US-MEXICO BORDER WALL

Mexican firm bidding to help build Trump’s wall: “It’s not a betrayal”

Puebla-based businessman says his country needs an outsider to combat corruption in politics

Theodore Atalla, the owner of a small industrial lighting company in the central Mexican city of Puebla, not only backs Donald Trump’s controversial plans to build a wall along the US-Mexican border, but has also asked to take part in its construction. Ecovelocity is the only company registered in Mexico among the more than 600 that have joined the bidding process for what has become a symbol of the US president’s election promises, and a humiliation for Mexico.

A stretch of the frontier between Mexico and the United States.
A stretch of the frontier between Mexico and the United States.AFP

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Born in Egypt, Atalla previously lived in the United States and has been a resident in Mexico for the last 22 years. He has Egyptian and US nationality, and is applying for Mexican citizenship. He believes he will spend the rest of his life in Mexico, and sees nothing wrong in wanting to help build the wall, describing it is a way to “improve” Mexico. “I’m not betraying anybody. What’s more, we need to support each other here in Mexico,” he says.

Atalla, who refused to be photographed, says he wants to provide the lighting for the wall on its southern side. “We are a Mexican company, I doubt they will give us work on the other side,” he explains, adding that either way, he doesn’t believe his company stands much of a chance of winning the contract.

“To tell the truth, I doubt it. I just signed up for the bidding process to see what would happen. The reality is that I don’t believe they will hire a Mexican company that imports lighting made in China and other countries,” he says.

He founded Ecovelocity in 2013, a company specializing in industrial LED lighting, but says he stopped bidding for contracts issued by the Mexican government because he refused to become involved in corruption.

Atalla believes Trump’s wall is a win-win for Mexico and the United States, and insists that Mexico will not pay for it, despite the US president’s insistence. But he does think it likely that Trump will try to take advantage of trade. “Mexico is going to be okay, it isn’t going to affect us at all.”

“It will benefit both countries, it has to be built, there are a lot of problems there,” he says, adding that Mexico should build its own wall along its southern border, a project he would like to take part in: “We should build a wall there because we are seeing a lot of immigrants in Puebla who come here and commit robberies, they are criminals,” he says about undocumented Central Americans crossing into Mexico from Guatemala.

What Mexico needs, says Atalla, is its own version of Trump

The businessman says he is not offended by Trump’s incendiary comments, notably the president’s claims while on the campaign trail accusing Mexico of sending its rapists and criminals to the United States. He says he has seen “bastards” being released from prisons along the border so that the United States can deal with them.

What Mexico needs, says Atalla, is its own version of Trump, a political outsider who would take on the establishment: “I’m not attacking him, he is doing things for his country – I would like to have somebody like him to defend us from the rats that are in politics.”

English version by Nick Lyne.

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