The Mexican government said it would not pay for the "terrible" border wall proposed by U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
In a televised interview, Finance Minister Luis Videgaray gave the first direct government response to the proposal to build a wall along the U.S. - Mexican border to curb illegal immigration, and have Mexico pay for it.
"Under no circumstances will Mexico pay for the wall that Mr. Trump is proposing," Videgaray said late Wednesday. He said the idea was "based on ignorance and has no foundation in the reality of North American integration."
The Republican Party front-runner's comments about immigration in Mexico and the border wall have sparked a number of controversies.
Trump has repeatedly said Mexican leaders take advantage of the United States, "by using illegal immigration to export the crime and poverty in their own country" over the border.
Trump estimates the wall will cost about $8 billion to build and says the Mexican government must assume responsibility for the cost. Trump says he will impound remittances derived from illegal wages and increase fees on some temporary visas and border crossing cards until Mexico agrees. Trump often says the cost of the wall is "a tiny fraction of the money" the United States loses to Mexico in trade deficits.
Former Mexican president Felipe Calderon responded to Trump's plan, saying "Mexican people, we are not going to pay any single cent for such a stupid wall."
Pope Francis also commented on the controversy in February, saying, "A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian." Trump said Mexican government officials had misled the pope about the nature of the border wall plan, adding that Francis had "an awfully big wall" around the Vatican.
A February 2016 Rasmussen poll found 70 percent of Republican voters - and 51 percent of voters overall - support Trump's border wall plan.