Amer­i­cas

As the U.S. de­bates seal­ing off its south­ern bor­der, for­mer Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent Vi­cente Fox has be­come an out­spo­ken critic of the plan— and a star on so­cial me­dia

Newsweek - - News - BY ROBERT VA­LEN­CIA @rva­len­twit

Vi­cente Fox Is a So­cial Me­dia Star

vi­cente fox “jumped the wall” to come here, he joked to the crowd. It was May 14, and the for­mer pres­i­dent of Mex­ico was on­stage at Cipri­ani, a restau­rant and venue in down­town New York, where he had just re­ceived a Webby Award for best in­ter­net per­son­al­ity in film and video.

Th­ese days, Fox is a celebrity, not just in Mex­ico but in­creas­ingly in Amer­ica. And his Cipri­ani speech cap­tured why. Since early 2016, when Don­ald Trump was still a Re­pub­li­can hope­ful, Fox has been one of his most out­spo­ken crit­ics, lam­bast­ing the real es­tate mogul for his de­sire to wall off the south­ern U.S. bor­der—and make Mex­ico pay for it. “I am not paying for that fucken wall,” Fox tweeted last Jan­uary. Trump’s crit­ics have loved his brash, comedic ap­proach, and his mes­sage has cat­a­pulted him to so­cial me­dia star­dom.

The folksy, mus­ta­chioed Fox has al­ways been charis­matic. In late 2000, he be­came pres­i­dent of Mex­ico, up­end­ing 70 years of rule by the coun­try’s In­sti­tu­tional Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Party (PRI). In one of his first acts as pres­i­dent, he vis­ited his Amer­i­can coun­ter­part, Ge­orge W. Bush. The two lead­ers got along well—both are fond of cow­boy boots—and pledged to im­prove trade be­tween the two na­tions and re­form the U.S. immigration sys­tem.

Those plans un­rav­eled with the Septem­ber 11, 2001, at­tacks on the Pen­tagon and World Trade Cen­ter. Bush be­came fo­cused on de­stroy­ing Al-qaeda, and Fox op­posed the 2003 Amer­i­can in­va­sion of Iraq—a move that cre­ated ten­sion be­tween the two coun­tries.

To­day, how­ever, he seems to be en­joy­ing his new­found fame in the United States. In mid-may, Fox spoke to Newsweek about trade, Mex­ico’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in July and, of course, “that fucken wall.”

Mex­i­can pun­dits have called your six-year term a “lost op­por­tu­nity.” Is that un­fair?

It’s un­fair be­cause my term was a mi­nor­ity-run ad­min­is­tra­tion. Our pro­pos­als needed the ap­proval of the ma­jor­ity in Congress. Checks and bal­ances ex­ist. I was not suc­cess­ful in reach­ing con­sen­sus in Congress be­cause par­ti­san­ship is deeply rooted.

You have been a staunch critic of left-lean­ing pres­i­den­tial can­di­date An­drés Manuel López Obrador, who is lead­ing in the polls. Why?

He’s an ig­no­rant man who can de­stroy a na­tion. He thinks he could rule Mex­ico by giv­ing away things to peo­ple, and he’d op­press me­dia and peo­ple who don’t agree with him. Mex­ico should not take that risk. Un­for­tu­nately, democ­racy only works when a coun­try has an ed­u­cated mid­dle class and a fair level of in­come and ed­u­ca­tion. A coun­try will only be­come suc­cess­ful when it has an open mar­ket, a smart econ­omy and an ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem that gen­er­ates hu­man cap­i­tal. Th­ese trop­i­cal mes­si­ahs and false prophets are just brain­wash­ing vot­ers.

So who do you think is the best can­di­date to run Mex­ico?

José An­to­nio Meade from the PRI. He knows what it takes to be a pres­i­dent.

The party you helped un­seat...

Meade is bur­dened with the im­age of the PRI. He placed his pres­i­den­tial as­pi­ra­tions in it, in­stead of be­ing a mav­er­ick and fight­ing cor­rup­tion.

Why has it been difɿcult to change the U.S. immigration sys­tem?

The pres­i­dent of the United States, rather than be­ing a states­man who an­a­lyzes things from a long-term per­spec­tive, just fo­cuses on re-elec­tion. Pres­i­dent Bush said he wanted to back re­form, but he never did. Barack Obama never had the will­ing­ness to ad­dress immigration. Trump is worse.

What makes him worse?

He’ll de­stroy the na­tion’s best op­por­tu­ni­ties. He’s a pop­ulist leader who says he’ll take away from the rich and large cor­po­ra­tions, but he’s do­ing the com­plete op­po­site.

What about the wall?

The wall will...fail be­cause Amer­i­cans are not stupid to ear­mark bil­lions of dol­lars for its con­struc­tion, and he’d be crazy to think that Mex­ico will pay for it. I have noth­ing per­sonal against Trump, but he’s pur­su­ing the wrong poli­cies. The U.S., Canada and Mex­ico...we could, as a whole, be the world’s most pow­er­ful and com­pet­i­tive econ­omy. There­fore, we should not be think­ing about build­ing walls.

If you were pres­i­dent of Mex­ico to­day, would you be as out­spo­ken as you are on so­cial me­dia?

Dur­ing my pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, I re­ferred to my ad­ver­saries as tepocatas [tad­poles], vipers and venomous scor­pi­ons. I’m a rancher, and that’s how I speak. If I had told Trump, “You should not build the wall,” it would not have re­sounded. But if I say, “We won’t pay for that fuck­ing wall,” it be­comes a strong mes­sage, which is ex­actly the kind of lan­guage Trump uses. He’s the last per­son to de­mand re­spect, be­cause he has been ex­tremely of­fen­sive to Mex­ico and other politi­cians, but his mes­sage is pierc­ing. There­fore, we should not judge how we use words; we should al­ways tell and dis­sem­i­nate the truth.

Is there any­thing else you want to tell the pres­i­dent of the United States of Amer­ica?

Leave, buddy, leave!

“Th­ese trop­i­cal mes­si­ahs and false prophets are just brain­wash­ing vot­ers.”

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