The president of Mexico explained Thursday why he invited Donald Trump to visit his country, pitching the trip as a chance to meet with someone important — even if the Republican nominee is widely disliked in the country.
“I was very clear in public and in private to emphasize the fact that in Mexico, we feel offended and hurt by his statements about Mexicans,” Enrique Peña Nieto wrote in an op-ed for his El Universal. “I expressed that we deserve respect, that we are honest, hardworking people, that we value our families and the culture of effort.”
Peña Nieto and Trump met in Mexico City Wednesday on a whirlwind visit ahead of Trump’s major immigration speech in Arizona. In public, Trump and Peña Nieto mostly struck a friendly tone, though acrimony later broke out over whether the pair had discussed Mexican payment for a US-Mexico border wall, a trademark Trump policy.
“I was also very clear in my conversation with Trump on the border: Mexico will not pay for any wall,” Peña Nieto wrote.
Trump has disputed Peña Nieto’s account, and in his speech on Wednesday he declared, “Mexico will pay for the wall. 100%. They don’t know it yet, but they’re going to pay for the wall.”
Earlier on Thursday, Trump shared a video on Instagram of his arrival at the palace by helicopter.
“Thank you to President Enrique Pena Nieto – for the invitation to meet with him in Mexico City, Mexico. Wonderful leadership and high quality people! I look forward to our next meeting. #TrumpTrain #MakeAmericaGreatAgain #TrumpPence16” Trump wrote in the post.
A Mexican government official and a source close to the Mexican government both tell CNN that the idea for the invitations for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto came from the Finance Ministry.
According to the source close to the government, Mexico wants to show it can work with Trump if he wins. Finance Ministry officials hope that having Trump in Mexico will calm down investors who have been fleeing. The Mexican Central Bank registered more than $11 billion in capital outflows in the first half of 2016. The visit was seen as an attempt to prevent the peso from falling. Up to now, when Clinton leads in the polls, the peso strengthens; the opposite happens when the polls tighten.
According to the Mexican government official, the Foreign Ministry was not aware of the invitations to Trump and Clinton. In fact, Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz and the undersecretary for North America, Paulo Carreño, were in Milwaukee on Tuesday opening the new Mexican Consulate, and she flew back Tuesday night when Trump posted his tweets. Peña Nieto has reiterated that Mexico will work with whoever gets elected.