After Mexico’s leader canceled a Washington visit over U.S. President Donald Trump’s authorization this week to extend a border wall that he said would come at the southern neighbor’s expense, the two heads of state are trying to mend fences.
Trump reported Friday that he and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto spoke by phone for about an hour in the morning. “We had a very good call,” Trump told reporters at an afternoon White House briefing with visiting British Prime Minister Theresa May.
A statement from the Mexican president’s office concurred, citing a “constructive and productive conversation about the bilateral relationship between the two countries.” The talk touched on the U.S. trade deficit and the need for collaboration to halt drug trafficking and the illegal flow of arms.
But the statement also noted “both presidents acknowledged their clear and very public differences” over the border wall, calling it a “sensitive issue.” It said that they agreed to resolve those differences through comprehensive discussion on all aspects of the bilateral relationship — and that related talks between their respective administrations would be private, not public, for now.
Pena, under political pressure to reject Trump’s bidding, announced Thursday that he would not come for a scheduled visit Tuesday at the White House. The U.S. leader responded by tweeting that, unless Pena was prepared to talk money, he wasn’t welcome.
Mexicans were furious over Trump’s insistence that extending the wall, which many don’t want, would come at their expense — whether in new tariffs on goods imported from Mexico or some other form. They saw it as continued hostility from Trump, who as a candidate characterized some Mexican immigrants as “rapists” or people “bringing drugs” and crime.
Mexican newspapers Friday reflected broad national indignation.
“Mexico is sick and tired of Trump’s insults,” read a headline in Guadalajara’s Milenio newspaper.
“Unacceptable!” Mexico City’s La Prenza said in a banner headline.
Mexico City’s La Razon indicated newfound support for the country’s president, whose approval rating had sunk to a record-low 12 percent in a recent Reforma poll because of fuel prices, among other things.
“The country closes ranks with Pena Nieto against Trump,” La Razon wrote in a Friday headline.
Trump also drew the ire of Vicente Fox, who led Mexico from late 2000 through most of 2006. Interviewed Friday on the cable channel MSNBC, Fox called the new American president a “child.”
A Twitter feed attributed to Vicente Fox Quesada included a Friday tweet with a twist on Trump’s campaign slogan: “Amigos in the world, let’s make twitter [sic] great again with #to2unidos for Mexico.”
A tweet earlier Friday from Trump may have predated his call with Mexico’s president. The U.S. president had tweeted: “Mexico has taken advantage of the U.S. for long enough. Massive trade deficits & little help on the very weak border must change, NOW!”
VOA Spanish service’s Alejandro Escalona contributed to this report.