they say it was just a “lighthearted” threat. But, hey, he is Donald J. Trump and he is now the president.

I know a lot of people share the president’s disdain for Mexico. And I know a lot of people would never vacation there, fearing death by cartel. I've talked to some of them and I can only laugh.

I’ve never shared that fear, mainly because we do not visit the border cities in the Southwest, where cartels are often at war with each other.

We stay on the beautiful Mayan Riviera or, on occasion, Cabo San Lucas on the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula. Both places are safe and filled with American tourists who are unafraid.

I really don’t understand why Trump and his followers have such disrespect for this country.

Mexico is not a struggling, backward country. Its more than 109 million people make it the 11th most populated nation on earth.

It has the 15th largest economy, second only to Brazil in Latin America, and is our third most important trading partner, after Canada and China. And as Sen. Lindsay Graham noted, with tongue in cheek, we can't afford to go without Mexico’s Coronas and tequila and margaritas.

Mexico City is the oldest city in North America, predating St. Augustine, Fla., by 240 years. In itself, Mexico City claims the fifth largest economy in Latin America.

Mexico is 85 percent Catholic, with the second largest number of Catholics of any country in the world. Only Brazil has more.

(Having been raised in a Catholic school, I can tell you that respect for God – and Sister James – is instilled in Mexicans early.)

Absolutely there are problems in our relationship with Mexico. Drugs do cross the border and cause immense problems for law enforcement as well as for health workers.

Too many undocumented workers have crossed the border illegally, a problem that needs to be addressed rationally.

And some American companies have built plants there, some for the lower labor costs, some simply to be closer to the Mexican market.

The new Trump administration wants to make serious corrections, but maybe it shouldn’t start with jokes about sending troops.

America does have plenty of real enemies, but Mexico is not one of them. Nor should it ever be.

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