Donald Trump has made a surprise move. Just hours before his big speech against immigration into the United States, the multi-millionaire Republican candidate for the presidency will try to clean up his controversial image with a lightning trip to Mexico. Although the visit will be private, the meeting on Wednesday with President Enrique Peña Nieto reveals the ability of Trump to grab the political initiative.
The meeting will give him an unexpected platform from which he can try to claw back some lost ground, after the polls have shown his popularity in sharp decline. The visit will be somewhat more difficult for Mexico to digest, given that the public there has been scandalized by the candidate’s xenophobia and more outrageous comments about Mexicans. The sight of their president shaking hands with someone who has called for a wall to be built to separate both countries will be hard to swallow.
The meeting will give him an unexpected platform from which he can try to claw back some lost ground
“I believe in dialogue to promote the interests of Mexico in the world, and principally to protect Mexicans wherever they might be,” Peña Nieto wrote on Twitter by way of explanation.
The meeting will take place hours before the speech that Trump has said he will give in Phoenix, Arizona about immigration, which has been one of the pillars of the Republican’s campaign and that is based, up until now, on proposals such as the border wall, which would be used to keep undocumented migrants out.
During the long year of the primary campaign, Trump has called migrants from the neighboring country terms such as “criminals” and even “rapists,” and has had harsh words for free-trade deals with Mexico and Canada given the damage that he claims they have done to US workers.
Trump has called migrants from the neighboring country terms such as “criminals” and even “rapists”
In the face of these attacks, the Mexican administration has opted to “not express an opinion nor get involved” in the US election campaign. “The next president-elect will find in Mexico and its government a positive attitude, one with good proposals and good faith with regard to improving the relationship between both nations, the Mexican leader said on a recent visit to Washington.
In keeping with this attitude, the Mexican presidency extended an invitation to both presidential candidates last week. The gesture, which was well received by Clinton and Trump, was seen as a golden opportunity by the latter. On Tuesday afternoon, his team ignored the usual protocols and announced that its candidate would be in Mexico the very next day.
The news was initially received with surprise by Mexican diplomats. Off the record, they pointed out that a meeting with the president of Mexico was not arranged from one day to the next. But just hours later, that attitude changed, and Peña Nieto confirmed the meeting would be taking place via Twitter. The decision, diplomatic sources stated, had been taken directly by the leader to “protect the interests of Mexicans.”
Opinion polls have shown that Trump’s verbal attacks on Mexican migrants have served to alienate him from many voter groups
Opinion polls have shown that Trump’s verbal attacks on Mexican migrants have served to alienate him from many voter groups. Conscious of this, Trump has organized a tour in recent weeks during which he has tried to win over those he has insulted.
With this trip to Mexico, Trump is accelerating that strategy. His arrival in a country he has tried to demonize leaves his rival, Hillary Clinton, out of the game for now, and puts Peña Nieto in a jam, given that his voters perceive Trump to be a danger. What’s more, the meeting will give Trump and image of moderation and amity – two of the elements that he needs to reach his objective, which is the White House.
English version by Simon Hunter.