Unpopularity contest: Trump and President Enrique Peña Nieto to meet in Mexico

Americans are familiar with the Republican nominee's PR issues south of the border, but Mexico’s president has his own popularity problems at home.
August 31, 2016, 2:45pm
Photos by Erik S. Lesser and Shawn Thew via EPA

Fate has brought two of the most unpopular men in Mexico together. Donald Trump, the anti-immigrant Republican nominee, will travel to Mexico City on Wednesday to meet President Enrique Peña Nieto, who has an approval rating of just 23 percent in his country.

"In the past days, the President... invited both US presidential candidates to a dialogue on the bilateral relations between Mexico and the United States. Mr. [Trump] has accepted the invitation and will meet tomorrow in private with the President," Peña Nieto's office tweeted.

Americans are familiar with Trump's PR issues south of the border. He launched his campaign by calling Mexicans "drug dealers," "killers," and "rapists," and has vowed to erect a massive wall along the border and make Mexico pay for it. Anti-Trump sentiment in Mexico is pretty much universal, motivated more by his promise to "build the wall" rather than his threats to deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants who currently live in the US. Earlier this year, Peña Nieto compared Trump to Adolf Hitler and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

Related: What it's like to be Donald Trump's most prominent public defender

The American press often covers Peña Nieto as a liberal and dreamy young upstart. Esquire, for example, ran an article on him jogging with fellow "bro-tastic hottie" Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau. But back at home, he is widely loathed. He has presided over a sluggish economy, a rising murder rate, corruption scandals, and a brutal crackdown on teachers and labor activists striking in the province of Oaxaca.

The Mexican president also been dogged by the disappearance of 43 teaching students in 2014 in the province of Guerrero. The students were abducted by a drug gang and corrupt local police, but the government has been accused of lying about what happened and attempting to cover it up.

The visit comes hours before a speech on immigration that Trump is scheduled to deliver in Arizona. While Trump is still promising to build the border wall and refusing to grant "amnesty" to undocumented people, his campaign has said recently that his approach to deportations will be "humane."

Hillary Clinton's campaign blasted Trump ahead of the Mexico visit, saying in a statement, "What ultimately matters is what Donald Trump says to voters in Arizona, not Mexico, and whether he remains committed to the splitting up of families and deportation of millions."

The meeting between Trump and the Mexican president comes the day before Peña Nieto's state of the nation address.

Follow Brendan James on Twitter: @__deep_beige