Vicente Fox, former president of Mexico, speaks on the state of U.S.-Mexican relations at a news conference at the Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco on April 19, 2017. Photo: Drago Rentería

Former Mexican president Vicente Fox (2000-2006) travelled to the Bay Area recently, paying a visit to the Marine’s Memorial Theatre at Union Square on April 19, to discuss immigration, Mexico-U.S. relations and President Trump’s proposed border wall.

Fox, who has been outspoken and critical of President Trump’s treatment of Mexican nationals and of the immigrant community, had a loud and clear response to the border wall proposal: “Mexico and me, we’re not paying for that fucking wall.”

“I love them,” Fox said to El Tecolote, when asked what message he would like to send to the Mexican-American and immigrant communities that have been hurt by President Trump’s comments.  “I love each and everyone of them as I love my grandfather that had the courage to migrate, looking for a better life. This is what I admire from all of these people. Let’s not forget, and I’m talking to every American citizen, this country has been built by migrants all along.”

At one point, Fox’s ancestors also migrated throughout Europe and into the United States. Fox’s family first moved from Ireland to Strasbourg, a region located between France and Germany, until finally making their way into the United States. Fox’s paternal grandfather, Joseph “Joe” Louis Fuchs, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. His father, Jose Luis Fox Pont, was born in Mexico as was the former president.

As a young man, Fox attended Mexico City’s Universidad Iberoamericana where he received a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1964, and he attended Harvard Business School in 1974.

Prior to his presidency, Fox was the chief executive of the Coca-Cola Company in Mexico, in charge of the company’s Latin American operations. However, Fox’s career path changed its course as he found joy in helping others in need.

“The profound belief and conviction that the shortcut to happiness is doing for others, that’s Marta’s [Fox’s wife] and myself’s life,” Fox said. “Be for others and you will be happy.”

The more than 564 people packed the auditorium, listening attentively as Fox stood at center stage comparing Trump’s wall proposal to the Great Wall of China.

“Let’s get into walls. Another great idea,” he said sarcastically.  “We have a wall already.  China built a wall, a great, tall wall, beautiful wall… That wall was built to protect China against its enemies. Their enemies were the Manchus and the Mongols. So China decided with great sacrifice, with their own money and didn’t ask others to pay, and what happened? China was invaded. And the wall in Berlin, built to keep people out of freedom, keep them out of the free world…? Walls don’t work.”

Fox has made it clear that he doesn’t advocate open borders, but he is in favor of “orderly borders,” as he said, and he acknowledges Mexico needs it.

Vicente Fox, former president of Mexico, speaks on the state of U.S.-Mexican relations at a news conference at the Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco on April 19, 2017. Photo: Drago Rentería

“We don’t want an invasion of gringos again,” he joked.

“Imagine $35 billion that are going to be coming out of your own pockets, of U.S. taxpayers,” Fox asked the audience.  “Because Trump wants that great and beautiful wall.  Why don’t we take $35 billion, and invest it in Centro America, even in Mexico, even in southern United States or even in areas that are unemployed.”

Fox also talked about The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a topic that President Trump has been vocal about.

Trump has repeatedly voiced his displeasure with NAFTA, telling the Associated Press: “I am very upset with NAFTA. I think NAFTA has been a catastrophic trade deal for the United States… It hurts us with Canada, and it hurts us with Mexico.”

Fox, however, believes that Mexico, Canada and the United States can all benefit from the trade agreement.

“NAFTA is a competitive tool,” Fox said.  “NAFTA has made North America the largest consumer market in the world.  NAFTA has created the largest production, the largest manufacturing, the largest expansion in technology and knowledge economy in the world. We are the champions. NAFTA can face the challenge of the East. United States by itself, it’s difficult that it could compete with China.”

As for the former Mexican president, he had a few words of advice for the president of the United States: “Trump, you need to stop being selfish. Now you represent 300-plus million U.S. citizens. Now opening your mouth or sending your tweets or sending your executive orders, you could be affecting eight billion people. So calm down, calm down and be quiet and be presidential.”