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Mexican finance minister resigns after disastrous Trump visit

Finance minister Luis Videgaray's resignation comes amid multiple reports that he convinced President Peña Nieto to invite Trump to the Mexican capital last week.

by Jo Tuckman
Sep 7 2016, 5:00pm

Photo by: Agencia EL UNIVERSAL/Juan Carlos Reyes García/EVZ (GDA via AP Images)

Mexico's finance minister resigned Wednesday, a week after President Enrique Peña Nieto's disastrous meeting with US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Luis Videgaray, who managed Peña Nieto's 2012 election campaign and is also the main architect of the government's ambitious economic reform agenda, had reportedly urged the president to extend the invitation to Trump, according to multiple reports in the Mexican media, based on anonymous government sources.

Peña Nieto himself made no mention of Trump when he announced Videgaray's departure on Wednesday, thanking him for "his work and the results he has achieved," and giving the crestfallen-looking former minister a warm hug.

Videgaray had reportedly convinced the president of the need to build bridges with the Republican Party nominee in case he wins.

Instead of making Peña Nieto look statesmanlike, however, last Wednesday's meeting left the president looking servile and politically inept as he allowed Trump to dominate the subsequent press conference and even pat him on the back when it was over.

The images triggered charges of betrayal. Even usually pro-government columnists have criticized Peña Nieto for not demanding that Trump apologize for calling Mexicans criminals and rapists, and for boasting that he will build a wall at the border that Mexico will pay for.

Hillary Clinton's Monday announcement, in an interview, that she would not accept the invitation to visit Mexico which she also received from Peña Nieto, has triggered further speculation that the Trump meeting may have damaged relations with the Democrats.

Peña Nieto's claims in interviews with mainstream media that he was actually "protecting" his country from the Trump "threat" through seeking a "constructive dialogue" have failed to convince.

The president's approval ratings were already in the low 20s thanks to the government's failure to contain the country's drug cartels, as well as a series of human rights scandals, and a labored response to a series of alleged corruption scandals.

These include the construction of a luxury residence for the presidential family by a favored government contractor. The revelation that the same company also sold Videgaray a vacation home at a very favorable interest rate was widely seen as a first major blow to the then finance minister's obvious presidential ambitions.

A dour technocrat with a doctorate from MIT, Videgaray has also been the highest profile face of the government's sweeping pro-market reforms, including the liberalization of the state-controlled energy sector, that have yet to live up to their promise of higher growth and lower bills.

President Peña Nieto named another technocrat, José Antonio Meade, as Videgaray's replacement in the finance ministry.

Related: Trump's humiliating visit could doom Mexico's president and his party

Follow Jo Tuckman on Twitter: @jotuckman

Global Economy
Luis Videgaray
mexican finance minister
us-mexican trade