Former Mexican president Vicente Fox said Donald Trump is "a false prophet" in the model of 20th-century Latin American dictators and charged that the Republican presidential nominee was a messianic figure trying to dupe U.S. voters by playing to their fears and worst instincts.
"Wake up, America!" Fox implored repeatedly in a wide-ranging interview Monday at The Washington Post's headquarters. "I want to warn people here in the United States to watch out for this false prophet that promised gold, that promised paradise, that promised everything."
Fox has been a sharp and vocal critic of Trump for many months now, after the celebrity mogul launched his presidential campaign last year by slamming Mexican Americans and promising to build a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border to keep undocumented immigrants out.
Fox compared Trump to a long line of dictators, saying that as a Latin American, he recognizes "Trump's genius and his DNA."
"We've had many like him throughout Latin America — the Hugo Chávezes, the Fidel Castros, the Kirchners in Argentina, the Peróns in Argentina," Fox said. "Very messianic, very demagogic. They tell you: 'Don't worry, you don't have a job? I'm going to give you a job. You have fear? I'm going to build a wall for you so that you don't have fear.' He has followers, like a false prophet. So please, wake up, America! That's not the way to go."
Fox stopped short of labeling Trump a racist, but he said he thinks Trump's racially incendiary rhetoric is what has alienated so many Mexicans and Mexican Americans.
"We never hear him speaking about compassion, forgiveness," Fox said. "We just hear him with a stick, like the ugly gringo of the 20th century."
Fox said Mexicans see Trump "as a piñata." He said that a couple days earlier, he broke a Trump-modeled piñata in Los Angeles. "It's on Facebook. After I broke the piñata, I got my hand into the head of this Trump piñata, and I thought there was going to be fruit and gifts in the piñata. But it was empty. No brain inside. It's incredible. It's so empty."
Fox, who served as president from 2000 to 2006, is a center-right leader who formed a close relationship with President George W. Bush and has a celebrated career in business. He is an advocate of the North American Free Trade Agreement and took issue with Trump's opposition to NAFTA and other trade accords.
"You cannot lead without trade," Fox said. "You cannot lead on four walls. You cannot build your own house and forget about your neighbors and forget about the rest of the world."
Fox also criticized current Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto for inviting Trump to visit Mexico City a couple of weeks ago and meeting with him.
"Putting out the red carpet for this crazy guy to come as a nobody — he's a nobody right now. He doesn't have any decision power," Fox said. "So why do you invite him to speak directly, eye to eye, to a president? That was a big, big, big mistake by Peña Nieto."
Fox showered praise on Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, and said she was warm and would be seen around the world as an inspirational and uplifting leader.
“You’re electing the leader of the world, and we need a compassionate leader, very strong, like the iron lady, Margaret Thatcher — firmness, strength, but at the same time like a caring and loving mother," Fox said.
Reflecting on a Trump presidency, he added, “Sitting in that chair, the presidential chair of the United States, where Abraham Lincoln sat, where Washington sat, President Kennedy, President Reagan, with elegance, with authority, with consideration to everybody in the world — how can this guy sit there? That blond hair sitting in that chair? I just cannot envision it.”