12:06 P.M. — Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto says he will not attend a planned Jan. 31 meeting with President Donald J. Trump, hours after Trump tweeted the meeting should be canceled if Mexico won’t pay for a border wall.
Pena Nieto’s message on Twitter ended days of uncertainty about what he would do.
WASHINGTON D.C. (CNN) — Donald Trump hasn’t even been president for a week and already the US-Mexico battle over a border wall is turning red hot.
Not giving an inch, Trump bluntly said Thursday that it would be better to cancel his scheduled meeting later this month with the Mexican president if he continues to refuse to pay for a wall on the border.
Trump’s pushback came after Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said — again — on Wednesday that his country “will not pay for any wall,” Trump tweeted that they should just skip their planned January 31 meeting at the White House.
“If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting,” Trump tweeted and in an earlier tweet he noted the US’s trade deficit with Mexico and what he said were the American job losses caused by NAFTA.
On Wednesday night, Pena Nieto had said he did not see a need to cancel his trip – but reiterated that he wouldn’t fund the wall.
“Mexico does not believe in walls. I’ve said time again; Mexico will not pay for any wall,” he says in a video statement posted to Twitter and translated by CNN from Spanish.
The back-and-forth between the two leaders — which began last year during the very first days of the Trump campaign when he called some Mexicans entering the US criminals and rapists and tensions lingered throughout the campaign. They escalated over the last 24 hours when Trump took executive action on Wednesday to begin the process of erecting a wall.
The President announced that move while a high-level Mexican delegation was visiting the White House – the first foreign representatives to visit since Trump took office – for meetings with top officials, including Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and adviser Jared Kushner.
Peña Nieto says he would wait for a final report from his top officials in Washington, and previous meetings with Mexican legislators, before deciding which steps he would take next.
Peña Nieto also adds he had ordered government agencies to step up protection for immigrants.
“I’ve asked for the minister of Foreign Relations to re-enforce protection measures to our citizens,” he says. He continues the 50 Mexican Consulates in the US will be used to defend the rights of immigrants in the country. He also issued a call to action to legislators and civil organizations to help immigrants.
Peña Nieto closed his message by saying that Mexico offers and expects respect.
“Mexico offers its friendship to the people of the United States and expresses its wish to arrive at agreements with its government, deals that will be in favor of Mexico and the Mexicans,” he says.