Canceled Mexican Ford Plant Adds To Country's Economic Frustrations : Parallels San Luis Potosi state lost out on more than a billion dollars in investment and thousands of jobs when Ford changed plans and nixed a factory. Angry locals pin the blame directly on Donald Trump.
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Canceled Ford Plant Adds To Mexico's Economic Frustrations

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Canceled Ford Plant Adds To Mexico's Economic Frustrations

Canceled Ford Plant Adds To Mexico's Economic Frustrations

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And let's turn now to Mexico. Ford Motor Company's decision this week to cancel construction of an auto plant there has shocked that country. And people are especially disappointed in the place where the Ford plant was under construction. It was expected to employ nearly 3,000 local workers. Here's NPR's Carrie Kahn.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Usually, the dusty construction site of the now-shuttered Mexican Ford auto plant is full of activity. Yesterday, though, only one large tractor was grading roads at the 700-acre site located outside the small town of Villa de Reyes in the central Mexican state of San Luis Potosi.

JUAN GONZALEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: Guards at the site's entrance say the mood now is very tense. Guard Juan Gonzalez says it's so discouraging.

GONZALEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "We all thought this was a long-term project," says Gonzalez. He had hoped to stay on once the Ford plant opened in three years.

GUSTAVO PUENTE OROZCO: It was a surprise, of course.

KAHN: Gustavo Puente Orozco, San Luis Potosi's secretary of economic development says the news, while not totally unexpected, came as a shock.

PUENTE: We knew it was a possibility.

KAHN: Especially, he says, since candidate Donald Trump began putting a lot of pressure on Ford to pull out of Mexico. But Puente says Ford officials in Mexico kept assuring him the project was moving forward. And he says all that construction kept going on. Ford says it was market forces that prompted them to cancel the Mexico plant. Small cars like the Ford Focus that was to be built here just haven't been selling well, especially with low gas prices. But residents in the nearby town of Villa de Reyes aren't buying that and place blame squarely on the incoming U.S. president.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KAHN: Music from a food stall blares in the town's small outdoor market. Housewife Maria de Jesus Ramirez Martinez gets visibly angry when asked about the Ford plant closure.

MARIA DE JESUS RAMIREZ MARTINEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "Trump is blaming us Mexicans for everything, and it's not right. It's just not right," she says. Ramirez says the town was counting on those jobs. "Without them," she adds, "more Mexicans will head north to the U.S. to find work."

San Luis Potosi has been a bright spot in Mexico's otherwise sluggish economy. With so many international companies here, unemployment is officially below 3 percent, and the region has been growing at twice the pace of the country.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHURCH BELLS SOUNDING)

KAHN: On the small town plaza, Salvador Guerra, a retiree, says he doesn't want to see the state's gains be undermined by Trump who's not even president yet.

SALVADOR GUERRA: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "Imagine what he's going to do to us once he takes power," says Guerra. And Guerra says he's just as mad at Mexico's leaders who he says haven't done enough to stand up to Trump.

Yesterday, President Enrique Pena Nieto announced a shake-up in his Cabinet. He appointed a former finance adviser as the new foreign minister who, Pena Nieto says, will push for a more constructive relationship.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT ENRIQUE PENA NIETO: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "It should be a relationship that allows us to strengthen bilateral ties," says Pena Nieto, and he adds, "without undermining the sovereignty or the dignity of Mexicans."

Carrie Kahn, NPR News, San Luis Potosi.

(SOUNDBITE OF CUT CHEMIST SONG, "SPOON")

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