President Donald Trump threatened in a phone call with his Mexican counterpart to send U.S. troops to stop “bad hombres down there” unless the Mexican military does more to control them, according to an excerpt of a transcript of the conversation obtained by The Associated Press.
The excerpt of the call did not make clear who exactly Trump considered “bad hombres,” — drug cartels, immigrants, or both — or the tone and context of the remark, made in a Friday morning phone call between the leaders. It also did not contain Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto’s response.
Still, the excerpt offers a rare and striking look at how the new president is conducting diplomacy behind closed doors. Trump’s remark suggest he is using the same tough and blunt talk with world leaders that he used to rally crowds on the campaign trail.
But Mexican and White House officials vehemently denied the report.
“It’s a lie of the size of its bad faith,” Pena Nieto’s spokesman, Eduardo Sanchez, told AFP.
The White House also denied to AFP that Trump threatened to send troops to Mexico.
If confirmed, the report would contradict the tone of the conversation that was reported in near identical statements issued by the two governments last Friday.
The statements both described the phone call as “constructive and productive,” while Trump told a news conference that it was “very friendly.”
The phone call came as bilateral relations plunged into the biggest diplomatic crisis between the two neighbors in decades.
Trump angered Mexicans last week by ordering the construction of a massive border wall and vowing to make their country pay for the wall.
Pena Nieto has pledged that his government will never pay for the barrier and he canceled a meeting with Trump scheduled for this week in Washington.
In Friday’s statements, both sides said the presidents recognized their public differences over the wall but that they instructed their teams to continue the dialogue between the two governments.
In addition to the row over the wall, Trump wants to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico. Mexican officials expect talks to begin in May.
The phone call between the leaders was intended to patch things up between the new president and his ally. The two have had a series of public spats over Trump’s determination to have Mexico pay for the planned border wall, something Mexico steadfastly refuses to agree to.
“You have a bunch of bad hombres down there,” Trump told Pena Nieto, according to the excerpt seen by the AP. “You aren’t doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it.”