MEXICO CITY — It is a common refrain from the president-elect of Mexico: Let the people decide.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who takes office Dec. 1, has styled himself as consultor in chief. During the campaign, he promised to hold a referendum halfway through his term so that Mexicans could decide if they wanted him to continue. Later this month, López Obrador will let Mexicans vote on whether to keep building a pricey new Mexico City airport.
On Tuesday, López Obrador decided that the name proposed by President Trump for a new North American trade deal — “United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement,” or USMCA — was not “adequate.” So he asked Twitter to pick a new one.
In tweets, López Obrador explained his rationale. “In the absence of a proper name,” he wrote, Trump’s chosen moniker was already taking hold in Mexico, and the “A” was being translated as “Acuerdo,” which is Spanish for “agreement.”
“The instrument would be a Treaty and not an Agreement in Mexico (there are International Agreements, but this is not one),” López Obrador tweeted.
López Obrador, who can be a ponderous public speaker, continued his lecture by explaining that the old pact, NAFTA, was referred to in Spanish as TLCAN (El Tratado de Libre Comercio de America del Norte). In that version, the word “Tratado” — “treaty” — was front and center, and the A in TLCAN did not refer to “Agreement” but to “America.”
He said that he had consulted with the two cabinet ministers in the current Mexican government who were most involved in negotiating the deal and that they agreed that “to avoid confusion” the Spanish name should begin with T for “treaty”; should be similar to Trump’s choice, that is, listing all three countries; and should be pronounceable in Spanish.
After that lengthy preamble, López Obrador opened up his impromptu Twitter poll to the public, with the following options:
TEUMECA: Tratado/Estados Unidos/Mexico/Canada — in English, the Treaty of the United States, Mexico, Canada.
T-Mec: Tratado/Mexico/Estados Unidos/Canada — the Treaty of Mexico-United States-Canada.
Or neither of these.
Twitter promptly got busy.
“Don’t screw around, Andrés Manuel,” someone named Angel responded. “Don’t you have work to do?”
Others were more charitable. Fernando Baroccio marveled: “A president has never asked my opinion about anything.”
Mexico has a powerful meme machine that leaps into action at the slightest provocation. Within minutes, cartoons making fun of the situation had been drawn up, including one in which a guy complains about having been called to an office meeting to weigh in on the stupid debate between TEUMECA and T-MEC and is promptly thrown out the window.
Some even addressed the actual question.
Juan Paco wrote that a better name would be “TRUMPEJE” — a mash-up of Trump and Peje, one of López Obrador’s nicknames, which refers to a thick-skinned fish from his home state, Tabasco.
José L. Andrade suggested something with more local flavor: TECATE.
After nearly 23,000 votes, the race was tight. Both T-MEC and “none of these” were tied at 41 percent, with TEUMECA lagging far behind at 18 percent.