The News
The News
Saturday 25 of March 2023

Foiled Diplomacy

Donald Trump and Mexican President Peña Nieto shake hands in Mexico City,photo: Reuters/Henry Romero
Donald Trump and Mexican President Peña Nieto shake hands in Mexico City,photo: Reuters/Henry Romero
One thing the EPN-Trump meeting was not was a tempest in a teapot

Battered and claiming general misunderstanding from his own people, President Enrique Peña Nieto (EPN) returned to Mexico wielding a Captain Mexico (not America) shield to fend off the brutal attacks he’s being victim of. And he warned he’d continue to do so.

“Even if they insult your mother?” asked Milenio newspaper and television Carlos Marín. The question was coarse, as Marín used the very irreverent term “mentada de madre” at the very end of a half hour interview aired Tuesday.

President Peña Nieto looked shocked! You just don’t talk like that to the president of Mexico. But journalist Marín, an oft coarse man, did. Peña Nieto did not take it as an insult but as a possibility and still defended his stance on the Trump invitation.

Finally Peña Nieto, a bullfighter of sorts when it comes to caping journalists, just reminded Marín:
“I am the president of Mexico.”

That might have been the end of an interview but not of the barrage of insults the president is being victim of after what is considered “a whopping error” in the handling of his request for both the two U.S. presidential candidates to visit Mexico.

The first mistake made by the president — or the Treasury and Public Finance Secretary (SHCP) Luis Videgaray, as everyone from the inside of the presidential residence of Los Pinos claims it was — was the order of things. Why didn’t they wait until Hillary Clinton accepted the invitation? Why did they rush to welcome Donald Trump as soon as he said yes? That is a question with no answer; they just rushed to have him come to Mexico. It was done, as it’s said in Spanish, “al aventón” or in a rush.

The second issue of discussion is clearly how it was done. All the reports at hand show there was an enormous fight at Los Pinos with Foreign Relations Secretary (SRE) Claudia Ruiz Massieu — who should have been in charge of the invitation, by law — the one person to mediate the invitation diplomatically. Did Treasurer Videgaray do the mediation? All arrows point his way.

In a photo after one of those then secret meetings, both Ruiz Massieu and Videgaray walked out together of Los Pinos, both visibly upset. Not that a photo proves they had been haggling over Trump, but it sure as hell looked like it.

A question that is not even being asked is if Secretary Ruiz Massieu would have appealed to the proper authorities for this type of event requested by the president of Mexico, that is, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Roberta Jacobson. This is a case in which the embassy is keeping a tight lip on, but surely when The Donald showed up in Mexico they were almost as shocked as the people of the nation were. Was Jacobson consulted? I doubt it very much, but it would have been a way of keeping it from being “a diplomatic incident” that had nothing to do with the U.S. Embassy.

Then, the cherry on top was that, after much discussion as to the proper ways of having done this, on Monday, Hillary Clinton said no to visiting Enrique Peña Nieto.

Hillary can’t be blamed for this. The controversy only favored Trump as he cut his distance in the polls from her by as many as four percentage points, and on Tuesday Bill Clinton had to come out and publicly blast Trump for maligning Mexicans and of course, defend the Clinton Foundation from Trump’s attacks. But apparently, Hillary is regaining lost ground from the Trump-EPN incident.

Though in the United States, this would be just one more daily issue in the screeching smearing machine the presidential race is. But in Mexico, it left many people reeling offenses against EPN, mostly because of Mr. Trump’s offenses to Mexicans.

One thing the EPN-Trump meeting was not was a tempest in a teapot. Even if EPN claims to be on the right track on international policy, as this is a way to open up the nation to global politics, everyone is asking why he had to meddle in something all past Mexican presidents have stayed away from: the U.S. presidential races.

He’d like Mexicans to believe he did the right thing, but protests are all over the place.

Maybe EPN should have stayed in China for a few more days, as in Mexico the oven is too hot for his bread bolillos.

But as he says, “I am the president,” but is he right?