WASHINGTON, DC – When Vicente Fox left the Mexican presidency in 2010, he did not remain quiet or on the sidelines as former leaders have done, opining on a slew of issues ever since. Most famously, he came to prominence in the United States as one of President Trump’s most vocal Twitter critics.
Since then, critics in Mexico have called Vicente Fox out, saying that he’s more popular among the American public than his own. They’ve also noted Fox’s racist and sexist remarks during his own presidency. Nonetheless, Fox honed down on his critiques during a Tuesday address at the National Press Club, where he stood against Trump’s NAFTA policies, plans for the border wall and recent comments calling MS-13 gang members “animals.”
“Thank you for the invitation. [Former Mexican First Lady] Marta and I are glad to be here. I had to jump a wall to be here with you to defend the First Amendment,” he said, adding that Trump’s proposed border wall is “a stupid idea” and that while countries have a right to control their borders, a wall is not the answer. “It didn’t work in Berlin. It’s proven by history. Instead of a stick, we should use our intelligence to deal with the problems that we are confronting.”
Trump’s election, Fox mentioned, was a step backward after “great progress” made over the previous years. “It’s an election of a new alternative world with a U-turn to come back to the old times of the nation-state, to the old time of authoritarian government, to control borders, to control people. To put the fate of a nation in the hands of one man and let him do what he pleases. That’s not the American dream. That’s not what Washington and Jefferson and Lincoln thought.”
During the speech, Vicente Fox also commented on the upcoming elections in Mexico, saying that candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known as AMLO, represents a populist past. López Obrador is currently the top polling candidate in Mexico and among Mexican citizens eligible to vote in the United States.
Representatives from Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. have been renegotiating key terms of the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) treaty, but remain at a standstill over several contentious proposals, including a requirement that the treaty be formally renewed every five years, and a Trump administration proposal to impose a tax on imported cars made in Mexico–a move Mexican officials have decried as an unfair attempt to pressure them into accepting a deal to manufacture a greater amount of auto parts in the United States.
Fox, a former businessman and Coca-Cola official, contends that NAFTA is working and has improved the Mexican economy, which in turn has reduced the rate of undocumented immigration into the United States. Trump is “fully ignorant” about economic issues, Fox said. “He wants his NAFTA under his conditions, and his people and his team can’t move out of that. They have to get what Trump wants, and that’s not negotiating, that’s not making deals, that’s just taking advantage of the other.”
But Fox saved his harshest criticism for the issue of immigration. Trump recently caused a furor with comments about certain groups of undocumented immigrants, saying they weren’t people but rather “animals.” While the White House insisted the president was speaking about members of the MS-13 gang and not undocumented immigrants in general, critics said the comments were nonetheless beneath the office of the U.S. president.
“It is offensive and undignified to call immigrants ‘animals,’” Fox told the gathering, adding that he would be willing to sit down with the U.S. president if he “apologizes to my Mexican paisanos,” referring to the times when Trump repeatedly disparaged Mexico during the presidential campaign.
“To generalize about Mexicans is discrimination. To select a few countries is totally unfair and I wish more of us and more leaders in Latin America would speak up and more corporate leaders here in the United Sates would speak up,” Fox added.
Referring to Trump as a “wild horse,” the former president called on Latino voters in the United States to vote in November, saying the midterm elections are the best way Trump’s agenda.
“If you have a crazy guy running your nation one way or another, you have a Congress to stop that,” Fox said. “It’s most important here and whatever happens that you have a strong Congress, an opposition Congress, since nothing is best to ensure democracy than having checks and balances. What is best for this country is to be a minority government that has to go to Congress before they shoot the guy in North Korea or before you reject migrating people who are looking for asylum because they’re running away from violence.”
Doubling down on the proposed border wall, Fox quipped that he left at home the cowboy boots he is famous for wearing, remarking to laughter from the audience that “when you jump a wall you change your boots and put on tennis shoes so you can climb better.”