A conversation with the former president about the GOP frontrunner, what Americans get wrong about Mexico, and "that fucking wall." (His words, not ours.)
Vicente Fox was merrily eating a taco on the street in Los Angeles last week, on the Spanish-language radio show El Show de Piolin. When he spotted a likeness of Donald Trump in piñata-form, the former president of Mexico did what felt natural: he started throwing blows with his free hand. “Try this!” said the host. He handed Fox a stick. Two gleeful whacks, and he’d abandoned his taco. This was a job for both hands.
The three-foot tall, Trump-shaped piñata didn’t stand a chance. After hitting it ten more times, pausing only to sing an exuberant round of the traditional Piñata Song in Spanish, he finally cracked it open.
“Empty. Totally empty,” he noted, sticking his hand in the wreckage. “He doesn’t have any brains.”
Fox, the president of Mexico from 2000 to 2006, has been an outspoken critic of Trump’s since last year, when the GOP nominee launched his candidacy by stoking bigotry against Mexicans. In response, a heated Fox made the cable news show rounds, urging Americans to “Wake up!” to the “demagoguery” of Trump, whom he’s labeled a “false prophet,“ a “stupid guy,” and “a loser.”
Naturally, we had to talk him.
GQ: You recently went to town on a piñata in the shape of Donald Trump’s head. How cathartic was that?
Vicente Fox: [laughs] I had such a joy in my heart by doing that, because in Mexico, piñatas are very meaningful. Piñatas are a celebration. Piñatas let you send messages. And the message is: Trump is empty inside. He's empty in his head. That's why I put my hand into his head. There was no brain there. That's what he is, an empty person. When has he spoken about compassion? When has he spoken about the poor? When has he spoken about doing something for Africa, or Latin America? When has he spoken about having the right policies with his main partner, which is Europe? He's crazy. I mean, he doesn't understand how this world works.
You’ve said that Mexico is “not gonna pay for that fucking wall.” Why not? Wouldn’t it be nice to keep out people who voted for Trump?
[laughs] If it's to keep Trump out of Mexico, we will gladly pay for that. Because he is not welcome in Mexico. But let me tell you, the idea of the wall is stupid by itself. There is already a wall there that they have built with U.S. taxpayer's money. And it has served no purpose.
Why is building a wall, in your view, such a bad idea?
Because it's a stupid idea! We're in a global world. The world is flat. We trade with each other. We depend on each other. Nobody can be on [their] own. Coming back with nationalistic ideas, the ones he's proposing, it's Hitler himself.
Hitler himself had this exact same language to try to attract Germans to follow his false prophecies. And finally, Germany paid the price. It is stupid in today's world, to think that you can build walls, and you isolate from the rest of the world, and you're gonna be able to survive. The whole U.S. economy will asphyxiate because of enclosing itself in walls. And yet he's appealing to the fear that many people have in the United States after Sept. 11, that very sad day. And so he's appealing to the fear that you see in the United States. He sees enemies everywhere. Even under the stones, even in NATO. Even in Europe. Even in Asia. Everybody's an enemy. It's such stupid thinking.
"Coming back with nationalistic ideas, the ones he's proposing, it's Hitler himself."
What misconceptions do Americans have about Mexico?
Most Americans understand Mexico, they see us as a partner. We are a solid partner of the United States. We make great contributions to that nation. The corporate world, the CEOs, everybody, all the executives—they love Mexico. And not only Cancun! They love to come and partner with Mexico, partner with Mexican entrepreneurs. So the relationship is great until this guy came about and started throwing his hate and aggression toward Mexico.
Do you think Trump’s campaign has damaged the U.S.-Mexico relationship?
It has. He already divided U.S. society. He already divided minorities from discriminatory [white] people.
