A White House official is confirming that President Donald Trump told Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto that he might send U.S. troops to deal with “bad hombres down there” if the Mexican military doesn’t.
The official says the remark was meant to be “lighthearted” and was a reference to cooperation between the countries in fighting drug cartels.
The Associated Press first reported Wednesday that Trump made the comment in an hourlong conversation with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on Jan. 27.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the details publicly, said “those comments, while lighthearted, were part of a discussion about how the United States and Mexico could work collaboratively to combat drug cartels and other criminal elements, and make the border more secure.”
The official described the conversation as “pleasant and constructive.”
Eduardo Sanchez, spokesman for Mexico’s presidential office, denied the tone of the conversation was hostile or humiliating, saying it was respectful.
“It is absolutely false that the president of the United States threatened to send troops to Mexico,” Sanchez said in an interview with Radio Formula on Wednesday night.
A White House spokesman did not respond to requests for comment. The Mexican Foreign Relations Department had earlier told The AP: “The negative statements you refer to did not occur during said telephone call. On the contrary, the tone was constructive.”