Mexicans support their president’s snub of Trump, but his approval is still rock-bottom

pena nieto

Mexicans approve of President Enrique Peña Nieto’s decision to withdraw from a planned summit with US counterpart Donald Trump, even as the Mexican leader’s popularity has sunk to a four-year low, a poll showed on Tuesday.

The survey, by polling firm Buendia & Laredo, showed that 64% of 1,000 Mexicans interviewed from February 2-7 approved of Peña Nieto’s decision to cancel a January meeting with the new US president.

His popularity, however, fell to just 19%, its lowest since February 2013, when the first poll in the series was conducted.

A poll by the same firm in late November found that Peña Nieto’s approval had tumbled to 25%, down from 29% in July, driven down by concerns over the economy and security as well as Trump’s presidential-election victory just days before.

The Mexican leader backed out of the January 31 meeting after Trump said he should not attend if he was unwilling to pay for a border wall between the two countries, a central plank of the New York businessman’s election campaign.

Trump Nieto Mexico

While Mexicans balked at Peña Nieto’s decision to meet with Trump in August 2015, when the US president was in the midst of a presidential campaign marked by anti-Mexican sentiment, many in the country rallied around Peña Nieto when he scrapped the January 31 meeting.

“We have to support the president of Mexico, so he can defend the country’s interests,” telecom magnate Carlos Slim, the fourth-richest man in the world, said. “I would be very interested in seeing this unity last.”

Even Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a two-time leftist presidential candidate whose campaign for the 2018 presidential election has seen a boost with Peña Nieto’s slumping popularity, called on Mexicans to support Peña Nieto — a call that came not long after those Mexicans were in the streets protesting Peña Nieto’s policies.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador Mexico presidential election leftist morena

In addition to arguments over the border wall, Trump has fanned Mexican anger by threatening to levy a hefty tax on Mexican-made goods entering US markets and to scrap NAFTA, a bilateral trade deal.

According to Buendia & Laredo’s February survey, Peña Nieto has seen his disapproval rating soar to 74%, up from 66% in November, despite receiving plaudits for cancelling the January 31 meeting.

Another poll, conducted in mid-January by Mexican newspaper Reforma, put the president’s popularity even lower, at 12%, with his disapproval rating reaching 86%.

The nadir in approval recorded by that poll was driven not only by Peña Nieto’s clash with Trump, but also by his government’s decision to sharply raise fuel prices, which was received with widespread public dismay and several weeks of protests, some of which turned violent.

Mexico fuel gas price increase protest gas station

Peña Nieto could at least take some consolation from the fact that more Mexicans disapproved of Trump, with 86% of those recently polled by Buendia & Laredo saying they had a bad opinion of the American real-estate mogul.

According to that survey, 60% expect Trump to follow through on campaign promises to build the border wall, although those interviewed were split 49% to 44% whether the US or Mexico would pay for it.

(Reporting for Reuters by Dave Graham; writing by Alexandra Alper; editing by Paul Tait)

SEE ALSO: ‘What the president says, I have money riding on’: The ripple effects of Trump’s import-tax plan

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