A storm of criticism followed President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s announcement Wednesday that he plans to travel to Washington to meet with President Donald Trump.

The trip, his first abroad as president, would be timed to mark the start of the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada free trade accord the first week of July.

The two leaders have displayed crdial relations despite ideological differences. López Obrador has called Trump a friend and said his administration has shown respect for Mexico.

“He’s really a great guy. I think he’ll be coming into Washington pretty soon,” Trump said.

Roberto Velasco Álvarez, the Foreign Relations Department’s director of North American affairs, wrote on Twitter that “Mexican diplomacy is based on building bridges with all people.”

“The main objective of the meeting proposed by President López Obrador is promoting our interests, and is not related to internal (U.S.) political processes,” Velasco Alvarez wrote.

But Mexico’s former ambassador to the U.S., Arturo Sarukhán, called the trip “a colossal political, electoral, diplomatic and long-term strategic error.”

“Trump is only interested in using the Mexican president as a theatrical prop for the elections,” wrote Sarukhán. “For broad sectors of U.S. society, visiting Trump now, when the country is experiencing its deepest social and ideological crisis in 50 years … will be interpreted by many here as a show of support for the most polarizing president in modern U.S. history.”

As a presidential candidate in 2016, Trump said Mexicans crossing the border brought drugs, crime and “tremendous infectious disease” to the U.S.

AMLO’s predecessor, Enrique Peña Nieto, was seen as propping up Trump’s candidacy by hosting a cordial meeting in Mexico with the future president.

After taking office, Trump continued to promise to build a border wall and make Mexico pay for it.

Source: The Associated Press