Donald Trump’s surprise decision to visit Mexico, the country he wants to seal off from the US with a security wall, has not been warmly received south of the border.
Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, who has previously compared the Republican presidential nominee to Hitler and Mussolini, tried to strike a more emollient tone, tweeting: “I believe in dialogue to promote the interests of Mexico in the world and to protect Mexicans wherever they are.”
Many of his countrymen, especially among the intellectual elite, were rather blunter as they anticipated the arrival of a man who has accused Mexico of “bringing their worst people” to America, including criminals and rapists.
“@realDonaldTrump you are not welcome in Mexico,” tweeted Miguel Barbosa, of the opposition party of the Democratic Revolution. “Get out! You’re coming to get your picture taken with the very people you’ve offended.”
Barbosa also attacked Peña Nieto, saying his invitation to Trump was not worthy of the Mexican government.
The former president Vicente Fox, who has frequently criticised Trump for his conduct towards Mexicans, was equally direct. “There’s no turning back, Trump, your insults to Mexicans, Muslims and others have dropped you into the hole where you find yourself today. Goodbye, Trump!”
He added, Trump should “quit out of dignity for yourself, get back to your ‘business’”.
Mexico’s former first lady Margarita Zavala, herself a potential presidential candidate, was equally frank : “Even though you may have been invited, we want you to know you’re not welcome. We Mexicans have dignity, and we reject your hate speech.”
Enrique Krauze, a historian, called on Trump to show he was sorry for his words and ideas. “Apologise @realDonaldTrump for calling us rapists and killers, guarantee that you won’t build the wall or deport 11 million Mexicans,” he wrote. “Tyrants are to be confronted, not pacified,” Krauze told the Televisa TV network.
Mexicans have already made — and beaten to pulp — piñatas of Trump in response to his constant derogatory comments. They created a video game in which players can throw soccer balls, cactus leaves and tequila bottles at a cartoon image of Trump.
But his rhetoric especially spooks the political and business classes, which have pursued closer ties with the United States over the past 25 years and bet heavily on The North America Free Trade Agreement – an agreement Trump wants to renegotiate or rip up altogether – only to experience a rise in nativism and an anti-Mexican backlash.
Some in Mexico’s working classes, meanwhile, seemed less preoccupied with a Trump visit.
“He’s welcome with open arms,” said Efrain Rodríguez, a hotel employee in the south-eastern city of Villahermosa. “Everyone has their culture, their beliefs. We need to learn more about it.”
Trump is expected to meet Peña Nieto at some point in the middle of the day before travelling to Phoenix, Arizona, to deliver an address on immigration.