Politics

Why Latin American leftists would love a President Trump

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Peruvian shamans holding a poster of US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump perform a ritual of predictions for the new year at Morro Solar hill in Chorrillos, Lima, Peru, Dec. 29, 2015. The ritual is an end-of-the-year tradition and the shamans called for world peace and wished good luck for the upcoming elections in Peru and the US.

Credit:

Mariana Bazo

LIMA, Peru — Donald Trump has an unlikely fan in Latin America: Rafael Correa, the leftwing president of Ecuador who just loves sticking it to Washington.

Correa’s reasons, however, probably aren’t music to the ears of the Republican presidential frontrunner. In fact, the populist strongman is looking forward to a Trump presidency triggering a progressive backlash across Latin America.

“What would most suit Latin America is that Trump wins, because his discourse is so dumb, so basic, that it will provoke a reaction,” Correa said. 

“When a guy like that comes along, it would be very bad for the United States, but Latin America is pretty independent, and, given the [provocative] message [of a Trump White House] for the progressive tendency in Latin America, this would be very positive.”

Correa’s remarks are just the latest indication that, were Trump to win the race for the White House next November, the bombastic real estate tycoon might quickly find his foreign policy hitting stiff resistance around the world.

It’s difficult to tell, of course, given the lack of policy specifics Trump has provided.

One of the only concrete foreign policy proposals he has laid out is his plan to build a wall along the United States’ southern border, to prevent illegal immigration, and force Mexico to pay for it.

That has been widely ridiculed across Latin America and recently prompted one former Mexican president to compare Trump to Hitler and another to drop the F-bomb during a TV interview. 

On Wednesday, the Mexican government addressed the idea for the first time — and its position was unequivocal.

“I say it emphatically and categorically: Mexico, under no circumstance is going to pay for the wall that Mr. Trump is proposing,” Mexican Treasury Secretary Luis Videgaray said

Yet strongman Correa, who has given WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange asylum and loves to accuse the US of “imperialism,” may  have more in common with Trump than either of them wish to acknowledge.

Both brash populists, the pair rejoice in clashing with the media in ways that, critics say, undermine democracy.

The Ecuadorian president has overseen one of the most draconian crackdowns on independent journalism in the Western hemisphere. That includes highly personal attacks on those who question him in any way.

More from GlobalPost: Is Ecuador's president using US law to censor critics? 

Trump, meanwhile, has even fallen out with Fox News, a network that can normally be counted on to back Republicans against Democrats come what may. And his aides routinely treat journalists following the Trump campaign more like criminal suspects than folks whose vocation is viewed as a key part of the democratic process.

This is also not the first time an authoritarian foreign leader has praised Trump. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has called the billionaire “a very outstanding man, unquestionably talented.” It’s impossible to know if Putin was being sincere or just mischief-making. But it raises the question of whether Trump really would be able to follow through on his campaign tough talk and stand up to the inscrutable and ruthless Kremlin chief.

Another Latin American who responded to Trump’s crushing victory on Super Tuesday — which now makes him the overwhelming favorite to represent the GOP against Hillary Clinton in the US presidential race — is the Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa.

The Nobel Laureate pulled no punches, warning that Trump was a “danger to the United States.” 

"It is a country that is too important for the rest of the world to have in the White House a clown, a demagogue and a racist like Mr. Trump," added Vargas Llosa, who once ran as a center-right presidential candidate in Peru. 

The writer also predicted that Trump had little to no chance of actually beating the Democratic frontrunner once the party nominations are confirmed. But that forecast is similar to the way almost all pundits, left and right, once wrote off Trump’s chances of ever becoming the Republicans’ presidential nominee.