Mexico to counter negative tone of US presidential race

A man looking at Border Patrol vehicles parked in El Paso, Texas, as seen from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on Feb 24, 2016.
A man looking at Border Patrol vehicles parked in El Paso, Texas, as seen from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on Feb 24, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

MEXICO CITY (REUTERS) - Mexico's government is planning a diplomatic push to counter aggressive rhetoric against its nationals in the US election race, a senior official said on Tuesday (March 1), after calls by Republican front runner Donald Trump for a massive wall to divide the two nations.

Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have also proposed building a wall along the US-Mexico border, but it is Mr Trump who has taken the hardest line against the United States' southern neighbour.

The Republican front runner has labelled Mexican migrants as drug runners and rapists, proposed mass deportations of undocumented immigrants and said Mexico is "killing" the United States with cheap labour.

Mr Francisco Guzman, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto's chief of staff, said on Tuesday it was time for the government to push back against these negative images.

Mexico plans to use its extensive network of US consulates to highlight the benefits of US-Mexican relations to the US economy and the American people, Mr Guzman said.

The initiative will include forums with US business people, politicians and public figures to get Mexico's opinions heard.

"Mexico's positioning in the US election debate is not generally adequate," Mr Guzman told a group of foreign correspondents. "It doesn't reflect the constructive relationship between Mexico and the US."

Mr Trump rolled up a series of primary wins on Tuesday and looked set to take command of the Republican nomination battle.

The Mexican government has up till now avoided a direct confrontation with the billionaire real estate developer, though the country's top diplomat has called his policies and comments"ignorant and racist."

Former Mexican presidents Vicente Fox and Felipe Calderon have publicly condemned Mr Trump, both comparing him to Adolf Hitler.

"We're not going to involve ourselves in the (US presidential) debate. We don't want to polarize, but we do want to have a positive institutional relationship as we've had in the past," Mr Guzman said.

"The US-Mexico relationship requires more bridges and fewer walls. The isolationist solution is not a solution at all," he added.

The United States is Mexico's top trade partner, the destination for about 80 per cent of its exports, in addition to sharing many cultural and family links.

To promote stronger ties, Mexico's government plans to meet with the final contenders for the White House once the two major parties have selected their candidates, Mr Guzman said.

"Any candidate, above all if he wants to project himself forward, has to, in my opinion, see the relationship with Mexico not as a threat but as an opportunity," he said.