Proud Mexico spurns U.S. aid under review by Trump

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 24, 2017 10:52 AM

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico does not need financial aid from the United States, Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said on Friday, after President Donald Trump ordered a report on U.S. assistance to its southern neighbor over the last five years.

Mexican officials gave a cool reception to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly during a visit on Thursday, and Osorio Chong's comments are another sign of growing self-assurance in Mexico's dealings with Trump.

A large part of U.S. aid to Mexico comes through the Plan Merida program, under which the U.S. Congress allocated $2.6 billion to security assistance between 2008 and 2016.

Of that, $1.6 billion had been disbursed by November 2016, according to the U.S. Congressional Research Service.

The review of financial assistance to Mexico was included in a Jan. 25 executive order on immigration security that mandated the construction of a border wall, leading to speculation that Trump wants to redirect the aid to pay for its construction.

"When they realize what's left of Merida, they will understand that it's not even that significant," Osorio Chong told local radio.

"We don't object to them moving these resources... Mexico now has its own capabilities," he said.

Trump's insistence that Mexico will pay for a border wall led to the cancellation of a summit with President Enrique Pena Nieto, and the two sides have since agreed not to speak publicly about the issue to avoid further souring the relationship.

Osorio Chong and Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray were blunt about Mexico's anger over Trump's immigration and trade proposals in public statements during the visit by Tillerson and Kelly, who tried to calm tensions.

An internal U.S. Department of Homeland Security report showed that Trump's wall could cost as much as $21.6 billion, Reuters reported earlier in February, with several U.S. lawmakers criticizing the plan.

(Reporting by Frank Jack Daniel and Christine Murray; Editing by Dan Grebler)