Mexico City: Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said on Thursday that Republican standard-bearer Donald Trump's proposals represent a 'threat' to his country, a day after the two men met in the Mexican capital.
Pena Nieto has been widely criticized for inviting and meeting with Trump, as well as for not confronting him more directly about comments calling immigrants from Mexico criminals, drug-runners and "rapists," and the candidate's vows to build a border wall and force Mexico to pay for it.
Speaking at a nighttime town hall where he fielded questions from young people, Pena Nieto sought to defend his decision. He said the simpler path would have been to do nothing, but he believed it necessary to stress to Trump the importance of the U.S.-Mexico relationship.
"It would have been easier just to cross my arms," he said. "And my decision as president of Mexico and as the person responsible for taking care of Mexicans and taking care of Mexico was to face him and open up a space for dialogue."
"What is a fact is that in the face of candidate Trump's postures and positions, which clearly represent a threat to the future of Mexico, it was necessary to talk," Pena Nieto said. "It was necessary to make him feel and know why Mexico does not accept his positions."
He repeated that he told Trump in person that Mexico would "in no way" pay for the proposed border wall.
The president came under fire for not responding to Trump's mention of the wall during a joint news conference Wednesday, something he has since sought to correct. Earlier Thursday, after Trump tweeted that Mexico would pay for the wall, Pena Nieto fired back his own tweet saying that would "never" happen.
Pena Nieto also rejected a recent investigative report that found large portions of his law thesis 25 years ago were copied without citation from other sources, although he allowed some authors were "probably" not cited properly.
"I remember very clearly the studies I carried out, what I researched and what I formulated in my thesis. Nobody can tell me I plagiarized my thesis," the president said. "I may have committed some methodological error, but not with the aim of wanting to make someone else's ideas mine....