Sentiment on Trump visit: ‘Get out!’
Mexicans lash out at their president and his guest over ‘embarrassing’ meeting
MEXICO CITY — Mexicans reacted with dismay and outrage Wednesday as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump arrived in their capital and met with President Enrique Pena Nieto. Their mes- sage was clear: Trump wasn’t welcome, and Peña Nieto never should have invited him.
“We don’t like him. We don’t want him,” former Mexican President Vicente Fox told CNN. The former president called Pena Nieto a “traitor” for extending the invitation to Trump, who has repeatedly attacked Mexico and vowed to force the nation to pay for construction of a border wall.
“You’re coming to take your picture with the very people you’ve offended,” Miguel Barbosa, of the leftist opposition Democratic Revolution Party, told Trump on Twitter. “Get out!”
Members of the conservative National Action Party were as vociferous as people on the left. Margarita Zavala, a possible 2018 presidential candidate for the party, said Mexicans “have dignity, and we repudiate his speech of hatred.”
Mexico City’s local parliament declared Trump persona non grata, and opposition parties attacked Pena Nieto for allowing himself to be “used” for Trump’s base political machinations.
And after the meeting and brief comments by Trump and Pena Nieto, protesters gathered at the iconic Angel de la Independencia monument in downtown Mexico City were unmoved.
“I hope Pena Nieto understands Trump’s words: In your face I’m telling you, Donald Trump will build the wall!” said student Tania Dorantes, 21.
Pena Nieto cast the meeting, announced unexpectedly late Tuesday, as an important diplomatic opportunity. “I believe in dialogue to promote the interests of Mexico in the world, and to protect Mexicans wherever they are,” Pena Nieto wrote Tuesday on Twitter.
But it was also a risky political calculation for the Mexican president and Trump, both of whom are lagging in polls.
“It’s embarrassing that the president has invited someone who hates Mexicans to our country,” said Olga Ruiz, a 42-year-old professor.
Mexican shops now specialize in yellowhaired Trump pinatas. And the candidate is mocked in running jokes on social media and even in song.
Tony Payan, director of the Mexico Center at Rice University’s Baker Institute, called Wednesday’s early afternoon meeting “a puzzling maneuver.”
While Trump probably views the meeting as “a grand gesture that may ingratiate him with Latino voters,” Payan said he doesn’t know what the Mexican president hopes to gain. “Pena Nieto is gambling here with whatever he’s got left to use,” Payan said.
Pena Nieto, who is scheduled to give his annual address to the nation on Thursday, has been plagued by personal and political scandals in recent months, as well as rising crime rates and a lackluster economy.
Public opinion polls show fewer than a third of Mexicans approve of the job he is doing. And although Pena Nieto has been critical of Trump, saying there is “no way” Mexico will pay for a border wall, and even comparing Trump to Adolf Hitler, his decision to receive Trump at his official residence Wednesday threatens to further erode voter support.
Some people suggested Pena Nieto extended the invitation to both Trump and the candidate’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, but did not expect either to accept.
Trump’s presidential campaign is personal to Claudio Negrete, 35, who spent more than a decade working in the U.S. illegally. He has family in Scottsdale, Ariz., and plans to return this year. “This is real to us,” Negrete said. “We’re afraid if he is elected that there will be deportations and families separated.”
Trump, whose pledge to shut down illegal immigration won him conservative support in the Republican primary, has been flirting with softening that stance in recent weeks in an attempt to win over general election voters, a majority of whom believe immigrants in the country illegally should be allowed to stay.
“This isn’t a calculated risk. It’s extreme stupidity,” wrote Mexican political analyst Jesus Silva Herzog, who said Pena Nieto is being used as “a tool for propaganda for the country’s worst enemy.” Donald Trump, right, addresses the media Wednesday with Mexico’s Enrique Pena Nieto.