clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Donald Trump is sitting down with a Mexican president who once compared him to Hitler

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto arrives at the White House for a meeting with US President Barack Obama in July.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto arrives at the White House for a meeting with US President Barack Obama in July.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s campaign says the Republican nominee’s surprise visit to Mexico on Wednesday to meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto will help forge a better relationship with the United States’ southern neighbor.

One problem: Trump doesn’t have a lot of friends among Mexico’s leadership.

So much so that Peña Nieto — who has a historically low approval rating of 23 percent in his country — once likened Trump’s "strident tone" to that of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.

Peña Nieto later clarified his remarks to say that the comparison served as a reminder of the damage divisive populist movements have caused in the past.

"Hitler, Mussolini, we all know the result," he said when asked to explain the comparison. "It was only a call for reflection and for recognition, so that we bear in mind what we have achieved and the great deal still to achieve."

It’s clear that Trump’s rhetoric isn’t lost on Mexican leadership.

Trump has not shied away from deriding Mexico and Mexican people throughout his campaign — repeatedly calling Mexico an "enemy" to the United States, calling Mexican immigrants "rapists" and "criminals," and blaming the Mexican government for sending its worst across the border. Not to mention Trump’s biggest campaign call, to build a Mexico-US border wall and have Mexico pay for it.

In July Peña Nieto said there is "no way" Mexico will pay for a border wall. Even so, he invited Trump – and Hillary Clinton – to the country in the name of maintaining a dialogue with the possible future of American leadership.

Peña Nieto isn’t the first foreign leader to speak out against Trump. He’s not even the first Mexican president to do so.

Foreign leaders generally stay away from criticizing presidential candidates in other countries. As the Washington Post’s Adam Taylor explained, as a leader you typically "don't want your witty insult from a year prior hanging over you if you have to work together," should the candidate become president.

But Peña Nieto is certainly not the only leader to criticize Trump’s campaign platform. Former Mexican President Vicente Fox has been openly critical of Trump’s candidacy. In February, Fox responded to Trump’s calls for Mexico to pay for the border wall with, "I’m not going to pay for that fucking wall," in an exclusive interview with Univision.

"Please, you Hispanics, Latinos in the US, open your eyes. It’s not to defend our race. Not to defend our creed. It’s to defend this very same nation that is hosting you. This nation is going to fail if it goes into the hands of a crazy guy," Fox added.

In light of Trump’s visit, Fox, who later apologized for his language, renewed his criticism of Trump, calling the meeting between the Republican nominee and Peña Nieto a "mistake."

"No turning back, Trump, your offenses toward Mexicans, Muslims and more, you have dug the hole where you are today. Goodbye, Trump!" Fox tweeted Tuesday.

And Fox and Peña Nieto are not alone in chiding Trump. Taylor compiled a list of 61 "not-very-positive things foreign leaders have said about Trump" for the Post:

"Mr Trump is so stupid, my God!" said Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.

"He changes opinions like the rest of us change underwear." Danish Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen.

"His discourse is so dumb, so basic," said Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa.

"I can only hope that the election campaign in the USA does not lack the perception of reality," said Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier referring to the "America first" slogan.

"Whether Donald Trump, Marine le Pen or Geert Wilders — all these right-wing populists are not only a threat to peace and social cohesion, but also to economic development," Germany's Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said.

With calls to dissolve decades-old trade agreements, peace treaties, and even international conventions over the use of torture, Trump’s rhetoric has repeatedly threatened the world order. As my colleague Zack Beauchamps explains, Trump’s quickness to make potentially drastic changes to international peace agreements isn’t lost on world leaders:

It's hard to overstate how epochal this is. Trump is, without very much thought, threatening to change the fundamental security equation for some of America's closest allies. To take them from protected to vulnerable, with seemingly no appreciation of the consequences. ... It's no surprise, then, that the reaction to Trump in the foreign press goes beyond disgust and anger to fear. Trump's foreign policy is all about unpredictable and radical breaks with the status quo — but the world depends on America to be the exact opposite of that.