So, my cry is wake up, America! Wake up, you followers of Trump! He's taking you, as a false prophet, to the desert. Don't believe what he's saying. He's only nourishing his ego, his egocentric, selfish attitude. He's only promoting the Trump brand name. He's not even a good, successful businessman! He's indebted. He's gone into bankruptcy several times. But this poor guy has to learn that it is not the same thing to run a business and to run a nation. It's an absolutely different thing. You cannot instruct everybody in government. You cannot take generals of the army as employees, and get rid of them at any time you want. It's so stupid, his proposals that come from his business background.
Trump is campaigning as an outsider, a businessman who would shake up the corrupt political world. When you were elected, you too were an outsider—the first president from an opposition party in 70 years. Could there be any upsides to a Trump presidency?
This claim against the establishment of Washington, like he says, it's just fighting against everybody and showing that you don't have any spirit of building positively, of bringing in harmony. He is not going to reinvent the world. He's not a capable person to even improve the situation of the world. So it's nonsense, all that he's proposing. It's Mussolini, it's Hitler, it's Hugo Chavez. They think they are gods. And they don't hear [anyone] but themselves. They're so selfish that they don't think and work with anybody else.
Is there anything you like about Trump?
To tell you the truth, nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Even his blonde hair, his cabeza de elote, his hair like a corn cob. I don't like nothing. I like his wife. She's nice, beautiful. But she was illegal for a time.
In May, you invited Trump to “come to Mexico and see what Mexico is all about.” But when President Enrique Peña Nieto hosted Trump in Mexico City last month, you said the president could be “considered a traitor” for welcoming him. What changed your mind?
Yes, yes, yes, yes. He made a great historical mistake. He was very candid on what he thought he would get out of Trump. Very, very candid. And he's paying the price for it. Maybe he thought that he could regain some popularity, and some public opinion support, but it was exactly the opposite.
But you had initially said, a couple months ago, “Trump, come to Mexico, see what we're all about.”
That’s different. That's different. That's different. I’m just a simple, humble citizen today. I’m just one more of those 120 million Mexicans. And he showed such an ignorance about Mexico that I said, “Come and see what we are. Come and see how wonderful Mexico is, and how wonderful Mexican people is.” So that was my invitation. I'm not the president of a great nation like Mexico is. And you, as acting president, you don't invite nobody to sit down with them to speak or discuss. Right now, Trump is a nobody. I don't know why an acting president, Enrique Peña, has a dialogue with a nobody. With a loser. As I said, it was a big, big, big, big mistake on the side of Peña.
You haven't said as much about Hillary Clinton throughout this whole process, who declined the president's invitation to visit Mexico before the election. What do you make of her refusal to visit?
To me, today, Mrs. Clinton, Secretary Clinton, is a heroine. She has to save the world from that crazy, violent, hateful guy. Number two, she recalls me of Margaret Thatcher. She's the Iron lady. … But at the same time, she's a loving, tender, caring mother. She's compassionate. She understands the problem of the world. She has experience. So I think she is going to be the one who saves the world from this crazy guy.
"Tacos will make America great. "
But do you think it was offensive that she didn't accept the president's invitation?
I don't think she should accept. It would be a mistake again. I don't think Peña should insist on inviting her. They are candidates. They are not elected president. They are just candidates. You don't invite them as president, as head of state. You don't invite candidates. Nobody else in the world has done that.
Earlier this month, a founder of Latinos for Trump warned that without Trump in the White House cracking down on immigration, there could be a “taco truck on every corner.” As someone who lives in a country with—
Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, I wish that would happen. Tacos will make America great. And yes, we should have Mexican food all over the United States, and no McDonald's, no hot dogs, no waffles, and pancakes. It's much better and it should be in every corner of the United States.
Have you ever met Trump?
No, and I would never meet him. I don't like that kind of people. I don't like his language, I don't like his lack of compassion, I don't like his selfishness. I don't like him. I don't want to meet him. I would treat him like a piñata if I meet him. I would treat him like a piñata.
You would beat him up?
This interview has been edited and condensed.