Mexican president's plan to meet with Trump draws criticism

MEXICO CITY (AP) - Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Wednesday that he plans to travel to Washington to meet with President Donald Trump, an announcement that received a storm of criticism in Mexico.
López Obrador said he wanted to make his first trip abroad in the first week of July to mark the start of the new free trade agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada that was negotiated with the Trump administration.
Trump is deeply unpopular in Mexico for his statements about the country. And the Mexicans remember the poor meeting of former President Enrique Peña Nieto with Trump, in which many Trump feel strengthened as a candidate in the 2016 elections. The Mexican State Department then issued a statement saying the López Obrador government wanted to stay away from the US election.
Despite ideological differences, the two leaders have shown surprisingly cordial relationships. Trump said Tuesday about López Obrador: "He is really a great guy. I think he will come to Washington pretty soon." López Obrador called Trump a friend and said his government had shown respect for Mexico
Roberto Velasco Álvarez, director of foreign affairs at the State Department, wrote in his Twitter account: "Mexican diplomacy is based on building bridges with everyone."
"The main goal of the meeting proposed by President López Obrador is to promote our interests and is not related to internal (US) political processes," wrote Velasco Alvarez.
However, the critics were in effect.
Mexico's former US ambassador, Arturo Sarukhán, described the trip as "a colossal political, electoral, diplomatic, and long-term strategic mistake."
"Trump is only interested in using the Mexican president as a prop for the elections," Sarukhán wrote. “For broad sectors of US society, a visit to Trump when the country is experiencing its deepest social and ideological crisis in 50 years is interpreted by many here as a sign of support for the most polarizing president in modern US history. ”
Despite being known in Mexico for refusing international travel, López Obrador said early Wednesday that he wanted to go to Washington. He hopes Canada will also attend the meeting, "but in any case we will go because it is very important to be part of the start of an agreement that I think is historic."
The president has diligently avoided conflicts with Mexico's much larger neighbor, even after Trump threatened to impose crippling tariffs on Mexican goods imported into the U.S., unless Mexico did more to stop migrant caravans. Mexico effectively blocked the caravans.
Trump angered many Mexicans when he said as a candidate in 2016 that Mexicans who crossed the border brought drugs, crime and "huge infectious diseases" to the United States. At the time, critics said Peña Nieto had pulpit him when he invited both U.S. candidates to Mexico City in 2016, but only accepted Trump. After taking office, Trump continued to promise to build a border wall and let Mexico pay for it.
In a recent article published for the Washington Post, Mexican columnist León Krauze wrote about the 2016 meeting: "Why should López Obrador, Peña Nieto's decision to support Trump during a controversial election, be so critical of risking international opprobrium and home conviction ? exactly the same mistake? "
Krauze noted that López Obrador has not yet discussed the meeting with Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden.
"It could just be another step in the Mexican President's strange appeasement by the Mexican President, a plan that has prompted him to take controversial immigration measures that are far from the humanitarian approach he promised as a candidate," wrote Krauze.

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