MEXICO CITY — As Mexico's foreign minister was flying toward Washington on Tuesday for his first visit with the new administration, news broke that President Trump, the very next day, planned to order construction of a giant wall across the U.S.-Mexican border.
The outrage in Mexico was swift and emphatic. Trump's wall project has been widely condemned here since he announced his intentions during his campaign. But many saw the timing of Trump's presidential action as an added insult — with top Mexican officials in town and President Enrique Peña Nieto scheduled to visit next week.
“I regret and reject the decision of the U.S. to build the wall,” Peña Nieto said in a televised speech Wednesday night. “I have said time and again, Mexico will not pay for any wall.”
Former officials and top Mexican politicians across the political spectrum demanded that Peña Nieto cancel his visit with Trump after what many considered a slap in the face. The Mexican news media was reporting Wednesday afternoon that Peña Nieto would indeed cancel, but spokesmen for the president's office and the Foreign Ministry would not immediately confirm that.
“The welcome that the Mexican government envoys are receiving is slamming the door on their noses,” Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, a former presidential candidate, said in a statement. “It seems to me that the least that could be done in these conditions is to not attend, to cancel the visit to the United States as a matter of dignity for Mexico.”
Former foreign minister Jorge Castañeda said in an interview that if Peña Nieto doesn't cancel the meeting, “he runs a risk of having a new slap in the face, or being under such enormous pressure from public opinion in Mexico to stand up to Trump after today's insults that he's going to have to be unpleasant, and he's going to have to be macho, and he's going to have to be strident.”
“And first of all, he doesn't know how to do any of that. He's just not very good at it.” Castañeda added. “And second of all, that's not conducive to a productive visit.”
Also, without the new U.S. State Department structure in place, Castañeda said, Peña Nieto would have been “doing it without a net. It was precipitated. It was premature.”
Margarita Zavala, a likely presidential candidate and the wife of former president Felipe Calderón, wrote on Twitter that Trump's announcement was an “offense to Mexico.”
Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray, who was recently appointed in part because of his relationship with Trump's team and his skills as a negotiator, was still in Washington on Wednesday, Mexican officials said. But it was unclear whether he planned to stay.
“Given the announcement about the wall, the visit of [Videgaray] today only makes sense as a way to announce that there will be no meeting” between Peña Nieto and Trump on Jan. 31, Roberto Gil Zuarth, a Mexican senator from the National Action Party, wrote on Twitter.
Another senator from the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution described Trump's announcement as an “act of hostility and enmity” and said that Peña Nieto should call off his trip.