Sun | Sep 23, 2018

Pena Nieto likely hurt by 'ill-advised' Trump meeting

Published:Friday | September 2, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, right, walks behind Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto after delivering statements in Mexico City, Wednesday.


President Enrique Pena Nieto's meeting with Mexico's most disliked man is turning into a public-relations disaster for a leader already struggling with historically low popularity ratings.

Not only did Pena Nieto not demand that Donald Trump apologise for calling Mexican migrants rapists and criminals, but he stood silently by in their joint press conference while the Republican candidate repeated his promise to build a border wall between the countries.

"This is an insult and a betrayal," said artist Arturo Meade as he joined a protest against Wednesday's meeting in Mexico City. "What can this meeting bring us except surrealism in all its splendour?"

Televisa news anchor Carlos Loret de Mola marvelled that Trump would dare come to Mexico and reiterate his intention to build the wall.

"The humiliation is now complete," he tweeted.

Particularly irksome to Mexicans was that Pena Nieto appeared to do little to push back against Trump's earlier negative statements about Mexican migrants and unpopular proposals.

Pena Nieto "did not even take a really strong stand and talk to Mr Trump directly to his face and tell him exactly why his stances are not acceptable to Mexicans," said Tony Payan, director of the Mexico Center at Rice University's Baker Institute. "He sounded tepid and too soft. He essentially rolled over and allowed Trump to get away with his own goals without getting anything in return."

Pena Nieto did say that Mexicans felt "aggrieved" and had disagreements with Trump, but most felt that it was not enough.

Standing next to Pena Nieto, Trump said the topic of who would pay for the wall would be discussed later. Pena Nieto, at the time, said nothing about the wall.

Hours later, Pena Nieto said in a tweet that he had told Trump clearly in their private meeting that Mexico would not pay. It seemed to contradict Trump's statement that payment wasn't discussed, but the president's office said only that Pena Nieto made his statement and the topic was dropped.