Mexico withdraws aid offer to Texas after disasters

Both U.S. and Mexican media noted that Trump failed to offer his condolences to the country following two separate, devastating events.

A man recovers bricks from a building destroyed in Thursday's magnitude 8.1 earthquake, in Union Hidalgo, Oaxaca state, Mexico, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell
A man recovers bricks from a building destroyed in Thursday's magnitude 8.1 earthquake, in Union Hidalgo, Oaxaca state, Mexico, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell

Mexico has retracted its offer to send aid to Texas after two natural disasters pummeled the country. Media members in both countries noted that the withdrawal came after U.S. President Donald Trump failed to send his condolences for either one.

Southern Mexico is still suffering the after-effects of a deadly earthquake, which struck on Thursday, killing at least 96 people. More than 2.5 million are currently in need of aid, something that has been worsened by a second crisis also taxing state resources — Hurricane Katia, which hit the state’s eastern coast on Saturday, killing two people. Those dueling crises are taxing the government, seemingly leaving no room for international aid efforts.

“Given these circumstance, the Mexican government will channel all available logistical support to serve the families and communities affected in the national territory,” Mexico’s foreign ministry said in a statement Monday.

Southeastern Texas was devastated when Hurricane Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane two weeks ago. At least 70 deaths have been reported since the storm hit, with upwards of 30,000 people displaced and many more still reeling from the hurricane’s staggering economic impact.

That loss resonated with Mexico, which sent aid to the United States after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, Louisiana in 2005. Shortly after Harvey made landfall in Texas, Mexico extended an offer of aid, with caveats. In a pointed nod to Trump’s repeated assertion that Mexico will pay for a border wall along the U.S. southern border, the Mexican government again repeated that it would offer no such financial assistance.

“As the government of Mexico has always maintained, our country will not pay, under any circumstances, [for] a wall or physical barrier built on US territory along the Mexican border,” the foreign ministry said at the time. “This determination is not part of a Mexican negotiating strategy, but a principle of national sovereignty and dignity.”

Still, the government made it clear that aid would be offered nonetheless. “[W]e have offered the US government all the help and cooperation that can be provided by the different Mexican governmental agencies to deal with the impacts of this natural disaster, as good neighbors should always do in times of difficulty,” officials said.

That changed Monday, when the government was forced to prioritize domestic aid over international assistance. Both Mexican and U.S. press seized upon the timing of the rescission, which followed Trump’s delayed response to Mexico’s initial offer from U.S. officials, and after Trump himself failed to offer Mexico condolences over the country’s twin tragedies. English-language publications CNBC and the Guardian both noted the timing, while a number of Mexican and U.S. journalists pointed to the same thing on Twitter.

Some also highlighted the difference between Trump’s approach and that of President Enrique Peña Nieto, who expressed condolences not only to Texas, but to Florida, which is currently grappling with the remnants of Hurricane Irma. The storm struck this weekend, wreaking havoc and leaving millions without power. In a tweet Sunday, Peña Nieto reached out to the state’s residents and offered his support.

“Our solidarity is with the people of Florida affected by Hurricane Irma,” he wrote in Spanish. “We hope you stay safe and [see a] swift return to normal.”

While Trump has yet to weigh in, others have responded to Mexico’s initial offer; Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott (R) both thanked the country, although it took Tillerson over a week to formally respond. A spokesperson for Abbott also acknowledged the rescission, thanking Mexico for its efforts and support.

“We are grateful for Mexico’s offer of assistance in the aftermath of Harvey, and fully understand and support the decision to redirect their resources back home in the wake of this deadly earthquake,” he said.

Texas’ message may be all Mexico gets. As of Monday afternoon, Trump still has not responded to the Mexican government’s retraction, or reached out to the country to express condolences.