When news broke late Tuesday that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump had accepted Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s invitation to meet in Mexico City on Wednesday, the reaction in Mexico was swift and “furious,” according to New York Timesreporter Elisabeth Malkin.
Trump, who has called Mexican immigrants “criminals and rapists” and campaigned on a promise to “build a wall” to keep Mexicans from immigrating to the United States, is such an unpopular figure in Mexico that Donald Trump piñatas have been selling out, Al Jazeerareported earlier this year.
One piñata maker told Al Jazeera that “Trump’s horrible about Mexicans. He says we’re the worst things that could exist. I think people like buying the piñata because we can’t give him a smack in real life.”
On Twitter, Mexicans decried their president’s decision to meet with the Republican candidate:
Former Mexican President Vicente Fox and former Mexican first lady Margarita Zavala de Calderón also joined in the condemnation of the meeting, Politico reports.
Prominent Mexican historian Enrique Krauze demanded Trump apologize for his comments about Mexicans during the meeting:
Peña Nieto, no stranger to scandal himself, extended invitations to Mexico on Friday to both leading U.S. presidential candidates.
Mexicans have speculated that Peña Nieto was caught by surprise when Trump accepted, according to the Houston Chronicle:
Many Mexicans felt the Republican had left Peña Nieto […] flat-footed by accepting an invitation the Mexican president had made simply for appearances’ sake.
The newspaper El Universal wrote in an editorial that Trump “caught Mexican diplomats off guard” by accepting the invitation, and “got one step ahead of them.”
“They wanted to invite Hillary (Clinton), but that meant inviting both of them and nobody thought Trump would accept first,” said Mexico City-based security analyst Alejandro Hope. “What’s in it for Mexico? Here there’s nothing to gain. The upside is all for Trump.”
“Historically, the golden rule of Mexico’s foreign policy has been to avoid being seen as taking sides in U.S. politics; hence the two invitations,” the Chronicle notes.
Trump is expected to meet with Peña Nieto midday on Wednesday, before he travels to Phoenix, Arizona, where he will deliver a speech on immigration in the evening.