Mexico is on the verge of collapse and represents instability for the southern border of the United States, said President Donald Trump’s chief of staff according to a report Thursday by the New York Times.
But the report was disputed by Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Luis Videgaray.
The newspaper reported that John Kelly offered the analysis during a working dinner Wednesday at the White House and likened Mexico to Venezuela under the regime of its former president, Hugo Chávez. The report was based on information provided by two people familiar with the exchange, one of whom was in the room.
They said Kelly made a passionate call for stouter border defenses and offered his general support to a stronger barrier while giving a pessimistic view on Mexico’s security situation and political stability.
Videgaray disputed the report in an interview with Reuters.
“We’ve spoken to the White House and they have confirmed General Kelly did not make at any moment comments of that nature,” said Videgaray.
“It would be clearly contrary to everything that we have heard and know of General Kelly in these past months,” he added.
The U.S. defense secretary indicated yesterday during a trip to Mexico that he did not share the view that Mexico was on the brink of collapse. Asked whether he thought so he replied with a terse, “No,” Reuters reported.
Jim Mattis said he aimed to build trust and show respect for Mexico during his visit, intended to strengthen military ties between the two countries.
While military ties remain strong, Mexicans’ views about their northern neighbor are not positive. About two-thirds of Mexicans regard the U.S. unfavorably, according to a Pew Research Center poll released this week.
The visit by Mattis and two senior military officials was timed to coincide with independence celebrations. It is the first time a U.S. defense secretary has attended.