Wall Street Journal
By Robbie Whelan
August 02, 2017
MEXICO CITY—Mexico denied assertions by U.S. President Donald Trump that his Mexican counterpart praised the U.S. administration’s border policies, saying a phone call that Mr. Trump alluded to never happened.
A spokesman for Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said on Wednesday that the last time the two presidents spoke was at the G-20 meeting in Germany on July 7. The subject of migration was addressed by both leaders at that meeting, but the discussion was informative and not congratulatory, the spokesman added.
While praising his new chief of staff John Kelly’s work as head of the Department of Homeland Security, Mr. Trump on Monday said that Mr. Peña Nieto had complimented him on the border actions.
“And even the president of Mexico called me—they said their southern border, very few people are coming because they know they’re not going to get through our border, which is the ultimate compliment,” he said.
The White House didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment.
Mexico’s Foreign Relations Ministry said earlier this week that Mr. Peña Nieto had noted at the G-20 meeting that deportations of Mexicans from the U.S. had fallen 31% in the first half of this year, compared with the first half of 2016, and that during the same period migration to Mexico from Central and South America was down 47%. Both leaders also agreed to discuss guest worker programs for Mexican workers.
The spokesman said that Mexico’s opposition to Mr. Trump’s plan for a border wall and crackdown on immigration is well-known and has been expressed in recent months by officials in Mr. Peña Nieto’s administration, including Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray.
“Consistently we have pushed for immigration that is orderly, that is legal, and that recognizes the economic realities of both countries,” Mr. Peña Nieto’s spokesman said. The proposed border wall “is not a bilateral issue; it’s a domestic political issue. Mexico believes in bridges, not walls.”
Mr. Peña Nieto is distancing himself from Mr. Trump’s claim that he called to congratulate him on his border policies, as Mr. Trump’s goals are deeply unpopular in Mexico, said Jorge Chabat, a professor of politics and security issues at Mexico City’s CIDE research center.
Mr. Peña Nieto’s approval ratings reached record lows early this year, while a recent poll showed only 3% of Mexicans view Mr. Trump favorably.
“It would be political suicide for Peña to give the impression that he supports a policy that is so unpopular in Mexico,” Mr. Chabat said. “It’s very important that he dissociate himself from any appearance that he’s in favor of the wall, or supporting Trump’s policies against immigrants in the U.S.”
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