There’s been a lot of entertaining plot twists this election cycle, but Donald Trump’s impromptu meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico has to be one of the most fantastically unexpected events yet.
The meeting comes as the Republican nominee looks to “soften” his immigration stance in in order to attract Hispanic and Latino voters as well as wary independent that may still be on the fence (pun-intended). Apparently, calling Mexicans “rapists” hasn’t translated to high polling numbers in the general election.
While Trump’s motives for accepting a meeting south of the border are relatively clear, President Peña Nieto’s modus operandi is far more nebulous, at least at first glance.
So, the downside of Trump Mexico trip is that it gives Pena Nieto a platform to denounce Trump and the wall. And...wait, what's the upside?— James Oliphant (@jamesoliphant) August 31, 2016
At the moment, Trump favorability ratings in Mexico are abysmal. He may very well be the most hated man in Mexico. But guess who’s the second most hated man in Mexico? Yup, the guy sitting behind the president’s desk in Mexico City.
Citing polling data from the Mexican paper Reforma, the Associated Press reports that Peña Nieto’s approval rating has fallen over the last few years to an incredible new low of 23%. Roughly 74% of Mexican disapprove of his job performance. “The level is the lowest since just after Pena Nieto took office in December 2012, when he got a 50-percent approval rating in the same poll,” notes AP.
In fact, it’s the lowest approval rating for a sitting Mexican president since the Reforma first began tracking the polls in 1995. That same year, the price of the peso plunged into free fall.
Peña Nieto’s electoral woes are mostly self-inflicted. For the last few months, Mexico’s president has been embroiled in a series of controversies and scandals, ranging from plagiarism to corruption.
In mid-July, he casually apologized to his countrymen after being accused of using his platform and contacts in the government to purchase $7 million of luxury real estate.
"I repeat my sincere and profound apology for the offense and indignation I have caused you,” he stated at the time.
Add this to the massive proliferation of drugs cartels and extrajudicial killings carried out by assassins and officers affiliated with city governments and you have a recipe for an unpopular president.
To this point, two headlines Peña Nieto faces THIS WEEK:— Gabriel Debenedetti (@gdebenedetti) August 31, 2016
• Fired federal police chief over human rights abuses
• Plagiarized his law thesis
Like Trump, Peña Nieto needs a game changer, or better yet, a distraction. What’s better than a spontaneous meeting with one of the most polarizing and heavily-publicized candidates American presidential history?