(Recasts to reflect highest annual figure)
MEXICO CITY, Feb 1 (Reuters) - The amount of money sent home by Mexican migrants living abroad rose to a record high in 2016, driven by a slump in the peso as well as concerns that U.S. President Donald Trump could block transfers to pay for his planned border wall.
Remittances to Mexico totaled $26.97 billion in 2016, up nearly 9 percent over 2015, and the highest ever according to Mexican central bank figures that go back to 1995, data showed on Wednesday.
Remittances rose by 6.2 percent in December compared with the same month a year earlier to more than $2.3 billion. Most of that came from the United States.
Remittances saw the biggest jump in 10 years in November after Trump’s surprise election victory. Families of Mexican migrants in central Mexico and migrants in Florida said concern about what Trump could do in office had pushed some to send home more money in November.
But Mexico’s peso saw a rocky year throughout 2016 and savvy migrants tend to send more money home following sharp losses in the currency.
Remittances spiked in February, May, September and November, all months when the peso saw sharp slumps against the dollar. Since mid-2016, the peso began to be pressured by concerns that Trump could win and restrict free trade with Mexico.
Trump, a Republican, ran a campaign steeped in anti-Mexican rhetoric and threatened to halt transfers from Mexican nationals unless Mexico agreed to pay for the wall he wants built on the U.S. southern border to keep out illegal immigrants.
Mexico has said it will defend the free flow of remittances and tariff-free commerce under the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump says he will dump if he cannot renegotiate it to American advantage. (Reporting by Alexandra Alper and Michael O’Boyle; Editing by Matthew Lewis and James Dalgleish)