Sen­ti­ment on Trump visit: ‘Get out!’

Mex­i­cans lash out at their pres­i­dent and his guest over ‘em­bar­rass­ing’ meet­ing

Baltimore Sun - - ELECTION 2016 - By Kate Linthicum Ce­cilia Sanchez of the Los An­ge­les Times Mex­ico City bureau and staff writer Tracy Wilkin­son in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. con­trib­uted.

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.

JORGE NUNEZ/EFE

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