Assertive Mexico seeks leadership role in Latin America
MEXICO CITY (AP) – A gathering of Latin American and Caribbean leaders in Mexico this weekend is the latest sign that the country is showing diplomacy as it seeks to assert itself as the new mediator between the region and the United States.
Whether or not Saturday’s meeting in Mexico City of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, or CELAC, results in a mass exodus from the Organization of American States, Mexico has indicated that it wants to play a leadership role. leading position in Latin America after years of focusing almost exclusively on its bilateral relationship with the United States
It is precisely the closeness of this relationship that President Andrés Manuel López Obrador cited in July when he offered Mexico to help the region open a dialogue with the US government to reorient a relationship based on a two-century-old model that , according to him, has no future.
Turning his back on the United States was also not an option, said López Obrador. “It is time to express and explore another option: that of a dialogue with American leaders and to convince and persuade them that a new relationship between the countries of America is possible.
The President said that Mexico’s proposal was for something closer to the European Union model. “In this spirit, we must not exclude the substitution of (the Organization of American States) by a truly autonomous body, a lackey of no one,” he said.
Enter the CELAC.
Mexico was the organization’s president last year, and its members voted to keep Mexico in that role this year.
CELAC has only existed for 10 years and is rather leftist, having remained on good terms with countries like Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. The late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was one of his biggest supporters. But for long periods of time, he didn’t even meet.
Unlike the OAS, the United States and Canada are not members, nor is Brazil, which withdrew in January 2020.
Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard has been outspoken about inequalities and disparities in access to COVID-19 vaccines and CELAC has become a vehicle for Mexico’s efforts on this topic.
Mexico pursued a multi-pronged strategy of direct procurement and participation in multilateral efforts to obtain the vaccine. But at the same time, Ebrard worked through CELAC to produce the AstraZeneca vaccine in the region – Argentina and Mexico – and distribute it here.
At the end of last month, Ebrard addressed the senatorial delegation of the ruling Morena party. As López Obrador had done a month earlier, he spoke about the importance of Mexico’s relationship with the United States and the current state of affairs. Then he turned to the OAS.
“The OAS has become obsolete because the world has changed,” Ebrard said. “The OAS cannot continue to be an instrument of intervention.
“Goodbye OAS, in its interventionist, meddling and hegemonic sense,” Ebrard said to applause. There should be “another organization that we are building politically in agreement with the United States for the 21st century and not for the 19th or the 20th century.”
Hence the speculation that Mexico could lead other countries to leave the OAS.
Along with its vaccination efforts in the region, Mexico recently organized a new round of dialogue between the Venezuelan government and that country’s opposition in Mexico City. López Obrador’s administration had resisted pressure to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaidó.
López Obrador has called on the Biden administration to support the expansion of two of its iconic social programs in the northern triangle of Central America to address the root causes of migration. The Mexican president has cooperated with the Trump and Biden administrations on immigration matters, deploying Mexican security forces to attempt to contain migrants in southern Mexico and allowing the United States to return non-Mexican asylum seekers to await their case in Mexico.
On Thursday, López Obrador received Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel and denounced the US economic blockade of Cuba. Mexico recently sent ships with food, medicine and fuel to the island.
Ana Vanessa Cárdenas Zanatta, professor of political science at Monterrey Technological and Anahuac universities in Mexico City, said on the one hand that Mexico’s decision to play a greater role in Latin America is positive.
“For the first time, this government is assuming a position in terms of Latin American foreign policy and leadership that had been repeatedly requested in Mexico and to which it had not responded,” Cárdenas said.
But leaving the OAS would be a great risk, noting that the organization has membership and financial support from large economies like the United States, Canada, and Brazil, and still struggles financially. She said it is hard to imagine CELAC being much more than a rhetorical and symbolic tool in the near future.
The withdrawal of the OAS could be particularly costly in terms of human rights, she said. The OAS is the foundation of the hemisphere’s human rights and regional justice system.
The debate was broadcast at an OAS meeting on Friday.
Colombian Foreign Minister Marta Lucía Ramírez said discussions on replacing the OAS were “worrying”.
“Of course the answer has to be ‘no’,” she said. The OAS and CELAC can be complementary.
“When you try to erase the fundamental principles and objectives of the OAS with a stroke of a pen and eventually shift them to other parameters, we fall into an abyss, but above all it is a huge mistake,” he said. she declared. “To think that our hemisphere is going to have a better back on the United States and Canada is a great naivety, it is a serious mistake.”
During the meeting, the representative of Mexico, Luz Elena Baños, criticized the OAS for its policy of “interference”, arguing that the organization had aggravated the political conflict between the countries.
She said Mexico does not believe in using the defense of democracy as a cover to interfere in countries’ internal affairs.
Rafael Elías Rojas, a history professor at Mexico College and an expert in Latin American diplomacy, said Mexico is trying to take the lead.
“I don’t think it’s improvised, they’ve been working for a while,” Rojas said. But he expressed doubts due to the polarization of the region. “Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, there has never been a time so low for Latin Americanism. “
AP writers Claudia Torrens in New York and María Verza in Mexico City contributed to this report.
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