Evolution of Mexican Foreign Policy

Report Americas

Evolution of Mexican Foreign Policy

March 11, 1988 23 min read Download Report
Kim Holmes
Former Executive Vice President
Kim R. Holmes was the Executive Vice President at The Heritage Foundation.

(Archived document, may contain errors)


638 March 11,1988 EVOLUTION OF MEXICAN FOREIGN POLI CY INTRODUCTION Mexicoss foreign policy is of increasing concern to the United States. Reversing its long aversion to foreign activities, Mexico in the past decade has sought growing international involvement. Some of this activism undercuts importantU.S. security interests; This is evident in Central America where two of the most important U.S. security interests the Panama Canal and the nearby Atlantic and Pacific sea lines of communications are threatened by the military buildup of Nicaragua's Sandinist a regime. Mexico has supported that regime actively and consistently has opposed U.S. foreign policy in the region.

Mexico insists that its foreign policy is based upon the three principles of "nonintervention Self-determination and the "peaceful solution" of conflicts. At the same time, however, Mexico claims that it is pursuing a pragmatic foreign policy. This qualification allows Mexico to ignore the three principles when convenient. Example: In the late 1970s, Mexico intervened in Nicaraguan affairs by allowing guerrillas fighting against Nicaragua's Somoza regime to use Mexican territory and also supp1ying:them with large quantities of ammunition This is the eighth in a series of Heritage studies on Mexico. It was preceded by Backgrounder No. 611 Priva t ization in Mexico: Robust Rhetoric, Anemic Reality (October 22,1987 Backgmcnder No. 595 Keys to Understanding Mexico: The PAN'S Growth as a Real Opposition July 29,1987 Backgrounder No. 588 Deju Vu of Policy Failure: The New $14 Billion Mexican Debt Bailo u t June 25,1987 Backgrounder No. 583 For Mexico's Ailing Economy, Time Runs Short June 4,1987 Backgrounder No. 581 Mexico's Many Faces May 19,1987 Backgrounder No. 575 Mexico: The Key Players April 4,1987 and Backgrounder No. 573 Keys to Understanding Mexi co: Challenges to the Ruling PRI April 7,1987 Future papers will examine other aspects of Mexican policy and development.

Serving Domestic Needs. For much of its modern history Mexico had a passive foreign policy. This was to a large extent the consequence of Mexico's historical experience, which includes invasions, occupations, and defeats by foreign forces In the early 197Os, however Mexican foreign policy became very active, supporting the socialist government of Chile's Salvador Allende and denouncing t he "imperialism" of the industrialized nations. Then a decade later Mexico intervened in El Salvador as well as in Nicaragua. Mexico nonetheless still contends that its foreign policy is noninterventionist Foreign policy in Mexico is largely an instrument of domestic policy. It serves three main purposes 1) to satis0 the political far left which, although relatively small, is powerful and well-organized 2) to exploit nationalist sentiments, especially in the form of anti-Americanism, and 3) to distract pop u lar attention from.the troubled economy by presenting real or imaginary successes overseas Fueling the nationalist fires of Mexican foreign policy is the 1846-1848 war between Mexico and the U.S. in which Mexico lost more than half of its territory. On oc c asion, such U.S.-Mexican issues are used to instigate waves of nationalism and anti-Americanism Typical was the march of approximately 200,000 demonstrators in Mexico City in May 1986 protesting the criticism of Mexico made during the 'hearings on drugs h eld by the U.S.

Senate Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs, chaired by Senator Jesse Helms.

Despite Mexico's current temptation to pursue an anti-Yanqui foreign policy, relations with the U.S. long were friendly and cordial. Since 1979, however, th e two countries have had serious differences over Central America, particularly regarding Nicaragua's Sandinista regime Courting Havana and Moscow. A further irritant to the U.S. has been Mexico's warming relationship with Cuba. Mexico and Cuba even appea r to be coordinating their foreign policies to help the Sandinistas. Mexico has been the tacit leader in the Contadora Group of four Latin American nations and its "support group" composed of four South American nations which has tried to bring peace to th e Central American region. Contadora's delaying tactics in dealing with the Sandinistas allowed the communists to consolidate their power in Nicaragua. In recent years, moreover, Mexico has increased substantially its commercial, cultural, technological, a nd scientific relations with the Soviet Union.

Mexico uses such international forums as the United Nations and the Organization of American States (OAS) to project an image of independence from the U.S. At the U.N for instance, Mexico champions regimes at odds with the U.S such as Nicaragua. Mexico also introduces resolutions that tend to undermine U.S:foreign policy, including a 1986 resolution criticizing El Salvador's human rights. And Mexico seldom votes with the U.S. at the U.N. Last year, Mexico's pe r centage of agreement with the U.S. was 14.8 percent placing it in the bottom one-fourth of all Latin American countries 2 In the OAS, Mexico in 1975 persuaded the organization to lift its sanctions against Cuba and in 1979, .Mexico played an important rol e in stopping the U.S. from sending an Inter-American peace-keeping force that might have prevented the Sandinista t&eover. /p>

Mexico, however, prefers the U.N. to the OAS because Washington exercises more influence in the OAS Dealing with Mexico presents man y problems for the U.S. Perhaps no other country, in the long run, is more important to U.S. security. Yet past mistakes by Washington and past tough, though perhaps unavoidable, actions by the U.S. have made Mexico wary. Wounds from the past disappear sl o wly. Anti-American rhetoric will persist in Mexican political discourse. Yet much of this rhetoric is designed for Mexican internal consumption. If U.S policy makers pay attention to the history of U.S.-Mexico relations, they will be able to distinguish b e tween rhetoric and policies that threaten legitimate U.S. security interests ROOTS OF MEXICO'S FOREIGN POLICY Principles and Foreign Policy Humiliating invasions and occupations by the U.S. and France in the 19th and 20th centuries made Mexicans conscious of their vulnerability and led them to seek protection in the principles of nonintervention and self-determination Mexico believed these principles r would shield them against foreign meddling in its internal affairs. Mexican interpretation of the princip le of nonintervention is expressed in the 1930 Estrada doctrine (named after Mexican foreign minister Genaro Estrada), stating that Mexico will grant unconditional diplomatic recognition to any government regardless of its ideology.

