Even when President Trump and senior U.S. officials go out of their way to say positive things about cooperation with Mexico, their manner of expression reinforces negative interpretations of their intentions. Two current examples from Trump’s interview before the Super Bowl and Secretary Kelly’s testimony in Congress together with Mexican columnist reactions:
What the U.S. says:
Trump: We have to do something about the cartels. I did talk to [Peña Nieto] about it. I want to help him with it. … He seemed very willing to get help from us because he has got a problem, and it’s a real problem for us. … We get along very well. But they have problems controlling aspects of their country.
Kelly: If the drugs are in the United States, we’ve lost. … I think a huge partner here is Mexico. If we can help them get after the poppy production, … if we can help them get after the production labs, if we can help them get after the heroin, the methamphetamine … before it gets to the border.
What Mexican commentators hear:
Alejandro Hope: The “aid” that Trump is supposedly offering isn’t aid: it is war. … There isn’t … a recognition of the co-responsibility of the two countries with the problem of transnational organized crime. … Trump’s offer is … bullets for the narcos in Mexico – period. If this is aid, I prefer open threats.
Salvador García Soto: What Trump suggested and Kelly confirmed is to take the Merida Initiative to the next level and relaunch it as a new “Plan Mexico,” similar to “Plan Colombia.” … a military assistance plan … which the Americans would coordinate and execute–with the Mexican army and police as “allies” and subordinates.
Raymundo Riva Palacio: This plan would signify the end of the ability of Los Pinos [the Mexican White House] to take independent and autonomous decisions, through a monumental qualitative change in the bilateral cooperation over the past 10 years: the fight against drugs would depend strategically and tactically on the United States.
More extensive quotes are below.
A visibly angry President Peña Nieto gave a very short TV address tonight, after Trump’s signing of executive orders and an ABC News interview
calling again for Mexico to pay for the border wall. A translation of EPN’s address
Today, the President of the United States signed two executive orders related to our country: one to implement immigration measures and another to extend the wall at the border.
In response, I have ordered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to strengthen measures to protect our compatriots.
The 50 Mexican Consulates in the United States will become authentic advocates for the rights of migrants.
Our communities are not alone. The Mexican Government will provide them with the legal advice that guarantees the protection they need.
I call on legislators and civil society organizations to join efforts to back and support them.
Where there is a Mexican migrant at risk who needs our support, there we must be, there our country must be.
I regret and reject the decision of the United States to continue building a wall that, for years, far from uniting us, divides us.
Mexico does not believe in walls.
I have said it over and over again: Mexico will not pay for any wall.
These executive orders also occur at a time when our country is initiating talks to negotiate the new rules of cooperation, trade, investment, security and migration in the North American region.
This negotiation is very important for the strength, certainty and future of our economy and our society.
As President of the Republic, I fully assume the responsibility of defending and protecting the interests of Mexico and Mexicans.
It is my duty to face the problems and face the challenges.
Based on the final report of the Mexican officials currently in Washington, and after consultation with the leadership of the Senate and the National Conference of Governors, I will have to make decisions on the next steps.
Mexico offers and demands respect, as the fully sovereign Nation that we are.
Mexico endorses its friendship with the people of the United States and its willingness to reach agreements with its government — agreements in favor of Mexico and Mexicans.