Mexican Leaders Tell US Cabinet Members About ‘Worry, Irritation’
Amid worries about a wall and deportations, Mexican officials expressed their concerns Thursday to two visiting U.S. Cabinet secretaries.
“We do not agree on the different measures that recently were stated by the government of the United States that affect Mexico,” Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said.
“There exists among Mexicans worry and irritation about what are perceived to be policies that could be harmful for the national interest and for Mexicans here and abroad,” Luis Videgaray, the secretary of foreign affairs, said.
The comments were made amid their meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.
Tillerson and Kelly appeared with their Mexican counterparts before reporters at the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs, but took no questions.
Tillerson, in his statement, said the U.S. and Mexico were “two strong foreign countries that, from time to time, will have differences,” but that his talks were “productive and forward-looking.”
Kelly emphasized there would be “no mass deportations” and “no use of military force” to round up undocumented migrants under President Donald Trump’s enhanced crackdown on those illegally in the United States.
Kelly’s statement contradicted a remark earlier in the day at the White House by Trump, who termed his plan “a military operation.”
WATCH: Spicer on Trump’s Use of Term ‘Military Operation’ and Deportations
After Kelly’s emphatic statement, White House spokesman Sean Spicer subsequently attempted to clarify, telling reporters during his daily briefing that “the president used that phrase in that it meant precision. He meant it to be used as an adjective.”
After Tillerson and Kelly arrived in the Mexican capital, Trump predicted it would be “a tough trip” for his two Cabinet members and added, “We are going to have a good relationship with Mexico, and if we don’t, we don’t.”
WATCH: Trump Foresaw ‘Tough Trip’ for Cabinet Members
The American emissaries also met with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto before heading back home.
The State Department released no details about what was discussed with Pena Nieto.
‘Low point’ in relations
The trip came at what many see as a low point in relations between the two countries, which have enjoyed peace along their 3,100-kilometer border since the Mexican-American War of the late 1840s.
Trump has repeatedly insisted that Mexico, one way or another, must pay for a border wall, which lawmakers in Washington estimate would cost at least $12 billion. And just this week, the Department of Homeland Security outlined policies that could result in the deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants.
Trump said Thursday, “We’re getting gang members out. We’re getting drug lords out. We’re getting really bad dudes out of this country.”
Thursday’s talks came weeks after Trump and the Mexican president spoke by phone on January 27, following the U.S. president’s inauguration.
The call did not go well, according to officials in both countries who spoke on condition they not be named.
Media reports said Trump chided his Mexican counterpart for failing to control drug trafficking and suggested the United States might even deploy troops to defeat narcotics cartels on Mexican territory.
Pena Nieto then canceled a planned trip to Washington. It has not been rescheduled.
“This is a low point in U.S.-Mexico relations, and an abrupt break from the last 30-plus years of cooperation,” Shannon O’Neil, senior fellow for Latin America studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, told VOA.
Officials in Mexico City said there were no substantive discussions on trade during the Americans’ visit, another sensitive issue that will certainly be on the agenda for future talks.
Trump wants to modify the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement encompassing the United States, Mexico and Canada.
VOA’s Pete Heinlein contributed to this report.