What the Trump Presidency Means for Americans Living South of the Border

In the aftermath of Donald Trump winning the U.S. presidency, we asked some of the more than 500 expats in Mexico, Panama, Belize and Nicaragua who answer questions on Best Places in the World to Retire how a Trump presidency would affect them. Here's what they said.

How Americans Will be Treated Abroad

Given that Donald Trump's main campaign promises included building a wall on the Mexican border, forcing Mexico to pay for it, renegotiating the NAFTA trade deal, and punishing American companies that have facilities abroad, it wouldn't be a leap for American expats in Mexico to fear resentment and perhaps even retaliation, if not from ordinary Mexicans, then from the Mexican government.

Don Nelson, a U.S.-based American attorney specializing in expat and international taxes, fears some form of retaliation, especially if Trump forces Mexico to "pay for the wall" through taxes on remittances from Mexicans in the U.S. to Mexico. "Mexico has a history of retaliation," said Nelson. As an example, Nelson cited when the Mexican government increased visitor permit requirements after the U.S. increased fees on Mexican nationals.

Nelson further explained that, while it is the law in Mexico that all foreigners who are in Mexico more than 180 days must pay income taxes to the Mexican government, the government doesn't currently seriously enforce the law, and this is one of the items that could conceivably change. "However, they won't kick us out," said Nelson, "because they need us."

Alfonso Galindo, a Southern California native who moved to Mexico, disagrees. "Donald Trump's win won't change anything," said Galindo. "Expats are very appreciated in Mexico. I don't predict that there will be any significant backlash at all. All my Mexican friends are not only talking to American expats who live here, but emailing supportive messages."

Galindo told us that the messages were along the lines of, "If you live in Mexico as an expat, we know you are a friend."

"Mexicans are not flipping out," said Galindo, "and overall, could care less."

Canadian Gary De Spiegelaere and his Mexican national wife live in the Mexican state of Yucatan. Both were vocal and public Trump supporters. De Spiegelaere reports that, after he explained the rationale behind Donald Trump's position to many of his Mexican friends and relatives, they understood.

"Mexicans are very polite," said De Spiegelaere. "They don't get angry over our politics, they get angry over their own politics. There has been no retaliation at all. Mexicans are some of the nicest people in the world."

Among many other overseas activities, Michael Cobb has co-founded Caye Bank in Belize and runs ECI Development, which has properties in Belize, Nicaragua and Panama. In the unusual times he's not traveling, he lives with his family in Nicaragua.  Cobb told us that the people of smaller countries in Latin America that have had issues with the U.S. make a distinction between the U.S. government and U.S. expats. "They can and often do like the American people but not the American government. They're used to this," Cobb said, "and it should continue."

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