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Mexican Leaders Tell US Cabinet Members About 'Worry, Irritation'


Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly delivers a statement accompanied by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left), Mexico's Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray (right), and Secretary of Government Angel Osorio (second from right) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Mexico City, Feb. 23, 2017.

Amid worries about a wall and deportations, Mexican officials expressed their concerns to two visiting U.S. Cabinet secretaries on Thursday.

“We do not agree on the different measures that recently were stated by the government of the United States that affect Mexico,” Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said.

“There exists among Mexicans worry and irritation about what are perceived to be policies that could be harmful for the national interest and for Mexicans here and abroad,” Luis Videgaray Caso, the secretary of foreign affairs, said.

The comments were made amid their meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.

Tillerson and Kelly appeared with their two Mexican counterparts before the media at the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs, but took no questions from reporters.

US comments

Tillerson, in his statement, said the U.S. and Mexico are “two strong foreign countries that, from time to time, will have differences,” but that his talks were “productive and forward-looking.”

Kelly emphasized there will be “no mass deportations” and “no use of military force” to round up undocumented migrants under President Donald Trump’s enhanced crackdown on those illegally in the United States.

Kelly’s statement contradicted a remark earlier in the day at the White House by Trump who termed his plan “a military operation.”

WATCH: Spicer on Trump's Use of Term 'Military Operation' and Deportations

After Kelly’s emphatic statement, White House spokesman Sean Spicer subsequently attempted to clarify, telling reporters during his daily briefing “the president used that phrase in that it meant precision, he meant it to be used as an adjective.”

After Tillerson and Kelly arrived in the Mexican capital, Trump predicted it would be “a tough trip” for his two Cabinet members and added, “we are going to have a good relationship with Mexico and if we don’t, we don’t.”

WATCH: Trump Foresaw 'Tough Trip' for Cabinet Members

The American emissaries also met with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto before heading back home.

The State Department released no details about what was discussed with Pena Nieto.

A statement from the office of the Mexican president said that Pena Nieto reiterated that for his country “the protection of Mexicans in the United States and respect for their rights is one of their government’s highest priorities.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, the president, according to the official statement, said that the presence of both secretaries in Mexico, at this early stage of the Trump administration, demonstrates U.S. interest for “building a positive relationship that provides better security, development and prosperity” for both countries.

Low point in relations

The trip came at what is seen as a low point in relations between the two countries, which have enjoyed peace along their 3,100-kilometer common border since the Mexican-American War of the late 1840s.

Trump has repeatedly insisted that Mexico, one way or another, must pay for a border wall, which lawmakers in Washington estimate would cost at least $12 billion. And just this week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security outlined policies that could result in the deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants.

Trump said Thursday, “We’re getting gang members out. We’re getting drug lords out. We’re getting really bad dudes out of this country.”

Thursday’s talks came weeks after Trump and the Mexican president spoke by phone January 27, following the U.S. president’s inauguration.

The call did not go well, according to officials in both countries who spoke on condition they not be named.

FILE - Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto makes a pause during a press conference at the Los Pinos presidential residence in Mexico City, Jan. 23, 2017.
FILE - Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto makes a pause during a press conference at the Los Pinos presidential residence in Mexico City, Jan. 23, 2017.


Media reports say Trump chided his Mexican counterpart for failing to control drug trafficking and suggesting the United States might even deploy troops to defeat narcotics cartels on Mexican territory.

Pena Nieto then canceled a planned trip to Washington. It has not been rescheduled.

“This is a low point in U.S.-Mexico relations, and an abrupt break from the last 30-plus years of cooperation,” Shannon O’Neil, senior fellow for Latin America studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, told VOA.

Officials here say there were no substantive discussions on trade — another sensitive issue that will certainly be on the agenda for future talks.

Trump wants to modify the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement encompassing the United States, Mexico and Canada.

VOA's Pete Heinlein contributed to this report.

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