Just hours before Donald Trump announced a surprise trip to Mexico, TIME spoke with former Mexican President Vicente Fox about the candidate. Fox has been openly critical of Trump throughout the election, baiting him on Twitter and famously snapping of Trump’s border wall claims, “I’m not going to pay for that f-cking wall.”
On Wednesday morning, Trump claimed on Twitter that Fox had also invited him to Mexico. Fox, who ran Mexico from 2000 to 2006, tweeted back, “I invited you to come and apologize to all Mexicans. Stop lying! Mexico is not yours to play with, show some respect.”
Here’s what Fox told TIME about Trump’s understanding of love, Trump’s hair, Trump’s “unmanly” behavior towards Hillary Clinton—and what makes the perfect pair of cowboy boots.
You tweeted to Donald Trump on your wife’s birthday saying he doesn’t understand love. What doesn’t he understand?
His character, his messages, his way of speaking, his way of dividing, discriminating. I don’t see any sensibility, any compassion from him except for himself, except for his own family. Out of that, nobody deserves his consideration. He’s never spoken about the poor, about those who don’t have opportunities, those who suffer… I haven’t heard from him any compassionate thinking, any opening his heart, any love for anybody except him and his family.
You have also tweeted that Trump is a loser, that he is a lunatic and that he is not welcome in Cancún. Are these things that a former head of state can only say on Twitter?
Of course, of course. It’s key and crucial to speak the truth, to communicate the truth. And I speak the way I feel, the way I perceive, the way I think. Donald, his aggressiveness has come to the world’s attention. For us in Mexico, we consider him an absolute danger, trying to break and divide what we have built for so long in the border, in the relationship of our two nations… So one part of my reaction has to do with combating his aggressiveness, his discrimination. The other part has to do with his ignorance.
After you apologized if you offended Trump, he said “I accept his apology” and “We’re going to have a great relationship with Mexico?” Is he right?
That was, at a point in time, my strategy. I said one way to go is to fight him, to oppose him, the other one is my compassionate side, my commitment to a dialogue. Accepting an apology is one of the best values a human being can have. So I said let me try this approach and see if we can deal with him in a different manner, but also to test him, to test his positions, to test his character. And he’s shown to be extremely weak.
So he failed the test?
Yes, of course. He has failed all along. His absolute inconsistency in his positions, this very lousy way of trying to gain votes in speaking one day badly and aggressively against African Americans and then the next day asking them for support, telling the Hispanic community you’re criminals, you’re rapists, I’m going to throw you out of this country, and now he’s trying to get through a message that he’s not that bad, that he wants to do that because he loves that community because he thinks there are great people there. He thinks that everybody is stupid, especially the U.S. voters and the Hispanics and African Americans. Who is going to believe him with these dramatic and profound changes in opinion and public policies? Which is going to be the Trump of the presidency (which I hope we never get there)? And finally his obsession [and] his very unmanly behavior with his opponent Hillary [Clinton]. That’s not the way to show that you’re presidential.
It’s incredible that we have run so low, so vulgar, and all of this has been provoked by him. He came like the bad guy, like the street fighter, like the gang member to break everybody who stands in front of him. This nation is so great, so powerful, it’s such a leader. Why can Trump tell people that he’s going to make America great? That poor guy with such poor thinking, how can he make America great?
Tell me something nice about Donald Trump. Is there anything you admire about him?
Unfortunately not. Not even his hair. What can you admire about a person like this? You cannot admire anything about him, he’s such a poor human being that I don’t see any qualities in him. So no admiration for him at all.
Hillary Clinton has also been critical of free trade, and has said NAFTA has “hurt a lot of American workers.” Is she right?
I am sure she doesn’t believe that. I am sure she’s for trade. This is what has made America great. She’s been moved to the corner because she wants to keep the center electorate, but she doesn’t believe in that. She will be open for trade.
You are modeling your presidential library after Bill Clinton. Why him?
He is a champion around the world. He’s done more for the world than any individual person in relation to poverty, in relation to nutrition, in relation to health. It’s incredible that they’re being attacked, but I know the [Clinton] Foundation, I know how great it is.
You have said you are for legalizing all drugs because government should not be controlling people’s lives. Are you concerned about the message that would send to kids about the harm of drugs?
I can tell you that the formula works, and works pretty well. You avoid criminals and violence, you refuse their mode of money that nourishes the cartels, and that is a great solution to the violence problem. In relation to the health problem, I have not ever heard of anybody dying from an overdose of marijuana.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and his wife bought expensive homes from a major government contractor. Do you think what he did was O.K.?
It could have been O.K. because it was supposed to be a purchase made by his wife. What they have managed poorly is to explain what happened there [and] to put the information with transparency in front of public opinion. And now he’s got that mark for the rest of his life.
What’s the most exotic animal skin you have cowboy boots made out of?
I like regular leather. I like that much better than the fancy exotic leathers. They have a great softness for your feet.
This interview has been lightly edited.
More Must-Reads From TIME
- Inside the White House Program to Share America's Secrets
- Meet the 2024 Women of the Year
- East Palestine, One Year After Train Derailment
- The Closers: 18 People Working to End the Racial Wealth Gap
- Long COVID Doesn’t Always Look Like You Think It Does
- Column: The New Antisemitism
- The 13 Best New Books to Read in March
- Want Weekly Recs on What to Watch, Read, and More? Sign Up for Worth Your Time