Mexico’s president has postponed his plans to visit the United States after a bad-tempered telephone conversation with President Donald Trump.
Mr Trump refused to back down on his border wall rhetoric, according to sources in both countries, leading the exasperated Mexican president to decide against an imminent White House encounter.
Mexico is usually one of the first stops for any new president, but Mr Trump is yet to visit as leader, and his Mexican counterpart has not travelled to Washington.
On Tuesday, Enrique Pena Nieto spoke to Mr Trump in a 50-minute call in which it was expected that they would lay the foundations for a visit in March. Prior to their conversation, on February 14, Luis Videgaray, Mexico’s foreign minister, travelled to Washington and believed he had secured assurances that Mr Trump would not broach the subject of the wall when Mr Pena Nieto visited.
But Tuesday’s conversation did not go well, both sides told The Washington Post.
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Mr Trump said he would not be bound by any such agreement and could not commit himself to not talking about the wall.
“That was a dealbreaker for us,” a Mexican official said, adding that Mr Pena Nieto and his administration were concerned in particular about a reporter asking a question about funding for the wall at a news conference and Trump answering it.
One Mexican official said Mr Trump “lost his temper.”
US officials described him instead as being frustrated and exasperated, saying that Mr Trump believed it was unreasonable for Mr Pena Nieto to expect him to back off his crowd-pleasing campaign promise of forcing Mexico to pay for the wall.
After the phone call, Jared Kushner, Mr Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, who is seen as the “point person” for Mexico, called Mr Pena Nieto and attempted to smooth things over.
“The problem is that President Trump has painted himself, President Pena Nieto and the bilateral relationship into a corner,” said Arturo Sarukhan, a former Mexican ambassador to the United States.
“Even from the get-go, the idea of Mexico paying for the wall was never going to fly.”
Mr Trump has, in the past, conceded that Mr Pena Nieto was in a difficult position – telling him in a January 2017 phone call “we will work it out.”
But, he added: “The fact is, we are both in a little bit of a political bind because I have to have Mexico pay for the wall.
“I have to. I have been talking about it for a two-year period. . . . If you are going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to meet with you guys anymore because I cannot live with that.”Scroll to the top