Mex­i­cans de­bate leaked tran­script of lead­ers’ call

Some chas­tise Peña Ni­eto for not talk­ing tougher to Trump.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Kate Linthicum kate.linthicum@la­times.com

MEX­ICO CITY — His pledge to build a bor­der wall and force Mex­ico to pay for it was a cen­tral tenet of Pres­i­dent Trump’s cam­paign.

But in a Jan­uary phone call with Mexican Pres­i­dent En­rique Peña Ni­eto, Trump called the wall “the least im­por­tant thing we are talk­ing about” and sug­gested there were other ways to fund it, ac­cord­ing to a tran­script of the con­ver­sa­tion pub­lished Thurs­day by the Wash­ing­ton Post.

“You and I both have a po­lit­i­cal prob­lem,” Trump told Peña Ni­eto dur­ing the call a few days af­ter he took of­fice Jan. 20. “Be­cause you and I are both at a point now where we are both say­ing we are not to pay for the wall.”

Trump pro­posed that both lead­ers stop talk­ing pub­licly about who would pay for wall con­struc­tion — and threat­ened to pull out of trade ne­go­ti­a­tions with Mex­ico if Peña Ni­eto con­tin­ued to tell re­porters that Mex­ico would not fund a wall on its north­ern bor­der.

“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 can’t live with that,” Trump warned Peña Ni­eto.

“We should both say, ‘We will work it out,’ ” Trump said. “It will work out in the for­mula some­how.”

Peña Ni­eto, how­ever, wouldn’t budge and in­sists Mex­ico won’t pay for wall — just as Trump in­sists it will.

The tense con­ver­sa­tion be­tween the lead­ers of al­lied na­tions il­lus­trates the po­lit­i­cal stakes for both pres­i­dents, and the tran­script shows both have been less than to­tally can­did about what they said to each other. The tran­script in par­tic­u­lar has raised eye­brows in Mex­ico, where Peña Ni­eto’s in­ter­ac­tions with Trump have been closely scru­ti­nized.

Some Mex­i­cans, in­clud­ing mem­bers of op­po­si­tion par­ties who hope to re­place Peña Ni­eto as pres­i­dent when his six-year term ends in 2018, ac­cused Peña Ni­eto of not stand­ing up to Trump on the is­sue of the bor­der wall and com­plained that he re­mained si­lent af­ter Trump sug­gested send­ing Amer­i­can troops into Mex­ico to fight drug traf­fick­ers.

Peña Ni­eto came off as “sub­mis­sive and com­pla­cent” on the call, said Jorge Lopez Martin, a spokesman for the right-lean­ing Na­tional Ac­tion Party.

“Mex­i­cans must know if our pres­i­dent will follow the or­ders of a for­eigner who hates us, or if he will safe­guard the au­ton­omy of the Mexican gov­ern­ment that he rep­re­sents,” Lopez told Mex­ico’s Re­forma news­pa­per.

“Where is the de­fense of our sovereignty?” wrote Agustin Basave, a mem­ber of the left­ist Demo­cratic Rev­o­lu­tion Party, on Twitter. “Trump of­fered to send troops into Mex­ico be­cause ours ‘are afraid’ of nar­cos, and Peña re­mained si­lent.”

In Jan­uary, af­ter por­tions of the call were leaked to the As­so­ci­ated Press, the Mexican gov­ern­ment fiercely de­nied re­ports that Trump had sug­gested send­ing Amer­i­can troops to Mex­ico to fight “bad hom­bres,” with Peña Ni­eto’s spokesman calling such claims “non­sense and a down­right lie.”

But the tran­script ob­tained by the Wash­ing­ton Post shows Trump did sug­gest send­ing Amer­i­can sol­diers to Mex­ico.

“I know this is a tough group of peo­ple,” Trump said of drug traf­fick­ers, “and maybe your mil­i­tary is afraid of them. But our mil­i­tary is not afraid of them, and we will help you with that 100% be­cause it is out of con­trol — to­tally out of con­trol,” Trump said.

Other com­men­ta­tors de­fended Peña Ni­eto, say­ing he did an ef­fec­tive job of not pro­vok­ing Trump, who in the past has threat­ened to slap a bor­der tax on all im­ports from Mex­ico, a move that could dev­as­tate the Mexican econ­omy.

New China News Agency

MEXICAN Pres­i­dent En­rique Peña Ni­eto met with then-can­di­date Don­ald Trump in 2016 in Mex­ico City.

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