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Clinton’s snub of Peña Nieto ramps up pressure on Mexican government

Treasury Secretary Luis Videgaray resigns after rumors abound he was behind controversial Trump visit

Secretary of Foreign Affairs Claudia Ruiz Massieu.
Secretary of Foreign Affairs Claudia Ruiz Massieu. Notimex

Hillary Clinton’s decision not to accept an invitation to meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has not prompted surprise. But her snub has served to aggravate further the scandal caused by Donald Trump’s visit to the presidential residence in Los Pinos last week. The Mexican government cannot seem to shake off the effects of that controversial encounter, which has caused tensions to surface within the Cabinet.

National Action Party (PAN) members of the Senate, the house of Congress that specializes in foreign policy, have invited Peña Nieto to share his vision of Mexican-American relations. “The president is distracted, internal conditions within his Cabinet make him avoid problems that he should attend to immediately,” said Fernando Herrera, the coordinator of the PAN group in the Senate.

The Mexican government cannot seem to shake off the effects of the controversial encounter with Trump

Rumors suggested that Mexican Treasury Secretary Luis Videgaray, one of Peña Nieto’s closest Cabinet members, was the one who organized the meeting with Donald Trump. Roberto Zamarripa wrote in Reforma that it was Videgaray who met the Republican candidate at the presidential hangar and took him to Los Pinos by helicopter. The treasury secretary said the invitation extended to a presidential candidate who has insulted Mexicans on several occasions was necessary to send a signal to international markets and say that Mexico was building bridges in case Republicans take the White House on November 8.

On Tuesday night Videgaray resigned from his post, according to information confirmed to a number of Mexican media outlets by ministry spokesperson, Claudia Algorri, presumably due to the pressure over the controversial Trump affair.

PAN senators have called for the “immediate” removal of the secretary of foreign affairs

Videgaray’s interference in foreign policy served to raise tensions within the Peña Nieto Cabinet. Two other close associates of the president, Interior Minister Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong and Secretary of Foreign Affairs Claudia Ruiz Massieu, reportedly went to Los Pinos and attempted to convince the president to cancel the meeting.

PAN senators have also called for the “immediate” removal of the secretary of foreign affairs. “If the president does not listen to the minister, neither will we,” Juan Carlos Romero Hicks said at a press conference. The PAN congressman called President Peña Nieto a “traitor.” “He is a traitor to the trust that Mexicans put in him and betrayed by his own team, which has no loyalty to him.”

Clinton says “no”

Ana María Salazar, a political analyst and former Bill Clinton advisor, said it was unlikely that Clinton would accept an invitation for an official visit to Mexico when she already has the support of the Mexican community in the United States. The meeting with Peña Nieto would not have earned her more votes. Political scientist Jorge Alcocer has written in Reforma that Clinton’s decision was no surprise because it was part “of the estimated cost” of opening the door to Donald Trump.

Gabriel Guerra Castellanos, another expert on foreign policy, said last week’s episode was “uncalled for, imprudent, and dangerous” for bilateral relations. He says the Mexican government should explain clearly the process that led to Peña Nieto’s invitation to Trump. “This event has become the greatest failure in foreign and domestic policy of the last 30 years,” said Guerra.

English version by Dyane Jean François.

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