As U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives for a visit to Mexico, many Mexicans are calling for their government to take a harder line.
On the eve of visits by the U.S. secretaries of State and Homeland Security, many in Mexico are calling on their leaders to take a harder line with an administration in Washington that is widely viewed as hostile to Mexico.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly — key Cabinet representatives of President Trump — begin a two-day visit to Mexico Wednesday at a tense time for the two nations.
While outraged with Trump, many Mexicans have been equally upset at what they see as an anemic response from Mexico City to a U.S. administration that has threatened to erect a border wall, step up deportations and impose a big tax on goods imported from Mexico, among other actions.
Mexican officials have generally responded to the provocative words from the north with a relatively conciliatory approach, though President Enrique Peña Nieto canceled a planned visit to Washington last month amid a simmering dispute about Trump’s insistence that Mexico pay for a massive wall he hopes to build along the border.
That public display of pique won the embattled Mexican president a small uptick in otherwise historically low approval ratings as he nears the last year of his six-year term.
But many here still view the government’s response to the broadsides from Washington as feeble and dispirited. They want Mexico to fight back.
“We need a president who stands up to Trump and his policies,” said Antonio Aguilera, a businessman who was one of more than 20,000 people who marched in a largely anti-Trump demonstration in the capital this month. “We do not need to put up with this constant indignity.”
In a column in Reforma newspaper labeled “Wake Up,” columnist Carmen Aristegui argued that Mexico should signal to the visiting U.S. Cabinet secretaries that scrapping the “undignified and absurd” border wall plan is a precondition for any negotiations.
The talks this week are expected to encompass a wide scope of issues, including border security, trade, law enforcement and immigration.
Commentators here generally anticipate that the U.S. envoys will attempt to smooth over the incendiary rhetoric toward Mexico that has emanated from Trump since before he took office last month. Mexican officials will probably stress the many benefits to Washington of Mexican cooperation on an array of concerns.
Yet they must walk a fine line: appeasing get-tough calls from an irate domestic audience, while not further alienating the leaders of Mexico’s key trading partner at a moment when the nation’s economy is already shaky.
In general, Mexican citizens have been focusing their ire on the Trump administration and have not unleashed much anger at the American public. Several generations of pragmatic Mexican leaders have shunned the reflexive anti-U.S. polemics that have long been a staple of certain political movements in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America, especially on the left. But anti-U.S. rhetoric seems on the rise.
The era of free trade that took off in the 1990s with the North American Free Trade agreement — involving Mexico, the United States and Canada — has cemented economic relations between the two nations. Trump, however, has assailed the tri-national accord as siphoning off U.S. jobs to Mexico and has called for a renegotiation.
The large-scale emigration of Mexicans to the United States in recent decades has also inevitably drawn the two nations closer in social, cultural, economic and other terms. Mexican leaders who once ignored the millions of Mexican expatriates living to the north now routinely make a point of advocating on behalf of their compatriots across the border.
That made it especially provocative when Trump kicked off his presidential campaign implying that many Mexican immigrants were criminals, and promising large-scale deportations.
Mexican authorities have lately been stressing that the relationship with the United States is far from a one-way street: Mexico, too, has leverage.
The United States, Mexican officials note, benefits from cooperation on a range of fronts, including bilateral trade, efforts to stop drug trafficking and deter illicit migration of Central Americans via the U.S.-Mexico border. Mexico, meanwhile, suffers from an illegal influx of arms across the border from the United States.
In congressional hearings Tuesday over Mexico’s new ambassador-designate to Washington, one lawmaker, Sen. Gabriela Cuevas, questioned why Mexico should continue its policy of deporting U.S.-bound Central American migrants on behalf of Washington.
“If the United States wants dialogue on immigration matters, they should sit at the table like equals,” said Cuevas. “Otherwise, what Mexico should do is leave the table and change its migratory policies with Central America.”
Mexican officials have clearly taken note of the widespread public disquiet about what is perceived as an anti-Mexico agenda in Washington. The mandarins of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party recognize that going into presidential elections next year while being viewed as a punching bag for Trump is not a winning strategy.
In an interview this week with the Milenio news outlet, Mexican Economic Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo hinted that a complete rupture of the North American Free Trade Agreement could prompt Mexico to rethink cooperation with Washington on a number of issues, including security and immigration.
But Guajardo, like other Mexican officials, refrained from issuing direct threats to end cooperation with the United States. Still, Mexican authorities will be sure to remind the visiting U.S. Cabinet secretaries this week of the two-way nature of the U.S.-Mexico bond.
