Mexican President Enrique Pea Nieto announced Thursday that he canceled a meeting with President Donald Trump that had been scheduled to take place on Jan. 31 in Washington.
Pea Nieto had faced intense pressure from legislators to take a firmer stand against Trump by passing on the meeting, after Trump signed an executive order Wednesday moving forward on the construction of a wall along the Mexican border while continuing to insist that Mexico will somehow pay the multibillion-dollar cost.
In a series of tweets, Pea Nieto said he lamented the Trump administrations decision to insist on Mexico paying for the proposed border wall, a condition the Mexican president has long said he would not accept.
This morning, we have informed the White House that I will not attend the work meeting scheduled for next Tuesday with @POTUS, Pea Nieto wrote.
Mexico offers and demands respect, as a the sovereign Nation that we are, Pea Nieto wrote in another tweet.
The Thursday morning announcement followed long hours of speculation Wednesday night, as political figures pressed Pea Nieto to take a stand against what many Mexicans view as a uniquely hostile U.S. president that wants to bilk the country for billions of dollars. Trump has repeatedly made public statements shaming international corporations that shift operations there.
It wasnt until Wednesday evening that Pea Nieto finally released a video recording in which he said that he would continue talks with the U.S. government and would consult Cabinet officials and members of Congress about what additional steps to take. Pea Nieto stopped short of saying in the video that he wouldnt attend the meeting with Trump, but insisted once again his government wouldnt pay for the construction of a border wall.
Mexico doesnt believe in walls, Pea Nieto said in the recording. Ive said it many times before Mexico will not pay for this wall.
Trump pounced on him Thursday morning, in a pair of tweets that said Pea Nieto shouldnt bother coming to Washington if hes not willing to pay for the wall.
The diplomatic fallout marks a unique low point in the relationship between the United States and Mexico, threatening to undermine the two countries close ties. And losing Mexicos partnership will play some role in undermining Trumps efforts to carry out policies including a crackdown on illegal immigration and challenging Mexican drug cartels.
Its going to be a disaster, Mike Vigil, the former head of international operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration, told HuffPost. Theyre our third-largest trading partner, but more so than that, we have a 2,000-mile border and we have to secure it on both sides.
Drugs coming across the border wont be affected by a physical barrier that can be climbed or tunneled through, he said. But losing Mexicos cooperation on security threatens to increase both the flow of illegal drugs into the U.S., as well as the stream of military-grade weapons heading south.
Donald Trump is going to be impacting negatively on many alliances that have taken decades to build, Vigil said. We could see a situation in the United States where were going to have epidemic levels of drug abuse.
Pea Nieto largely avoided confrontation with Trump during a campaign that repeatedly vilified Mexico. But given the hostility that Mexico perceives from the United States, Pea Nieto has little choice politically but to let the relationship deteriorate.
Pea Nietos cancellation of his trip is an understandable and logical decision based on Trumps comment that he should not come unless Mxico will pay for the wall, Maureen Meyer, a researcher with the Washington Office on Latin America, wrote to HuffPost in an email. The U.S. and Mexico are important neighbors and the relationship should be based on respect, partnership and cooperation, not building walls.
But John Ackerman, a professor of law at the National Autonomous University of Mexico who has been critical of both Pea Nieto and NAFTA, said he expects Pea Nieto to find a way to work with the White House.
Pea Nieto has cancelled the meeting because, given the situation on the ground in Mexico, if he had gone to Washington he would have had to forcefully confront and call out Trump in order to appease the political opposition and increasing pressure from society, Ackerman wrote to HuffPost in an email. This does not mean that Pea Nieto has changed his underlying strategy of appeasement and alliance with Trump and the regional financial and economic interests he represents.
Speaking to Republican lawmakers at a retreat Thursday, Trump implied that the decision to cancel the meeting was mutual, saying the two agreed to do so, instead of Pea Nieto making the decision.
Unless Mexico is going to treat the U.S. fairly, with respect, such a meeting would be fruitless and I want to go a different route. We have no choice, he said.Trumps use of the word respect framed Mexicos cancellation in personal terms, suggesting that Trump feels slighted by the decision.
This post has been updated with additional quotes from Trump and analysis of the meeting cancellation.