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Trump did not threaten war with Mexico, U.S. and Mexican officials agree

Donald Trump, then a presidential nominee, walks with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto at the end of their joint statement at Los Pinos, the presidential official residence, in Mexico City on Aug. 31, 2016.  (Dario Lopez-Mills/AP)
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MEXICO CITY — Did President Trump threaten to invade Mexico?

That's the question at the heart of the new controversy over the phone call last Friday between Trump and President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico, and both sides say the answer is no. Several published accounts mentioned that Trump referred to all the "bad hombres" in Mexico and said that the U.S. military might have to take care of the problem if Mexico's armed forces weren't up to the task.

Mexican officials did not equate that with a threat to deploy south of the border.

"It's absolutely false that the United States president threatened to send troops to Mexico," Peña Nieto's spokesmen Eduardo Sanchez said in a radio interview.

Trump was speaking in English on the call and Peña Nieto, who understands English, was responding in Spanish, which was being simultaneously translated for Trump.

The call came amid a thunderclap of tension between the two countries last week. Trump had tweeted last Thursday that Peña Nieto shouldn't come to Washington, as planned, if Mexico wasn't prepared to pay for the wall. Peña Nieto quickly canceled his trip. The two sides arranged a follow-up call for the next day.

The Associated Press, citing an excerpt from a transcript of the phone call, said that Trump warned that he was prepared to send American troops to stop "bad hombres down there" unless the Mexican military did more to control them. It was not clear whether the "bad hombres" were drug traffickers or other criminals, the news agency said. Mexico's Foreign Ministry denied such statements were used at all.

A senior Mexican official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss diplomatic affairs, told The Post in an interview that “Trump definitely didn’t threaten war. The call was constructive and friendly."

"During the call President Peña Nieto was emphatic on the importance of stopping the flows of guns and illegal cash from the U.S. into the hands of organized crime, and stressed the fact that  many lives of committed Mexican soldiers have been lost fighting against criminals armed with weapons illegally introduced into Mexico from the U.S.,” the official said. "The presidents agreed on the need to closely collaborate to fight against criminal organizations involved in the illegal drug trade.”

Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray said in an interview with foreign reporters  Wednesday that “there are significant differences in the positions” of the U.S. and Mexico. “Some of those differences were reiterated by both sides. But the conversation was constructive. And the most important thing was the agreement to keep working, to keep having dialogue, to reach good agreements.”

U.S. troops invaded Mexico several times in the 19th and early 20th centuries.