President President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico blasted President Donald Trump in a video message on Thursday, vowing that “nothing and no one stands above the dignity of Mexico” and adding that the U.S. president’s main gripes were Congress’s problem, not Mexico’s.
“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 to, not to Mexicans,” Peña Nieto said in the message, according to a translation provided by his office.
The term-limited Peña Nieto’s decision to align himself with his country’s presidential candidates and lawmakers who have criticized Trump comes at a critical moment in U.S-Mexican relations. In the midst of Trump’s ongoing efforts to achieve his campaign promise of a border wall with Mexico, top U.S. officials are renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada. Trump called NAFTA a “cash cow” for Mexico last weekend, vowing to end the deal unless the country did more to help the U.S. thwart illegal immigration.
Trump’s tweets and later public comments appeared to be based on reports that a large group of Central American migrants was headed to the U.S. border, which BuzzFeed news, which has a reporter following the group, indicated included many individuals who wanted to apply for asylum out of fear of returning to their home countries.
Trump on Thursday told reporters aboard Air Force One that a large portion of the troops he is planning to deploy to the U.S.-Mexico border would stay there until the border wall was built. Around 2,000 to 4,000 National Guard troops will be deployed to the area, Trump said, similar to actions by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Peña Nieto said Mexico stood ready to negotiate with the U.S. but would not do so out of fear. Casting his stance as one of national unity, Mexico’s president said his would-be successors were expressing a sentiment that defies internal political disputes — pointing to the decision of the Mexican Senate to unanimously condemn Trump as an example of this agreement.
“As Mexicans, we may disagree among ourselves, especially during election periods, but we will always be united when it comes to defending our country’s dignity and sovereignty,” Peña Nieto said.
Thursday’s video message is the latest episode in Trump and Peña Nieto’s complicated relationship. As a presidential candidate, Trump traveled to Mexico and held a joint news conference with the country's president, which later led to internal criticism over Peña Nieto’s perceived lackluster pushback against Trump’s proposed border wall.