Mexico’s President ramped up his verbal attacks on Donald Trump this week by comparing the Republican front runner's tactics to those used by Hitler and Mussolini.
In interviews with the Mexican press, President Enrique Peña Nieto blasted Trump's anti-immigrant statements and said the candidate's xenophobia and “strident rhetoric” seems to emulate the campaign tactics used by Hitler and Mussolini during the first half of the 20th century.
“That’s how Mussolini and Hitler rose (to power)," the Mexican president said in an interview with Excelsior. “They took advantage of a problem that humanity had then; they came after an economic crisis.”
Peña Nieto had initially refrained from responding to Trump's earlier comments when he called Mexicans criminals and rapists. The Mexican president said he avoided jumping into the fray because he didn't want to bolster Trump’s profile.
But as Trump continues to win primaries and climb in the polls leading up to the Republican Convention, concern about his views on immigration and border security has turned to alarm in Mexico. Now the Mexican government is pushing back with a series of its own counterattacks.
When U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visited Mexico in February, Peña Nieto took his first jabs at Trump, but without naming him; he limited his comments to saying that he opposed those who wanted to “build walls” and “isolate themselves.”
More recently, Mexico’s Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu told the Washington Post that Trump “sounded ignorant and racist.”
“When an apple is red it's red,” Mexico's top diplomat told the Post. “When you say ignorant things, you are ignorant.”
Now Peña Nieto is upping the ante. He said on Monday that Trump’s views “damage Mexico’s efforts to build bridges with the United States” and “look for solutions to common problems through agreements and shared tasks.”
He also echoed former Mexican presidents Calderon and Fox (minus the expletives) by insisting that his country would not be paying for a border wall.
Still, the Mexican president said his government will respect the U.S. electoral process and try to “build a better relationship” with whoever is elected president.
Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.