eyes on the U.S.

Joke's On Us: Mexico Reacts To Trump Visit With Pena Nieto

Pena Nieto and Trump meeting in Mexico City on Aug. 31
Pena Nieto and Trump meeting in Mexico City on Aug. 31
Alidad Vassigh

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.

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Paying tribute to the victims of the attack in Kongsberg

Terje Bendiksby/NTB Scanpix/ZUMA
Carl-Johan Karlsson

The bow-and-arrow murder of five people in the small Norwegian city of Kongsberg this week was particularly chilling for the primitive choice of weapon. And police are now saying the attack Wednesday night is likely to be labeled an act of terrorism.

Still, even though the suspect is a Danish-born convert to Islam, police are still determining the motive. Espen Andersen Bråthen, a 37-year-old Danish national, is previously known to the police, both for reports of radicalization, as well as erratic behavior unrelated to religion.

Indeed, it remains unclear whether religious beliefs were behind the killings. In an interview with Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, police attorney Ann Iren Svane Mathiassens said Bråthen has already confessed to the crimes, giving a detailed account of the events during a three-hour interrogation on Thursday, but motives are yet to be determined.

Investigated as terrorism 

Regardless, the murders are likely to be labeled an act of terror – mainly as the victims appear to have been randomly chosen, and were killed both in public places and inside their homes.

Mathiassens also said Bråthen will undergo a comprehensive forensic psychiatric examination, which is also a central aspect of the ongoing investigation, according to a police press conference on Friday afternoon. Bråthen will be held in custody for at least four weeks, two of which will be in isolation, and will according to a police spokesperson be moved to a psychiatric unit as soon as possible.

Witnesses have since described him as unstable and a loner.

Police received reports last year concerning potential radicalization. In 2017, Bråthen published two videos on Youtube, one in English and one in Norwegian, announcing that he's now a Muslim and describing himself as a "messenger." The year prior, he made several visits to the city's only mosque, where he said he'd received a message from above that he wished to share with the world.

Previous criminal history 

In 2012, he was convicted of aggravated theft and drug offenses, and in May last year, a restraining order was issued after Bråthen entered his parents house with a revolver, threatening to kill his father.

The mosque's chairman Oussama Tlili remembers Bråthen's first visit well, as it's rare to meet Scandinavian converts. Still, he didn't believe there was any danger and saw no reason to notify the police. Tlili's impression was rather that the man was unwell mentally, and needed help.

According to a former neighbor, Bråthen often acted erratically. During the two years she lived in the house next to him — only 50 meters from the grocery store where the attacks began — the man several times barked at her like a dog, threw trash in the streets to then pick it up, and spouted racist comments to her friend. Several other witnesses have since described him as unstable and a loner.

The man used a bow and arrow to carry the attack

Haykon Mosvold Larsen/NTB Scanpix/ZUMA

Police criticized

Norway, with one of the world's lowest crime rates, is still shaken from the attack — and also questioning what allowed the killer to hunt down and kill even after police were on the scene.

The first reports came around 6 p.m. on Wednesday that a man armed with bow and arrow was shooting inside a grocery store. Only minutes after, the police spotted the suspect; he fired several times against the patrol and then disappeared while reinforcements arrived.

The attack has also fueled a long-existing debate over whether Norwegian police should carry firearms

In the more than 30 minutes that followed before the arrest, four women and one man were killed by arrows and two other weapons — though police have yet to disclose the other arms, daily Aftenposten reports. The sleepy city's 27,000 inhabitants are left wondering how the man managed to evade a full 22 police patrols, and why reports of his radicalization weren't taken more seriously.

With five people killed and three more injured, Wednesday's killing spree is the worst attack in Norway since far-right extremist Anders Breivik massacred 77 people on the island of Utøya a decade ago.

Unarmed cops

As questions mount over the police response to the attack, with reports suggesting all five people died after law enforcement made first contact with the suspect, local police have said it's willing to submit the information needed to the Bureau of Investigation to start a probe into their conduct. Police confirmed they had fired warning shots in connection to the arrest which, under Norwegian law, often already provides a basis for an assessment.

Wednesday's bloodbath has also fueled a long-existing debate over whether Norwegian police should carry firearms — the small country being one of only 19 globally where law enforcement officers are typically unarmed, though may have access to guns and rifles in certain circumstances.

Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism expert and professor at the Swedish Defence University, noted that police in similar neighboring countries like Sweden and Denmark carry firearms. "I struggle to understand why Norwegian police are not armed all the time," Ranstorp told Norwegian daily VG. "The lesson from Utøya is that the police must react quickly and directly respond to a perpetrator during a life-threatening incident."

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