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MEXICO CITY, Mexico, Fri. July 10, 2020 (Reuters) – President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Thursday that Donald Trump had drastically changed the way he talks about Mexico’s people, in the leftist leader’s latest warm words about the U.S. president who has a history of upsetting Mexicans.

Lopez Obrador’s comments came a day after the two men met for the first time at the White House, where the Mexican president praised Trump for showing “kindness and respect” toward his country. That drew angry responses from critics in Mexico.

Lopez Obrador told television network Telemundo that in the past, Trump, a Republican, had a certain “vision” of Mexicans. But that was different now, he said.

“He has completely changed his rhetoric,” Lopez Obrador said. “The relationship with President Trump is very good and, as I said yesterday, he has treated us like friends, not as distant neighbors.”

Trump described Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug runners during his previous presidential campaign and vowed to make Mexico pay for his planned border wall aimed at curtailing illegal immigration and the flow of illicit drugs. The Mexican government has consistently refused to do so.

Lopez Obrador took office in late 2018, seeking to distance himself from his predecessors.

But within months, Trump threatened to put tariffs on all Mexican goods if Lopez Obrador did not curb illegal immigration into the United States.

Lopez Obrador’s friendly remarks about Trump have troubled some U.S. Democrats, who worry that Trump wants to exploit the meeting with his Mexican counterpart to woo Mexican-American voters ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Right after the meeting, a Twitter account describing itself as the “official bilingual account” for Trump’s campaign began using footage of Lopez Obrador praising the U.S. president, in a bid to portray him as a friend of the Hispanic community.

Many critics of Trump in Mexico are doubtful he will remain friendly all the way to the election.

A June 26-27 phone survey by newspaper El Financiero found that 70% of Mexicans saw Trump in a negative light, although 59% agreed with Lopez Obrador’s plan to visit him in Washington.

(Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Dave Graham and Peter Cooney)

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