Trump meets Mex­i­can leader in Mex­ico City

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICAS -

On Mex­i­can soil for the first time as the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, a firm but mea­sured Don­ald Trump de­fended the right of the United States to build a mas­sive bor­der wall along its south­ern flank, stand­ing up for the cen­ter­piece of his im­mi­gra­tion plan in a coun­try where he is widely de­spised.

But within hours of Trump’s visit, a dis­pute arose over the most con­tentious part of the bil­lion­aire’s plans to se­cure the US south­ern bor­der — his in­sis­tence that Mex­ico must pay for the wall.

When an­swer­ing ques­tions from ad­ja­cent lecterns be­fore a Mex­i­can flag af­ter his meet­ing at the official res­i­dence of the coun­try’s pres­i­dent, En­rique Pena Ni­eto, Trump said Wed­nes­day the two men didn’t dis­cuss who would pay for a cost of con­struc­tion pegged in the bil­lions.

Silent at that mo­ment, Pena Ni­eto later tweeted, “At the start of the con­ver­sa­tion with Don­ald Trump, I made it clear that Mex­ico will not pay for the wall.”

With the meet­ing held be­hind closed doors, it was im­pos­si­ble to know who was telling the truth. But the dif­fer­ence in how Trump and Pena Ni­eto re­called their talk was an ex­am­ple of the po­lit­i­cal risk taken on by two un­pop­u­lar politi­cians who ar­rived at the meet­ing hav­ing spent months quar­rel­ing from afar.

Trump be­gan his cam­paign by de­rid­ing Mex­ico as a source of rapists and crim­i­nals, and piled on in the months to come as he at­tacked Mex­ico over free trade, il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion and bor­der se­cu­rity. Pena Ni­eto re­sponded by con­demn­ing Trump’s lan­guage, say­ing those were the sort of words that gave rise to Adolf Hitler.

Pena Ni­eto did not re­peat such crit­i­cism Wed­nes­day, but ac­knowl­edged Trump’s com­ments had “hurt and af­fected Mex­i­cans.”

“The Mex­i­cans de­serve ev­ery­one’s re­spect,” he said.

The trip and the later dis­pute, ar­riv­ing 10 weeks be­fore Amer­ica’s pres­i­den­tial Elec­tion Day, came just hours be­fore Trump was to de­liver a highly an­tic­i­pated speech in Ari­zona about il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion. That has been a defin­ing is­sue of his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, but also one on which he’s ap­peared to wa­ver in re­cent days.

Trump stayed on script af­ter the meet­ing, read­ing a state­ment from notes and po­litely an­swer­ing shouted ques­tions from re­porters about his prom­ise to force Mex­ico to pay for a wall along the bor­der be­tween the two coun­tries.

“We did dis­cuss the wall. We didn’t dis­cuss pay­ment of the wall,” Trump said.

Writ­ing later on Twit­ter, Pena Ni­eto said the sub­ject was among the first things the men dis­cussed. He has for months said “there is no sce­nario” un­der which Mex­ico would pay for the wall.

US pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Don­ald J. Trump


US Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump and Mex­ico’s Pres­i­dent En­rique Pena Ni­eto ar­rive for a press con­fer­ence at the Los Pi­nos res­i­dence in Mex­ico City on Wed­nes­day.

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