Trump wall debate an internal U.S. matter: Mexico president

Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador gestures during a news conference at National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico December 26, 2018. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril/Files

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Wednesday he would not comment on U.S. President Donald Trump's demands for a border wall, calling it an internal U.S. matter related to electoral politics.

In a televised speech on Tuesday, Trump urged Congress to give him $5.7 billion this year to help build the wall to prevent illegal immigration and drug smuggling but stopped short of declaring a national emergency.

At a daily news conference, Lopez Obrador was asked whether he would respond to Trump's attempts to paint Mexico as a national security risk for the United States.

"Our view is that there's a political confrontation in the United States, as there is in all countries when elections are coming," said Lopez Obrador, who took office in December.

He added that unlike Mexico, which elects its presidents for six years, the U.S. electoral cycle lasts for only four years, which he called a "very short" period.

"So when a new president takes office, almost as soon as they take power, they're already thinking about re-election, and their opponents are doing the same," Lopez Obrador said.

Trump's latest speech came 18 days into a partial U.S. government shutdown precipitated by his demand for the wall, which he promised to build as a presidential candidate.

Facing Democratic opposition in Congress, Trump said in his first prime-time address from the Oval Office that illegal immigrants and drugs flowing across the southern border posed a serious threat to American safety.

Lopez Obrador says he is working to broker a deal in which his government seeks to provide jobs and visas for migrants in exchange for Washington's support in fostering economic development in Central America and Mexico's poorer south.

"We are persuading, convincing the U.S. government that the best thing is to develop Central America (and) Mexico," Lopez Obrador told the news conference. "That migration becomes a choice, not an obligation. That is our policy."

(Reporting by Delphine Schrank,; Editing by Dave Graham and Alistair Bell)