Mexico’s new foreign minister Luis Videgaray has Trump’s stamp of approval

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 January, 2017, 1:31pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 January, 2017, 1:31pm

Mexico, seeking to stave off more damage to its economy after the election of Donald Trump, has named as its new foreign secretary a former official once praised by Trump as “a wonderful man.”

Luis Videgaray left his post as finance secretary in September after he helped orchestrate a meeting between Trump and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto that angered many Mexicans. Trump lamented Videgaray’s departure at the time, saying on Twitter that if Videgaray had stayed in his post, “Mexico and the United States would have made wonderful deals together.”

On Wednesday, Pena Nieto named Videgaray as Mexico’s top diplomat, a move the president described as an attempt to build a “constructive” relationship with the incoming US president, who pledged during the campaign to build a wall on the border — and make Mexico pay for it.

Videgaray’s appointment enraged some Mexicans, who believe Pena Nieto has been too conciliatory toward Trump, whose derogatory comments about Mexicans have made him a widely hated figure here.

“An indignity,” political analyst Jesus Silva Herzog-Marquez said of the appointment on Twitter. “Give Trump a seat in the Cabinet!”

Videgaray’s ascension comes at a jittery time in Mexico. The economy has slumped since Trump’s November win, and in recent days Mexico has been rocked by nationwide protests over rising gasoline prices.

The value of the peso has fallen steadily since the election of Trump, who has promised to rip up free-trade deals and deport large numbers of Mexican immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

Several U.S. companies have recently scrapped plans to build factories in Mexico after coming under criticism from Trump. On Tuesday, the peso hit an all-time low of about 21 pesos to the dollar after Ford announced it was cancelling plans to build a US$1.6-billion factory in the central Mexican city of San Luis Potosi.

Protests over rising gas prices are also linked to what Mexicans are calling the “Trump effect.”

Last week, the government announced the deregulation of gas prices beginning Jan. 1 as a part of a larger effort by Pena Nieto to end the state monopoly of the oil industry. The move will immediately save the government money, because in the past it not only set gas prices but also kicked in subsidies.

In a speech Wednesday, Videgaray acknowledged the problems Mexico faces at home and abroad.

“The problems,” he said, “are enormous.”