Trump defends wall in meeting with Mexico’s president

Free Press wire reports | 9/2/2016, 2:58 p.m.
Once referring to Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump as comparable to Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler, Mexico’s President Enrique ...

Free Press wire report


Once referring to Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump as comparable to Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler, Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto expressed optimism that he and Mr. Trump could work together.

President Peña Nieto and Mr. Trump appeared together and made remarks Wednesday afternoon following Mr. Trump’s quickly arranged and highly publicized trip to the Mexican capital.

Following talks held with the Mexican leader at his Los Pinos residence for about an hour, Mr. Trump said he told President Peña Nieto that the United States has the right to build a border wall to halt illegal immigration, but the Republican presidential candidate did not bring up his signature demand that Mexico pay for it.

“We did discuss the wall, we didn’t discuss payment of the wall, that will be at a later date, this was a very preliminary meeting. It was an excellent meeting,” Mr. Trump said.

On the campaign trail, Mr. Trump has vilified Mexico for causing illegal immigration and drug smuggling into the United States. He has called Mexicans entering the United States “rapists” and “drug dealers” and said they are taking jobs from American workers. He routinely has said that Mexico “is killing us on trade.”

Both President Peña Nieto and Mr. Trump discussed re-negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, and the illegal movement of people, drugs, and firearms across the U.S.-Mexico border.

While standing at a podium next to Mr. Peña Nieto, Mr. Trump read slowly from a written statement and then spoke more freely in response to questions. He praised the Mexican people and Americans of Mexican descent for their work ethic and high moral standards.

“I happen to have a tremendous feeling for Mexican Americans … they are amazing people,” Mr. Trump said during his remarks.

His praises of the Mexican people, however, fell largely on deaf ears.

Many Mexicans expressed anger and resentment toward President Peña Nieto for inviting and entertaining Mr. Trump.

The Mexican president is suffering from all-time low popularity with constituents.

“This is an insult and a betrayal,” artist Arturo Meade told reporters. “What can this meeting bring us, except surrealism in all its splendor?”

“This man has called Mexicans a burden on society, so for the president to invite him here in a friendly way, and what’s worse, to meet with him in private, well I consider that an insult,” popular Mexican blogger Diego Garcia told reporters at Mexico City’s Independence Monument.

President Peña Nieto was cordial in remarks about Mr. Trump following the meeting. But he but acknowledged Mr. Trump’s comments had hurt and affected Mexicans.

“This is an irrational act by two politicians with image problems,” said Mexico City security analyst Raul Benitez. “There is no logic.”

Mr. Trump’s visit to Mexico City took place hours before he was due to deliver a highly anticipated speech in the U.S. border state of Arizona on how he would tackle illegal immigration if he wins the election.