February 17, 2019
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Trump challenges Congress, stands by border wall at Texas rally

Washington DC, Feb 11 (efe-epa).- The President of the United States Monday promised to finish building the US-Mexico border wall regardless of what the Democrats and Republican legislators have agreed to in the Congress.

Negotiators of both parties announced shortly before the start of President Donald Trump's rally in the border city of El Paso in Texas a tentative budgetary agreement which, according to some sources, includes about $1.37 billion to build another 88.5 kilometers (about 55 miles) of the wall.

The amount is far from the $5.6 billion demanded by Trump for nearly 322 kilometers of the wall which led to the longest administrative closure in US history between December and January (35 days).

Trump told his supporters in El Paso that he knew of the agreement before going on to the stage but that he did not want to hear the details as he preferred not to make his supporters wait: "I chose you," said Trump.

"As I was walking up to this stage, I was told 'progress is being made with this committee'. Just so you know, we're building the wall anyway," he added.

Trump said his government has already built a large part of the wall and now wants to finish it as soon as possible.

However, the $1.6 billion that the Congress granted Trump in 2017 is being invested in strengthening sections that already have the wall erected and not extend it.

Trump chose El Paso for his first rally of 2019 following the controversy after his reference to Ciudad Juarez in Mexico during his State of the Union address last week.

"Just a few thousand feet from where we stand right now - it's one of the most dangerous places in the world, Juarez. Thanks to a powerful border wall...(El Paso is) one of America's most safest cities now," said Trump.

The city recorded an average of 23 murders a year between 1960 and 2018 and the fact is that during the decade prior to the construction of the wall (1998-2007) the average was 16.4 murders, according to local police data, figures that make El Paso -with a population of 500,000- one of the safest cities in the US.

However, El Paso mayor, the Republican Dee Margo, disputed Trump's claim that crime had declined after the wall was built and told EFE that it was an incorrect reference.

Trump at Tuesday's rally chose to defend his remarks and said: "And I don't care whether a mayor is a Republican or a Democrat. They are full of crap, what they say (the wall) hasn't made a big difference."

Trump also had words for ex-Senate candidate from Texas and his potential Democrat challenger to the White House in 2020, Beto O'Rourke, who decided to counter the president's rally in his hometown, El Paso.

"We were all challenged by a young man who lost an election to Ted Cruz. And then they said, 'Hey, you're supposed to win in order to run.' (...) a young man who has got very little going for himself except he's got a great first name," slammed Trump.

O'Rourke, on his part, told a crowd of supporters that it was time to "show the country that there is nothing to be afraid of when it comes to the US-Mexico border".

"Walls do not save lives, walls end lives," O'Rourke said.

Trump, who also referred to trade with China and Mexico, the Russia investigation and his former rival Hillary Clinton, ended the rally on a curious story about how he had been recommended to have a dog -like most former presidents- in order to build a good image, but said that he had no time to take care of one.

"I wouldn't mind having one. How would I look walking a dog on the White House lawn sort of not - I don't know, I don't feel good, feels a little phony to me (...) That's not the relationship I have with my people," said Trump.

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