Mexico City (AFP) – Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto lashed out at his US counterpart Donald Trump on Thursday amid growing tensions over migration and border security, saying “threatening or disrespectful attitudes” were unjustified.
Speaking after Trump ordered National Guard troops to secure the US-Mexican border, Pena Nieto vowed Mexico would stand up for itself and suggested the American president was jeopardizing the two countries’ relationship for domestic political gain.
“If your recent statements are the result of frustration due to domestic policy issues, to your laws or to your Congress, it is to them that you should turn, not to Mexicans. We will not allow negative rhetoric to define our actions,” he said in a national address.
US-Mexican ties have been strained since Trump won office on the back of a campaign heavy on anti-Mexican rhetoric.
Pena Nieto has twice canceled plans to visit Washington after tense phone calls with Trump in which the Republican president refused to back down from his insistence that Mexico pay for his planned border wall.
Trump’s latest attacks on Mexico were triggered by news reports on a caravan of Central American migrants crossing the country toward the United States.
The caravan, which numbered more than 1,000 Hondurans, Salvadorans and Nicaraguans, began breaking up Thursday, after the activists organizing it said it had abandoned its goal of reaching the US border and would end its activities with a rally in Mexico City.
The decision came after four straight days of Twitter diatribes from Trump.
The US president ordered thousands of National Guardsmen to secure the border and threatened to ax what he called Mexico’s “cash cow,” the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), if the Mexican authorities did not stop the migrants.
The ongoing talks on modernizing NAFTA have also strained ties between the two countries, as well as Canada, the third member of the agreement — though the three countries have recently indicated they are close to reaching a new deal.
“We are convinced that, by coming to agreements as friends, partners and good neighbors, both countries will fare better than if we confront each other,” Pena Nieto said.
“We stand ready to negotiate, certainly, but always based on mutual respect.”