Mexico City (AP) – Mexico’s Treasury Minister Luis Videgaray resigned from his post Wednesday, exactly a week after U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump traveled to the country to meet with President Ernesto Peña Nieto.
Treasury ministry spokeswoman Claudia Algorri did not give a reason for the resignation, but it came in the wake of Peña Nieto's widely criticized meeting with the Republican candidate in the Mexican capital last week.
According to local media reports, the idea of inviting Trump was Videgaray’s — but both he and Peña Nieto have denied it.
Videgaray, and MIT graduate who is widely perceived as Peña Nieto’s close advisor, will be replaced by a former finance chief José Antonio Meade.
Peña Nieto has faced a truckload of criticism after Trump's brief visit, with many Mexicans complaining that the president was poorly advised by the people around him.
"You do not understand [Peña Nieto], the presence of [Trump] in Mexico invited by you is behavior unworthy of the Mexican Government,” tweeted Mexican Sen. Miguel Barbosa of the leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD).
Besides the criticism from politicians, many other Mexicans expressed their angered at Peña Nieto.
“I really don’t understand how our president could invite this man,” newspaper salesman Ángel Díaz, 53, told Fox News Latino last week. “The president should be answering the insults and the lack respect that man has shown us, but instead he’s being friendly. Trump wants to build a wall, almost like the Berlin wall. Nothing good can come of this visit.”
Peña Nieto also has been ridiculed for not confronting him more directly about comments calling migrants from Mexico criminals, drug-runners and "rapists," and Trump's vows to build a border wall and force Mexico to pay for it.
The wall proposal has been criticized widely and fiercely in Mexico.
Many observers – both in and out of Mexico – say that Peña Nieto’s invitation for Trump to visit is a ploy by a politician with abysmal approval ratings at home. A national newspaper poll this month put Peña Nieto's approval rating at 23 percent, its lowest level since he took office in 2012 –– only slightly better than Trump’s 4 percent favorability rating among Mexicans.
“By meeting with Mr. Trump just hours before he unveils his latest immigration positions, Peña Nieto is allowing himself to become a pawn in this campaign,” said Jason Marczak, Director, Latin America Economic Growth Initiative.
“Despite the consistently crude and offensive comments about Mexico and hard-working Mexican-Americans over the last year, Mexican officials have largely refused to be drawn in to U.S. politics,” he added.
Speaking at a town hall late Thursday where he fielded questions from young people, Peña Nieto sought to defend his decision to invite Trump to visit.
He said the easier path would have been to "cross my arms" and do nothing in response to Trump's "affronts, insults and humiliations," but he believed it necessary to open a "space for dialogue" to stress the importance of the U.S.-Mexico relationship.
"What is a fact is that in the face of candidate Trump's postures and positions, which clearly represent a threat to the future of Mexico, it was necessary to talk," Peña Nieto said hours after his annual state-of-the-nation report was delivered to congress. "It was necessary to make him feel and know why Mexico does not accept his positions."
He acknowledged Mexicans' "enormous indignation" over Trump's presence in the country and repeated that he told him in person Mexico would in no way pay for the proposed border wall.
Peña Nieto came under fire for not responding to Trump's mention of the wall during a joint news conference on Aug. 31, something he has since sought to correct.
A day later, Trump tweeted that Mexico would pay for the wall, Peña Nieto fired back his own tweet saying that would "never" happen.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, also invited to visit by Peña Nieto, said this week that she won't be going to Mexico before Election Day. She called Trump's quick stop in Mexico City "an embarrassing international incident."