Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has spoken out for the first time against Donald Trump, saying that the Republican front runner’s rhetoric is damaging the relationship between the United States and Mexico.
Trump, who has consistently used Mexico as a punching bag on the stump and promised to build a border wall that the U.S.’s southern neighbor will pay for, has incurred the wrath of two former Mexican presidents, but Peña Nieto’s remarks to El Universal Monday represent the first time the country’s current head of state has publicly spoken about the billionaire candidate.
“I am with those who regret and condemn this kind of [discriminatory] statements by Republican hopeful Donald Trump, they hurt the relationship with the U.S.," Peña Nieto told El Universal.
While Peña Nieto added that he is not worried about Trump actually winning the presidential election in November, he did say that his administration will “seek the path of mutual respect, constructive dialogue and bridges that allow us to really build a better relationship” with whoever gets elected.
Last month, former Mexican President Vicente Fox was not as guarded with his words when speaking about Trump and his proposed border wall.
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"I’m not going to pay for that f***ing wall!” Fox told Jorge Ramos in an interview for Fusion. “He should pay for it. He’s got the money.”
The former Mexican president, who led the country from 2000 to 2006, also questioned Trump’s allegiance to the Republican party, or, for that matter, any political party.
"He’s not a Republican. Absolutely not,” Fox said. “Those are not Republican principles. He is not a Democrat. He is just himself. He is egocentric."
The comments from Fox echoed those of his successor, Felipe Calderón, a few days before.
“Mexican people, we are not going to pay a single cent for such a stupid wall! And it's going to be completely useless,” Calderón told CNBC.
Despite the backlash from Mexican leaders – and civil rights activists in the U.S. – Trump has steadfastly stood by his strict stance on immigration and his call for the border wall.
“As sure as you are standing there,” Trump said following last week’s Super Tuesday elections. “100 percent Mexico is going to pay. The reason is I am a business man, I know what I am doing.”
The real estate mogul reiterated that the wall is going to cost $10 billion, but he says Mexico will pay for that wall because they have a $58 billion trade deficit with the United States. He also said he believes that building a border wall can be done fairly simply today, saying that if China could build a 13,000 mile long wall 2,000 years ago, surely America could build a 1,000 mile wall today.
“The Great Wall of China built 2,000 years ago is 13,000 miles, folks,” Trump said. “They didn’t have tractors, they didn’t have cranes, they didn’t have excavation equipment. The wall is 13,000 miles long. We need 1,000 miles. And we have all of the materials. We can do that so beautifully. And this is going to be a serious wall. This is going to be high wall. This is going to be a very serious wall.