On Monday morning, the Mexican foreign ministry issued a statement withdrawing the country’s offer of aid to Hurricane Harvey-ravaged Texas.
It was a surprising reversal for the government of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, which had, just last week, hammered out a plan for a logistical support relief package for Texas.
As with so much else in the increasingly fraught relationship between the US and Mexico, one of America’s biggest trading partners, it may have come down to President Trump and the controversial things he says — or, in this case, declined to say.
That, combined with a stunning number of natural disasters piled one on top of one another.
On September 7, a massive earthquake tore through the Mexican states of Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Tabasco, taking 95 lives, inflicting hundreds of millions of dollars in material damage, and wounding hundreds. While local officials in the US offered a note of condolence, Trump didn’t tweet words of solidarity, or concern, about Mexico’s disaster.
The 8.2 magnitude Mexican earthquake hit Friday. On Saturday morning, Mexico was walloped by another natural disaster, Hurricane Katia:
In the wake of the destruction, Mexico said today, its own need is now too great. It simply is no longer in a position to offer the food, medical personnel, and material goods it had offered to those in Texas affected by the storm. All efforts would now, instead, be directed to helping the considerable number of victims across Mexico:
Given this circumstance, the Mexican government will channel all logistical support available to care for the families and communities affected in the national territory, so it has been reported to the government of Texas and the federal government of the United States that unfortunately in this it will not be possible to provide aid originally offered to Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey in late August.
The initial Mexican offer of aid for Texas may have raised hopes of a thaw between the Mexican government and the Trump administration, which have been battling over Trump’s promise to make Mexico pay for his proposed border wall. The lack of communication between the countries’ leaders seems likely to return things to their normal, chilly state.
Mexico was gracious when Harvey devastated Texas
When Hurricane Harvey submerged Houston the last week of August, Mexico quickly offered to help — proffering logistical aid for flood-damaged regions, including food and medical personnel — just as it had done when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005. It did so even though Trump had spent the Sunday of Harvey’s devastation tweeting about building the border wall and making Mexico pay for it.
Mexico dismissed that provocation, and simply offered help. The Mexican foreign ministry, for its part, wearily insisted again there would be no money for a border wall, just money to be a good neighbor. “On August 27, Chancellor Luis Videgaray held a telephone call with Texas Governor Greg Abbott to express our solidarity and identify specific supports,” the office of the foreign ministry explained today. “On August 28, a diplomatic note was sent to the United States Department of State detailing the Mexican offer of support personnel, technical equipment and supplies.”
On August 30, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson officially thanked his Mexican counterpart for the aid.
Secretary Tillerson greets Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations @LVidegaray and thanks @gobmx for its offer of assistance to #Texas pic.twitter.com/4IBFXGg0rI— Department of State (@StateDept) August 30, 2017
Diplomatic envoys ferried offers between the two countries. On September 6, Texas agreed to accept an aid package, with just logistical support. Separately, Mexican Red Cross workers were already on the ground.
And then the earthquake hit. But even in withdrawing the aid offer, Mexican officials noted that Harvey victims were well on their way to recovery and redirecting aid made sense. “This decision is made since the conditions of both countries have changed and based on the fact that aid needs in Texas have fortunately decreased,” the foreign service statement noted.
In its statement, Mexico added, “The Mexican government takes this opportunity to thank the Governor of Texas Greg Abbott for his message of solidarity to our country on the occasion of the September 7 earthquake.”
Abbott isn’t Trump, but it’s good to know that at least one prominent American politician thought to send a message of well-being to those suffering outside the borders of the US.