- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 5, 2018

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto scolded President Trump in a new video Thursday for taking a “threatening” attitude toward his country, a day after Mr. Trump ordered the National Guard to patrol the border between the two nations.

Mr. Pena Nieto said Mexico stands ready to engage with the U.S. “in a constructive spirit,” but also suggested Mr. Trump is hurting the relationship by caving to forces in American politics with his rhetoric and decisions this week.

“If your recent statements are the result of frustration due to domestic policy issues, to your laws or to your Congress, it is to them that you should turn to, not to Mexicans,” Mr. Pena Nieto said in Spanish, according to an English translation released by the Mexican government.

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“We will not allow negative rhetoric to define our actions. We will only act in the best interest of Mexicans,” the Mexican leader said.

Mr. Trump this week harshly criticized Mexican officials after a caravan of perhaps 1,500 illegal immigrants from Central America jumped Mexico’s southern border and began a journey to the U.S., where some planned to sneak in, and others planned to demand asylum.

Video from Mexico’s southern border seemed to show that country’s border guards deserting their posts to allow the caravan entry.

After Mr. Trump’s criticism, Mexico scrambled to gain a handle on the caravan. The government said it deported some 400 people and would offer refugee status to others.

Mr. Trump claimed credit for having “broken up” the caravan.

But he also announced deployment of National Guard troops to assist in border security.

On Thursday he expanded on his vision, saying he expects “anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000” troops to be involved. He said the administration will “probably keep them or a large portion of them” along the border until his proposed wall is built.

He said he hasn’t yet figured out how much the deployment would cost.

The administration is still communicating with governors to arrange for the troops, and agreements must be in place before they are shipped to the border. Officials said to expect them to perform a support role, doing surveillance or administrative tasks to free Border Patrol agents to conduct more patrols.

Democrats in the U.S. have blasted the announcement, as have Mexican politicians.

The candidates seeking to replace Mr. Pena Nieto, who is term-limited as president, all criticized his plans. One of those candidates even said Mexico should restrict its cooperation with the U.S. on anti-terrorism efforts until the American troops are withdrawn.

Mr. Pena Nieto didn’t embrace calls to limit cooperation, but did praise all of the Mexican presidential candidates for speaking out against Mr. Trump.

Mexico has long made use of its own military on its borders — and incursions by the Mexican military into the U.S. have sparked international flaps.

In one notorious incident in 2014, two Mexican troops came into the U.S., lied about their identities to American Border Patrol agents, and claimed they were pursuing smugglers. The troops and the Border Patrol agents drew their weapons and were in a standoff until the Mexicans retreated, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing government documents.

Security experts say Mexican troops are often paid off by smuggling cartels to look the other way or, in some cases, to provide security.

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