A reviled U.S. presidential candidate visiting a very unpopular Mexican president. How did Donald Trump's flash visit Wednesday to Mexico City look to the people and press south of the border? After the Republican nominee's diatribes and insults against Mexicans and vows to build a "huge" wall, what was President Enrique Peña Nieto seeking by inviting the Donald?
If the intention was to restore some of the dignity of Mexico, the presidential office and Peña Nieto's party ahead of the next presidential elections, the scorn heaped in Mexico on both personalities suggested he had failed.
Veracruz-based daily Diario del Istmo featured the slight problemas de comunicación between the two politicians on its Thursday front page, which reads "Peña: respect; Trump: wall."
Peña Nieto, whose consistently mediocre popularity ratings since his election in 2012 have sunk further lately as Mexicans continue to see rampant criminality and impunity around them, had invited both U.S. presidential candidates to discuss bilateral ties, saying that dialogue was important for Mexico's interests. But once Trump took him up on the offer, the nature of the visit was bound to take on its own dynamic.
The Mexican media reports that Peña Nieto described his private meeting with Trump as "respectful" in tone, though he had made "clear at the start, that Mexico would not pay for the wall" that Trump continues to insist will be financed by the southern neighbor.
Mexico City daily Milenio cited Peña Nieto as telling an interviewer that the meeting was intended to "face the threat" of Trump's hostile postures. He said Trump "moderated" his postures after the session held at the presidential residence, Los Pinos. A sentiment reiterated on the newspaper's front page: "Trump: Here goes the great wall; for Peña: it's "a threat""
The newspaper Excelsior published a timeline of the meeting, and comments made by both politicians apparently indicating a desire to clarify postures without provoking a hue and cry.
Even though Trump later doubled down on his harsh stance on immigration in a much anticipated speech in Arizona, the candidate described Peña Nieto as his "friend" and Mexicans as a "spectacular people" during the early afternoon visit.
Mexico's press and politicians were not impressed. The former conservative first lady, Margarita Zavala, often mentioned as a possible presidential candidate for the opposition Nation Action Party, said she "regretted" the visit and the invitation, adding that Trump was not welcome in Mexico. Trump, she stated, did not deserve the reception given him, especially when he had failed to apologize for his frontier wall, Excelsior reported on Aug. 31.
A different Fox news
Vicente Fox, Mexico's president from 2000 to 2006, was even harsher, telling CNN that Trump wanted Latino votes and the visit was a "piece of deceit" no Hispanic would "swallow" on either side of the frontier.
"Clearly he is an enemy of the Mexico ... and of migrants," he said. After Trump reminded him on Twitter that he too had invited him to visit Mexico, he replied: "Don't lie," adding that he had only invited him to come and "apologize" to Mexicans, the review Expansión reported.
Earlier he told Milenio Televisión that Trump was trying to "make a fool of" Peña Nieto and use him for electoral purposes. The veteran leftist leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador wrote that the Mexican leader "had become a "clown,"" of the sort that takes slaps in the face to make people laugh.
On its Thursday front page, Mexican daily Vanguardia summed up Trump's arrival this way: "His visit: a new joke."
A columnist in El Universal expressed indignation that the government had, instead of chiding Trump, "opened the doors' for him, "treated him like a president" and "put together a campaign act" for him. The center-left daily La Jornada, called the invitation "clumsy" and observed Peña Nieto had been "humiliated in his own house." The newspaper stated that the visit served to show "whoever gets to the White House" that the Mexican government had a "very limited capacity" to defend the country's interests.
Excelsior seconded that feeling, running "Mexicans, Offended" as the title of its Thursday edition.
The analysis on the street, or online, was similar but simpler: The political review Proceso set out some of the memes Mexicans put out, one showing Trump as an awful lot like the murderous doll Chucky, and several comparing him and Peña to the characters in Dumb and Dumber.
Politics served up loud and simple, just the way the Donald likes it.