“We have been cooperating with United States for many years on these issues, because they asked us to, and because we have a friendly, trustful relationship,” former Mexican Foreign Secretary Jorge Castañeda recently told CNN. “If that relationship disappears, the reasons for cooperation also disappear.”
Special correspondent Cecilia Sanchez contributed to this story.
Here's what's happened under Trump this week
Trump reverts to campaigning a month into his term. This time, his opponent is the media
Supreme Court justices appear split over whether Constitution extends to Mexican teenager shot across the border
- Two members of Trump's Cabinet are heading to Mexico. Here are five things to watch
- Trump administration clears the way for far more deportations
- Billionaires and corporations helped fund Donald Trump's transition
- David Letterman would like 'an hour and a half' with 'big and doughy' Trump
- Trump Officials Receive Cool Welcome In Mexico
- Rex Tillerson Under Fire For Sidelining Global Human Rights Report
- How A Small Cog In Mexico’s Criminal Economy Grew Into A Hotbed Of Terror.
- This Southern Town Made Wooden Coffins. Now A Mexican Town Will.
- Supreme Court Torn Over Whether Constitution Should Apply To Cross-Border Shootings
- The Border Is A Constitution-Free Zone For Agents Who Shoot And Kill. But Maybe Not For Long.
- Trump just signed a new travel ban. Here's what changed
- Stay of sexual assault charges in home daycare case leaves family 'furious'
You might also like
- As Trump tightens border, U.S. Congress bill would allow snowbirds to stay for an extra two months
- It's been one month. How's the Trump agenda going?
- How internet detectives are helping diagnose rare disorders
- GOP draft health care bill cuts Medicaid, insurance subsidies
- DHS document casts doubt on extra threat from 'travel ban' citizens
- Here's what's in Trump's new immigration order
- Five new power centers: a guide to the fractured Democrats
- White House asks Congress to probe whether Obama abused powers
- Experts caution against a dramatic reduction in the American military presence overseas
- President Trump signs new immigration executive order
- First Read: Welcome to our post-truth presidency
- Here's what critics say about Trump's new immigration order
- Powerful South Carolina political consultant implicated in indictments of a veteran state senator
- Will Donald Trump get a second Supreme Court nomination?
- "Hazing" rituals await Supreme Court's "junior justice" Neil Gorsuch
- The hunt is on for Planet Nine. Here's how to join it
- Trump approves controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline
- Trump praises 'Fox & Friends,' renews old feuds in early morning tweets
- Rex Tillerson finally answers question from NBC News' Andrea Mitchell
- First Read's Morning Clips: The Latest in the Russia Investigation
- Spicer: 'I've let the president down'
- Russian President Vladimir Putin met with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday
- OMB Diriector Mick Mulvaney: Washington's 'a lot more broken' than Trump thought
- Trump attacks conservatives over failure of health care bill
- A very consequential week didn't go well for President Trump
- Health Care Showdown: Republicans look to go big or go home
- No deal on health care bill after conservatives meet with Trump
- CA gov on those supporting health bill: 'Their name is going to be mud'
- Give it to me straight, doc: Is Obamacare dying?
- First Read's Morning Clips: Waiting for CBO
- 14 People Share What's It's Really Like to Have An Ex Who Is Now Their In-Law
- The Internet Is Freaking Out About The Way This Chef Cuts Pizza
- Another Mexican journalist has been killed — the third one this month
- A mother who dug in a Mexican mass grave to find the 'disappeared' finally learns her son's fate
- He defended the sacred lands of Mexico’s Tarahumara people. Then a gunman cut him down
- Colombia has a peace deal, but can it be implemented?
- Under pressure, Mexican-owned Cemex says it won't help build Trump's border wall
- Mexico's bargaining chips with Trump? How about a corn boycott
- From hosting 'The Apprentice' to running largest city in the Western Hemisphere
- She met 'El Chapo'. Now, Kate del Castillo is afraid to return to Mexico
- Gunmen on motorcycles in Brazil’s largest city kill nine in less than an hour
- Ruling party candidate claims win in Ecuadorian vote, rival vows challenge
- Zika virus: First cases of microcephaly reported in Colombia
- Brazilian president under fire over praise of women's supermarket skills
- Fire kills 31 in Guatemalan youth home
- Son of murdered Colombian diplomat gets $1 million in narco-cash
- Mexican lawmaker climbs border wall in stunt aimed at Trump
- Angela Lee: The world's youngest MMA champion
- Being gay in Latin America: Legal but deadly
- Meet El Salvador's growing middle class: Deportees from the U.S.
- More and more people are being murdered in Mexico — and once more drug cartels are to blame
- How Mexico's president saw his approval rating plummet to 17%