Borderline Personality: Trump’s Threats Against Mexico

Last week Donald Trump torpedoed the U.S.-Mexico relationship, forcing President Enrique Peña Nieto to cancel their meeting. Speculation buzzed as to the reasons behind his acts to sabotage cooperation with one of the U.S.’s closest allies and third-largest trade partner.

With the release of part of the phone call between Trump and Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto now we know—he really does hate Mexico.

This is the phone call that supposedly patched things up after Trump’s provocations regarding forcing Mexico to pay for the border wall led to cancellation of the Jan. 31 meeting of the heads of state. Turns out the call was anything but conciliatory.

Both the Associated Press and the Mexican press published information on the call from confidential sources. Veteran Washington correspondent Dolia Estevez reported that Trump told Peña Nieto “in a threatening tone”:

I don’t need Mexicans. I don’t need Mexico. You are going to pay for the wall whether you want to or not.

Even worse, on the bullying call Trump actually threatened to send in the U.S. Army to invade Mexico if Mexico didn’t control the “bad hombres” that “massacre our people” by trafficking prohibited drugs. This from the AP:

“You have a bunch of bad hombres down there,” Trump told Pena Nieto, according to the excerpt given to 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.”

Someone should tell Donald Trump that the threat of armed invasion of an allied nation is not something taken lightly in diplomatic circles. By all accounts, Peña Nieto barely responded at all. This has been his attitude since he gave Trump’s campaign a shot in the arm by inviting the Mexico-bashing candidate to Mexico and affording him statesman treatment as if he were already president.

The others reportedly on the call—Jared Kushner and Hater-in-Chief Steve Bannon on Trump’s team and Videgaray and Under-Secretary Carlos Sada from Mexico—listened in. Yet the tone and racist disdain for Mexico and Mexicans of the call reflect the Bannon influence.

After the leaked transcripts came out, the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Relations denied the content and called the conversation “productive”. The journalist responded by defending the “absolute veracity” of her information.

This latest revelation has brought the two countries closer to a diplomatic crisis. On the economic front, the Trump threats to tax or impose up to 35% duty on Mexican exports have made financial markets nervous and producers running for shelter. The peso has slumped to 21 to the dollar.

Trump has made it clear that negotiation was never really on the table—not on NAFTA or the wall (and who pays) or exports. He has shown no concern over the very real possibility of sparking a trade war with Mexico.

Meanwhile, it appears that despite the blows, Peña Nieto is still willing to do the United States’ dirty work. Since the implementation of 2014’s Plan Frontera Sur, the detention and deportation of Central American migrants at the Guatemalan border has dramatically increased. Trump wants to intensify the work of stopping migrants to the U.S. from Mexico’s southern border. Peña Nieto had considered this cooperation as a bargaining chip in negotiating the other matters but all doors slammed in his face.

Now it appears that Mexico is willing to continue with what many experts have deemed the illegal detention and deportation of refugees. Estevez also reports on a secret meeting in Tapachula on the Guatemala border. She gives the facts on this meeting in a letter to the Ministry she posted on Twitter.

Finally, the Pentagon and the Northern Command of the Armed Forces of the United States corroborated in a writtten declaration that they held a meeting in Tapachula on Jan. 31 in which Videgaray was present, among others. This meeting included Admiral Kurt Tidd, chief of the Southern Command, and General Lori Robinson, commander of the Northern Command.

Borders matter to Donald Trump. So while he offers the US military to invade over the northern border, he expects Mexico to continue the crackdown on Central Americans on the southern border.

Laura Carlsen is the director of the Americas Program in Mexico City and advisor to Just Associates (JASS) .