|Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto (C) shake hands with resigning Secretary of Finance Luis Videgaray (L)|
Pena Nieto has taken responsibility for the decision to invite Trump, but a former government official familiar with the workings of the administration said Videgaray would have had played a preponderant role in the decision.
Newspaper columnists in Mexico have reported Videgaray was behind last week’s visit, in which Pena Nieto was criticized for not being forceful enough in rejecting Trump’s proposals and comments about Mexico.
Videgaray acted as Pena Nieto’s campaign manager during his 2012 election campaign, and has been seen as the architect of many administration policies. He led Mexico’s Treasury Department and is sometimes referred to as treasury secretary or minister, but because he oversaw budgets and fiscal policies, his role was closer to that of a finance secretary.
Pena Nieto thanked Videgaray for leading financial reforms during a ceremony at which the president announced he was accepting the resignation, but did not announce a new post for Videgaray.
“He has been an official very committed to Mexico, and very loyal to the president,” Pena Nieto said.
Former finance secretary Jose Antonio Meade Kuribreña — who had since served as foreign relations secretary and social development secretary — will return to the Treasury Department to replace Videgaray. Luis Enrique Miranda Nava will take over the social development post.
In comments to local media, Meade defended the decision to meet with Trump, saying it had lowered the risk of confrontations and helped moderate some of Trump’s policy proposals, especially Trump’s vow to change the North American Free Trade Agreement. Pena Nieto has said the meeting was needed to build bridges in case Trump gets elected.
But Pena Nieto was ridiculed for not confronting Trump more directly the visit about comments calling migrants from Mexico criminals, drug-runners and “rapists,” and the U.S. candidate’s vows to build a border wall and force Mexico to pay for it.
The wall proposal has been criticized widely and fiercely in Mexico.
Speaking at a town hall late Thursday where he fielded questions from young people, Pena Nieto sought to defend his decision to invite Trump to visit.
He said the easier path would have been to “cross my arms” and do nothing in response to Trump’s “affronts, insults and humiliations,” but he believed it necessary to open a “space for dialogue” to stress the importance of the U.S.-Mexico relationship.