Tillerson visit to Mexico clouded by frayed relations with U.S.
MEXICO CITY — The Trump administration calls the visit a step toward mutual understanding, a way to move the relationship forward.
But the New York Times reported that as Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson arrived in Mexico on Wednesday Feb. 23, twin threats hung over the frayed relationship between the two nations: President Trump’s new orders to round up and deport immigrants who are in the United States illegally, and a separate effort to take a hard look at all American aid to Mexico, possibly using it to pay for a border wall instead.
By Friday, American officials are required to finish calculating all the money and grants that the United States provides to Mexico, a task that Mr. Trump first demanded in the executive order he signed last month directing the construction of a border wall.
The Trump administration, which set the Friday deadline in an internal State Department memo this month, has not explicitly said why it ordered the review. But its inclusion in the executive order mandating that a wall be built suggests that Mr. Trump has linked the two issues — and may be looking for more leverage in negotiations with Mexico.
The timing adds to the deep tensions between the two countries. Mr. Tillerson, the top American official to visit Mexico since Mr. Trump’s inauguration, arrived with John F. Kelly, the secretary of Homeland Security, only a day after the Trump administration released documents ordering a crackdown on immigration in the United States.
Newspapers here have described the Trump administration’s new deportation policies in apocalyptic terms, saying in some cases that they represented “war” on the millions of Mexicans in the United States.
Mexico’s foreign minister, Luis Videgaray, said Wednesday that the package of immigration directives is “something that, without doubt, worries all of us Mexicans” and will be “the first point on the agenda” when he meets with his American counterpart.
Nothing about the meetings this week is likely to be easy, for either side. Mr. Tillerson met with Mr. Trump in the Oval Office just before his departure, but there have been few signs that the secretary of state plays a pivotal role in setting the administration’s foreign policy agenda. He has largely been absent from important White House meetings with foreign leaders, has uttered few words in public since his confirmation and was not even allowed his choice of a top deputy.
Instead, Mr. Tillerson has largely been assigned to tidy up the confrontations Mr. Trump has had with longtime allies. Last week, he went to Germany to reassure his European counterparts that Mr. Trump valued NATO and the European Union, despite the president’s statements to the contrary.
Mr. Trump’s rift with Mexico is not only deeper, but also is likely to worsen.
For the Mexicans, the meetings will be an important step toward deciding whether to battle or appease an administration that has consistently excoriated their country.
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