(JTA) — President Enrique Pena Nieto of Mexico compared the rhetoric of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to that of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, and said it has hurt U.S.-Mexico relations.
Pena Nieto’s comments, published in Monday’s edition of the Mexico City-based Excelsior newspaper, are among the most critical public comments to date of the New York billionaire by a foreign leader.
Trump has sparked outrage in Mexico with his campaign vow to build a wall along the southern U.S. border to keep out illegal immigrants and drugs, and to make Mexico pay for the construction. He also accused Mexico of sending rapists and drug runners across the border, and vowed to increase fees on some Mexican visas and all border crossing cards to help make Mexico pay for the proposed wall.
“There have been episodes in human history, unfortunately, where these expressions of this strident rhetoric have only led to very ominous situations in the history of humanity,” Pena Nieto said. “That’s how Mussolini got in, that’s how Hitler got in; they took advantage of a situation, a problem perhaps, which humanity was going through at the time, after an economic crisis.”
Mexico’s finance minister, Luis Videgaray, called the wall a “terrible” idea in an interview last week, while former Mexican presidents Felipe Calderon and Vicente Fox have both compared Trump to Hitler.
During his visit to Mexico last month, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden came close to offering an apology for comments made by Republicans on the campaign trail about Mexico and Mexican immigrants.
“I almost feel obliged to apologize for some of what my political colleagues said,” Biden said alongside Pena Nieto. “It’s a heated campaign season and I just want you to know, Mr. President, that the most heated rhetoric you’ve heard from competitors for the nomination for president is not who we are as the American people. It is not the view that is the view of the majority of the American people. It’s the exact opposite. It’s the opposite view.”