Mexico's President Cancels Planned Meeting With Trump
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
A meeting in Washington next week between President Trump and his Mexican counterpart has been called off. Mexico's president said in a tweet he is the one who canceled it. Trump had suggested the idea of canceling in an earlier tweet. This tweet-for-tat is the latest sign of rising tensions between the U.S. and Mexico. NPR's Carrie Kahn reports from Mexico City where people are stunned and indignant.
CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Early this morning, Trump tweeted, if Mexico isn't willing to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting. The tweet seemed to double down on pronouncements Trump made in a televised interview insisting that one way or another, Mexico will pay for the wall.
That left little room for president Enrique Pena Nieto, who as late as last night, despite pressure from lawmakers here at home, had said he hadn't decided whether to go to Washington or not. But today, he said enough is enough. Vanessa Rubio Marquez, an administration official, told reporters that he had canceled the visit and continuing to insist that Mexico pay for the wall is absurd.
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VANESSA RUBIO MARQUEZ: (Speaking Spanish).
KAHN: "Mexico will doggedly defend its sovereignty because the sovereignty of Mexico is not up for negotiation." Not long after that comment, Trump told Republican leaders gathering in Pennsylvania that both he and Pena Nieto canceled the meeting and that unless Mexico is going to treat the United States fairly with respect, such a meeting would be fruitless. End quote, "I want to go a different route," said Trump. Reaction in Mexico was swift and angry.
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VICENTE FOX: (Speaking Spanish).
KAHN: "We cannot cower before this dude even if he is a white guy, a strong man," said former President Vicente Fox, one of Trump's loudest critics and ferocious Twitter trolls. During what was a 12-minute rant on a national television program, Fox called Trump's threats a declaration of war.
ENRIQUE KRAUZE: This is not the way you treat your neighbors.
KAHN: Historian and Mexican writer Enrique Krauze compared the rapid deterioration of U.S.-Mexican relations to a time when the two countries were at war.
KRAUZE: I don't remember a crisis so acute, so serious as this one in 170 years.
KAHN: Both men and lawmakers are urging Pena Nieto to make stronger pronouncements against Trump. Former Mexican ambassador to the U.S. Arturo Sarukhan says the U.S. is not looking at the big picture. Speaking on CNN today, he says Mexico may not be as mighty as the U.S., but it does have cards to play. And he insinuated that it could decide not to be so cooperative in issues as important to the U.S. as immigration and security.
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ARTURO SARUKHAN: With a relationship as complex, as rich with so many moving parts as this one, if you try and apply a chainsaw to it, you're going to end up cutting off your own foot.
KAHN: That threat doesn't seem to be resonating with Trump. Later today, his spokesman said the administration is considering calling for a 20 percent tax on Mexican imports as a way to pay for the border wall. Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Mexico City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.