Trump's Surprise Visit Sparks Outrage in Mexicoby , , and
Trump, in apparent campaign shift, has accepted offer to visit
Meeting comes as Mexican president’s poll numbers keep sinking
Mexicans awakening Wednesday morning to the news that the man who labeled them drug traffickers and rapists -- as a political platform -- was en route to their capital to meet the country’s president found a moment of national unity in the question: "Are you completely serious?"
After a year’s worth of Donald Trump’s invective -- wall, criminals, etc. -- his surprise meeting with Enrique Pena Nieto, set to take place later today at an undetermined location in Mexico City, left the country bewildered. This was the U.S. presidential candidate who suggested players at a professional golfing tournament that had moved to Mexico City from one of Trump’s courses might need "kidnapping insurance."
“Mexico doesn’t want Donald Trump. Mexico never trusted him. We won’t let him use our country for his own interests,” former Mexican President Vicente Fox said on his Twitter account. “There’s no turning back Trump. Your insults against Mexicans and Muslims and others have led you to being in the hole that you’re in today. Goodbye Trump.”
Pena Nieto’s political opponents didn’t pass up the opportunity for condemnation. The president made a "grave political mistake by letting himself be used to serve the electoral interests of Donald Trump," Miguel Barbosa, senate leader for the opposition Democratic Revolution Party, wrote on Twitter. Margarita Zavala, wife of former President Felipe Calderon, who has said she’d seek the presidential nomination for the National Action Party in 2018, wrote that while he was invited, Trump should know "he isn’t welcome."
Flyers sprouted around the capital immediately, calling protesters to gather at the Angel of Independence with suggested hashtags including #FueraTrumpFueraEPN (Out with Trump, Out with Enrique Pena Nieto) and #SrTrumpConTodoRespecto (With All Due Respect Mr. Trump). Several Twitter users told Trump to "stay home" or to "take Pena Nieto with you as our gift."
However, the protest attracted about a half-dozen people and wrapped up quickly.
The Republican nominee’s visit has emerged from his reorganized campaign amid struggles to gain ground on the Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton in polls ahead of the November presidential election. Pena Nieto, who had invited both candidates to discuss bilateral relations, isn’t much more popular than Trump, reeling from record-low approval ratings and corruption scandals.
A poll by Reforma newspaper showed his popularity plunged to 23 percent in August, the lowest for any president in almost 20 years. Pena Nieto has been emphatic in the past that Mexico won’t pay for the proposed wall between the two countries as Trump has suggested.
On Trump’s visit, he said late Tuesday, “I believe in dialogue and in promoting Mexico’s interests in the world, mainly, to protect Mexicans wherever they may be.”
That is a tough sell for many Mexicans.
“This sends the signal that abusing Mexico has no cost; it validates Trump’s xenophobia and legitimizes it,” Arturo Sarukhan, former Mexican ambassador to the U.S., said on Twitter.
What’s Pena Nieto’s strategy? He needs to demonstrate that he’s fighting for immigration reform, according to Javier Oliva, political analyst at Mexico’s National Autonomous University.
"He has to be more aggressive," Oliva said in a telephone interview. "He needs a speech that signals the importance of Mexico and shows Trump that his visit is an explicit recognition of the demographic and electoral weight that the Mexican community has in the presidential election."
Just don’t criticize Trump for his past comments, he added.
"You don’t invite someone to your house to scold him," Oliva said.
Not all political analysts saw Trump’s visit as detrimental to Mexico. It "highlights the fact that Mexico is hardly a distant country any more -- it’s a close neighbor whose future is intertwined with America’s," Andrew Selee, executive vice president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, wrote in an e-mail Tuesday night. "Relations with Mexico are a question of domestic as much as foreign policy."
Trump is scheduled to fly to Phoenix to deliver an immigration speech after the meeting.