A Mexican left-wing presidential candidate will meet with Mexicans and Americans in the United States on Sunday to "confront" President Donald TrumpDonald TrumpDeputy AG: DOJ investigating fake Trump electors Former Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz elected to Baseball Hall of Fame Overnight Health Care — Senators unveil pandemic prep overhaul MORE "with respect, with firmness."
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the leading contender ahead of 2018's presidential election, told El Universal newspaper that Trump is "not interested in exercising power, but pursuing power and nothing more."
Lopez Obrador narrowly lost the Mexican presidential elections in 2006 and 2012, and is viewed by many analysts as the main domestic beneficiary of Trump's aggressive stance toward Mexico.
A former mayor of Mexico City, Lopez Obrador is a leftist, nationalist politician who at times has been compared to former Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez. But he has also gained support from some in the business and traditional political communities, including billionaire Alfonso Romo and former Secretary of the Interior Esteban Moctezuma.
Trump's proposal to build a wall along the border between the two countries was received with anger in Mexico. The Mexican government's refusal to pay for the wall has brought a rare moment of political unity in the deeply divided country.
But Lopez Obrador remains sharply critical of President Enrique Peña Nieto's willingness to negotiate with the Trump administration.
"[The Mexican government] shouldn't have, for example, invited him, that was a mistake, we should not have gotten into the presidential campaign in the United States because of the principles of non-intervention and self-determination of peoples," he told El Universal.
Lopez Obrador said he decided to visit the United States because "we are being persecuted" by Trump.
"It's all a political strategy, so that is precisely why I'm going to the United States, I'm going to talk to businessmen and migrants from all over the world, but I'm very interested in talking to Americans," he said.
Although Mexico's presidential election is more than a year away and politicians are barred from having official campaign events before electoral authorities declare open season, Lopez Obrador has been more or less openly campaigning for months.
He is leading in most polls, closely followed by Margarita Zavala, the wife of former president Felipe Calderón. She has also declared her intent to run and has openly discussed her aspirations.
Peña Nieto cannot run for a second term, and his party's potential candidates have suffered in the polls, tied to his own dismal approval ratings.