The bad blood between Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Mexico continues – and lately it has involved Miami.
Last week Trump took offense when the PGA moved a major pro golf tournament from his Trump National Doral Miami resort to Mexico City.
“You vote for Donald Trump as President,” he told supporters, “this stuff is all gonna stop.”
And even before the PGA announcement, Trump made yet another disparaging remark about Mexicans – calling out the Mexican ancestry of Gonzalo Curiel, a U.S. federal judge he’s feuding with.
“I have a judge who happens to be Mexican,” Trump said, insisting Curiel “is a hater of Donald Trump.”
The problem for Trump, however, is that Mexican-American and other Latino voters could be his chief obstacle to the White House. Recent polls show he has an 87 percent disapproval rating among that group.
But Trump’s most passionately vocal Latino critic can’t vote in November: Former Mexican President Vicente Fox.
Fox was in Miami last week as keynote speaker for the Kellogg Innovation Network conference. In a conversation with WLRN he explained Latin America’s fears about the Trump phenomenon – and, true to the form that helped him topple a dictatorship in Mexico, he didn’t mince words.
“Please wake up, America,” Fox said. “Analyze, evaluate what this false prophet is proposing.”
When he declared his candidacy last year, Trump called Mexican immigrants “drug dealers, rapists and murderers.” The PGA relocated the golf event to Mexico because it was hard to find a sponsor here – thanks in part, reports suggest, to Trump’s vitriol.
Fox considers that poetic justice.
“The way [Trump] has promoted hate – these are the consequences,” Fox said. “It seems to me that he’s not clear that every action has a reaction...He's the loser.”
Then there’s Trump’s pledge to make Mexico pay for a border wall. Fox created his own controversy earlier this year when he responded to that idea with an F-bomb on Univision.
We didn’t ask Fox to repeat it. But he did:
“We will not pay for that f------ wall,” he said.
We did ask Fox if he didn’t think the profanity hurts his cause – or at least brings him down to the level he accuses Trump of occupying. He told us he feels it’s necessary because the stakes in this election are so urgent.
“As we say in Mexico, Trump is mecha corta – a short fuse,” Fox said. “He is not prepared to be president of this great nation. I am just worried about what can happen if he gets to that chair where President Washington, Reagan, Roosevelt sat. I mean, that chair is the most powerful in the world."
“So we all that are outside of the United States worry about this, because we have high esteem for United States as leader of the world. But you cannot put in the hands of a short-fuse person the button to shoot an atomic bomb,” said Fox.
Fox said he feels an extra bond with the U.S. because his grandfather was born in Cincinnati. But he said Trump’s popularity signals something troubling about America’s democracy.
At the turn of the century, Fox was a democratic hero in Mexico. His 2000 election as President overthrew the country’s one-party autocracy, a regime that had lasted more than 70 years.
Fox feels Trump’s candidacy is a little too reminiscent of Latin America’s troubled politics.
“We in Latin America learned the hard way,” he said. “We had dictators all along the 20th century. So we see their genius immediately. And in this guy we see that. We see that kind of character. So I don’t want to cry tomorrow [about] what I didn’t try to resolve today.”
Even so, we pointed out to Fox that if a former U.S. head of state were to insert himself this way in a Mexican presidential election, the outcry south of the border would be deafening. But he denied he’s guilty of a double standard.
“Well, it’s a totally different situation,” he argued. “When U.S. citizens are electing the president, one way or another it’s going to affect ourselves.
“Look at the way [Trump’s] talking about Mexico – a trade war, that’s crazy. I mean, we chose to be partners, we chose to be friends. We didn’t choose to be neighbors. Trump’s attitude can take us back to the times of the ugly gringo, the ugly American in Latin America and the rest of the world.”
In his political heyday, Fox, who is 73 now, was known for his fighting spirit. We asked him if Trump has at least rekindled that for him.
“No doubt,” he said. “And I love that.”
Fox also said he’s encouraging Mexican-Americans to register to vote. And he left them with this parting thought:
“¡Nos hace lo que el viento a Juárez!”
Meaning, essentially: “Trump won’t defeat us.”
You can see more video of WLRN's conversation with Vicente Fox here. Video by Spencer Parts: