Reunión de los ex Embajadores
Ex Embajadores de Estados Unidos y México se reúnen en Texas para compartir experiencias y abordar las relación entre ambos países.
BLANCO – Former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico John Negroponte worked tirelessly to persuade his country to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement, leading to the two countries’ biggest economic transformation.
More than two decades later, Geronimo Gutierrez, the Mexican ambassador to the United States, worked behind the scenes to help keep both countries talking even as President Donald Trump’s harsh rhetoric against immigrants offended Mexico and its people on both sides of the border. The experience, at the darkest point in the relationship between the two in modern times, Gutierrez said, forced the countries to enter a phase of “mature” thinking about their relationship.
In a rare retreat in Texas’ Hill Country, a dozen former U.S. and Mexican ambassadors, including Negroponte and Gutierrez, met for more than two days to talk about the future of the U.S.-Mexico relationship. They used their time as diplomats to draw on personal experiences and lessons for the current turbulent times.
The meeting, which ended Saturday, came as President Trump is scheduled to sign the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement Wednesday, violence in Mexico rages and the Mexican national guard works to keep Central Americans away from the U.S., under the orders of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
Regardless of the times, political, economic and cultural actors on both sides of the border have a responsibility to make sure both countries move forward because there is no more important relationship than the one between the United States and Mexico, said Anthony Wayne, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico from 2011 to 2015.
Besides, he added, pointing to geography and destiny, “Neither country is going to move away from the other.”
The meeting was organized by the U.S.-Mexico Foundation. The two sides talked about issues including trade, border security, rule of law, the economy, migration, endemic corruption and overall integration, in part because of the phenomenon of “soft power,” which provides the glue between the countries, including culture, cuisine and spirits.
“Those connections, the way Mexicans are attracted to culture in the United States, the way Americans are attracted to culture in Mexico, the synergies that are going on, whether it’s Mexican cinematography making Hollywood great again ...” said former Mexican Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan, pointing to the number of Oscar-winning Mexican directors who have influenced movies. "You look at it in terms of music, in terms of food, in terms of literature — those synergies across the border I think are one of the most compelling stories of the modern Mexico-U.S. relationship. It drives social connectivity.”
The Woodrow Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute, which helped facilitate the meeting, plans to produce a document with a series of recommendations to share with policy wonks, congressional leaders and the business sector on fine-tuning the relationship “wherever and whenever needed,” said Enrique Perret, 39, director of the U.S.-Mexico Foundation. The binational nonprofit group is dedicated to promoting cooperation and understanding between the countries.
“The timing is super relevant,” Perret said. “Every moment is important to think about the relationship, but for my generation this is a crucial time. Historically, we’ve gone from enemies to distant neighbors, then partners and at some point we became friends, even family. The question now is what comes next? Are we going back to being partners, or something more?”
The meetings were private. But in one-on-one interviews, the former diplomats shared solutions and mistakes, along with disappointments, that they said remain invaluable lessons for today.
Some ambassadors were career diplomats; others were close to a president. Among the latter group was former Texas Railroad Commissioner Tony Garza, a personal friend of President George W. Bush. Such a relationship gave him advantages, as in lobbying the administration and Congress to adopt the Merida Initiative, a groundbreaking security and rule-of-law partnership with Mexico aimed at helping the country confront organized crime and weed out corruption.
Recently, Genaro Garcia Luna, the head of security under former President Felipe Calderon, was arrested in Dallas and accused of accepting millions of dollars in bribes from Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s Sinaloa drug cartel for more than a decade. Garcia Luna has pleaded not guilty to three counts of trafficking cocaine and making a false statement. He was once popular with top U.S. law enforcement officials and ambassadors, including Garza.
Garza called the arrest “disappointing” and said there had been “no red flags” that suggested Garcia Luna was on the take. Garza and his Mexican counterpart at the time, Sarukhan, said helping Mexico build judicial institutions and treating security as a “shared responsibility” are key to finding solutions.
Focus on security
Nonetheless, convincing the U.S. government that it should keep a long-term focus on security has been challenging, said some of the former ambassadors, including Wayne.
“Shared responsibility is a wonderful concept, but it was never implemented because really the U.S. priority became migration,” he said, adding that he was not surprised that the Lopez Obrador government was cooperating with the Trump administration to stop migration with the help of the national guard. “It goes back to a basic understanding that 80% of Mexican exports go to the United States. … There is a desire to keep that relationship going forward. Even though you don’t agree with everything that is being said in the north, you don’t want to get into a big fight.”
Negroponte, however, has some advice for Americans who see Mexico as a punching bag. Without mentioning Trump, Negroponte warned that “Americans have to be careful about what they say about Mexico and Mexicans. They have to recognize that the Latino population of the United States is growing dramatically,” from the current 60 million to a projected 100 million by 2050.
“[They] are going to become a very significant force and I’m not sure that it … makes much sense to hurl insults at this community as a way of currying favor with one small part of our own population,” he said. “I think that’s a faulty political strategy. I think those who engage in that political rhetoric are going to pay a serious political price here in our own country.”
The fact that the retreat took place in Texas was perhaps symbolic, quipped former Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow, who served under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
“There is something interesting about Texas politicians,” he said. “All these Texas politicians had Mexican nannies and cooks, so they grew up eating tortillas and so they grew up thinking they were somewhat Mexican. … Even conservative politicians had a more open attitude.”