When you see visual journalists from the major newswire organizations in a particular scene and what is happening isn’t a pre-planned, public function, you’re safe to consider it a media event. And, when that scene is so full of photographers and videographers that they can hardly get out of each other’s way (notice cameras, above, left, right and center), you’re safe to draw the same conclusion.
The latest Trump storm, as you probably know, has to do with a potential a tariff war with Mexico. Trump was threatening to bring down the hammer (meaning, upping the cost of Mexican goods to American consumers, and wreaking havoc on a complex trade relationship) if Mexico didn’t up its game in slowing the tide of Central American immigration.
In the end, we saw Trump as a paper tiger, once again declaring victory for unwinding a crisis of his own making. He not only backed down on his threats in the face of overwhelming pressure from his team and the GOP Congress, but the supposedly hard fought concessions he extracted from Mexico involved nothing more than what they had already promised months earlier. Still, the power Trump wields, and his mercurial nature, are not to be taken lightly. That’s why his adversaries have developed different tactics for managing him. In cases like this, it includes highly visible gestures that he will see on TV that can placate him just long enough for his attention to shift to a different dumpster fire.
So last week, at the same time Mexican officials were trapped in a high profile squeeze at the White House, their government executed a perceptual game plan. One part of the so-called deal involved the Mexicans sending ten percent of a six thousand strong national guard force to secure its southern border with Guatemala.
But good luck with that, as the Mexican National Guard is still on the drawing board. The new security branch was only approved a few months ago, and on day one, if it gets that far, it will be seriously undermanned in its charge to fight crime, the scourge that has not just roiled the country but corrupted the federal police. Still, that didn’t stop the Mexican government from making an ultimately ragtag show out of intercepting the latest wave of Central American migrants crossing its border with Guatemala.
And hey, between AP, Reuters, and other news agencies and organizations, the rainbow of defense personnel the Mexicans threw together near Metapa, in Chiapas state, looked pretty good on TV and in the news photo slideshows if you weren’t questioning the timing, the drama or the patchwork quilt.
In the photo leading this post, you saw a thicket of National Immigration Institute personnel manhandling immigrants.
Then, we saw a semi-organized deployment of military police wearing PM arm bands–some are wearing helmets and some, just caps–arrive in transport vehicles.
Here, young people are being led off by members of the blue-clad, bullet-vested Mexican Federal Police.
And in the foreground, not to be outdone, forming an outer perimeter of migrants, Federal Police, and the swarm of visual journalists, are members of the Mexican Marines.
Who knows, of course, how much Trump understands that Mexico’s border with Guatemala is largely open, comprised of hundreds of miles of mountains, forests, and rivers, as you can infer from this shot included in the same June 5th AP package.
But, no matter. If the goal is placating the White House –in putting the “show” in “show of force”–it’s hard to go wrong with a border crackdown on families and children, using a rainbow of uniforms in front of the cameras to give refugees a toss.
— Reading The Pictures (@ReadingThePix) June 6, 2019
— Michael Shaw
(Photo 1: Jose Torres/Reuters. Caption: Personnel of the National Immigration Institute (INM) detain a migrant during a joint operation by the Mexican government to stop a caravan of Central American migrants on their way to the U.S., at Metapa de Dominguez, in Chiapas state, Mexico June 5. REUTERS/Jose Torres. Photos 2-5: Marco Ugarte/AP.)