MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s president is “considering” canceling next week’s visit to Washington following President Donald Trump’s order to begin construction of a wall between the two countries, a senior official said Wednesday.
The decision to rethink the visit comes amid growing outrage in Mexico, and a sense among many that President Enrique Peña Nieto has been too weak in the face of Trump’s tough policy stance.
The official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters the administration “is considering” scrapping the Jan. 31 visit. “That’s what I can tell you.”
It was not clear when a final decision may be made.
Trump’s order came the same day Mexico’s foreign relations and economy secretaries arrived in Washington for talks with his administration, and its timing was seen by many in Mexico as a slap in the face.
Critics of Peña Nieto — whose approval ratings were just 12 percent in a recent survey, the lowest for any Mexican president in the polling era — have hammered him for his perceived weakness on Trump. Opposition politicians urged him Wednesday to call off the trip.
“The position is very clear,” said Ricardo Anaya Cortés, president of the conservative opposition National Action Party. “Either one cancels the meeting with Donald Trump, or one attends it to say publicly and with absolute firmness that Mexico rejects the wall and we will not pay a single cent for it.”
Trump has vowed to force Mexico to pay for the wall, and also to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Peña Nieto and other officials have repeatedly said Mexico will not pay.
The U.S. president has also promised to step up deportations. He launched his campaign with remarks calling immigrants crossing in illegally from Mexico criminals, drug dealers and “rapists.” Trump added that “some” were presumably good people, but the comments nonetheless deeply offended many Mexicans.
Peña Nieto was roundly criticized after inviting candidate Trump to Mexico City last August and disappointed many of his countrymen by not publicly confronting Trump on the wall.
On Tuesday, ahead of their trip to Washington, the economy and foreign relations secretaries suggested that Mexico could leave NAFTA if negotiations with Washington are unsatisfactory — though that would not be the first choice.
Already Mexico is feeling the effects of the new tone from Washington. The Mexican peso has sharply devalued since Trump was elected, and several high-profile business ventures have been canceled amid threats to impose a border tax on goods made in Mexico and exported to the United States.
E. EDUARDO CASTILLO