The principle of self-d etermination is derived from the Calvo doctrine of 1868, which stated that citizens or corporations involved in economic activities in Mexico should abide by Mexican laws. Any intervention by a foreign government on behalf of these citizens or corporation s was to be considered unjust and illegal.

The principles, however, have been interpreted according to perceived advantage. In 1936 for example, Mexico ignored these principles and refused to recognize the government of Spain's Francisco Franco. And then in 1979, Mexico severed diplomatic relation s with Anastasio Somoza's Nicaragua I Echeverria's Switch. Mexican foreign policy' long was exclusively articulated in juridical and moralistic fashion, and was essentially passive. This changed dramatically when Luis Echeverria became president in 19

70. His foreign policy sided actively with those considered friends and attacked those regarded as enemies, but he did not abandon the traditionally moralistic overtones.

Echeveria traveled extensively championing radical Third World causes and blaming the in dustrial "North" for the problems of the impoverished "South In 1972, Echeverria became involved in the Chilean situation. After the international financial community had stopped lending to Chile, he,traveled to that country to offer socialist, anti-U.S. p resident Salvador Allende a line of credit. In the same year, he even risked a wave of domestic 3 criticism for sending oil and wheat to Chile at a time when Mexico itself was not self-sufficient in either product. In 1973, after the overthrow of Allende, Echeverria refused to recognize the new Chilean government, broke diplomatic relations with Chile and welcomed great numbers of leftist refugees from that country. This nonrecognition of the new Chilean government, of course, was inconsistent with the pri n ciple of nonintervention Foreign Policy and Domestic Interests Foreign policy in Mexico scores domestic political points. This is particularly true when Mexico is suffering from social, political, or economic crisis. Any real or apparent foreign policy su c cess diverts public attention from domestic problems. Example: the meeting last November in Acapulco of eight Latin American presidents, called by Mexico, to discuss the regions foreign debt. Although no major agreement was reached, it gave Mexico the opp o rtunity to show its solidarity with other Latin American countries. This theme is always well received by the Mexican public, especially by Mexicos ideological Left, which is a great power within the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI The PRI, founded in 1929 has ruled Mexico ever since By 1979, Mexico apparently concluded that the U.S. was in political trouble in Central,.

America and that the future of the area belonged to the Left. The Sandinistas were about to take power in Nicaragua, and leftist g uerrillas in El Salvador seemed.likely to succeed Mexico decided to turn the U.S. difficulties in the area to its own advantage by opposing U.S. policy. Mexican politicians saw a new field for using their revolutionary rhetoric with renewed impetus. This tactic is even more important now, given the increasing decline of Mexican living standards.

Foreign Policy Formulation The Mexican president makes foreign policy. The ministry of foreign relations, along with such other agencies of the executive as the mi nistry of defense and the ministry of the interior execute these policies. Mexicos congress plays almost no role in foreign policy.

President Jose Lopez Portillo (1976-1982 for example, reportedly. decided to break diplomatic relations with Nicaragua in 1 979 without even notifying his foreign minister much less the congress. Without any complaint, the leaders of congress approved the action.

In a few specific foreign policy cases, such as the Guatemalan refugees in Southern Mexico, senators from the border areas have complained about the social and economic problems generated by the refugees.

In the process of formulating Mexican foreign policy, an unprecedented action has been taken by the PRIs presidential candidate and likely successor to current presi dent Miguel de la Madrid, Carlos Salinas de Gortari. He has appointed a 70-member commission composed of top officials from banks and the economic ministries to make recommendations. The creation of this commission suggests that Mexican leaders are starti n g to recognize that certain economic realities, such as the foreign debt and trade issues, must be addressed. seriously by the larger Mexican community. Salinas also included I 4 a separate sub-commission on relations with the Pacific Basin, reflecting hi s special interest in that part of the world POLICY TOWARD THE UNITED STATES Before the Mexican Revolution The war between the U.S. and Mexico during the mid-19th century has influenced Mexican foreign policy deeply. When the U.S. annexed Texas in 1845, U. S . President James K. Polk tried to negotiate the purchase of California from Mexico. He apparently never imagined that even offering buy part of Mexico's territory would offend Mexican sensibilities profoundly. Failing in his attempt Polk provoked a milit a ry incident over disputed territory between Texas and the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas. The resulting .clash in April 1846 triggered the U.S. war with Mexico. U.S. troops landed in the Mexican port of Veracruz and marched inland, occupying Mexico C ity and raising the Stars and Stripes over the National Palace in September 1847 The war ended the following February with the Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty. In exchange for $15 million and the assumption by the U.S. of the Mexican debt, Mexico ceded almost ha l f of its territory, including part or all of what are now Arizona, California, Colorado Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah. Five years later, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna who commanded the Mexican army during the war with the US sold another chunk of Ari zona to the U.S First Grade Map. Even today, Mexican attitudes and feelings toward the U.S. are shaped in part by the humiliation suffered during that war. Monuments and even museums are dedicated as memorials to remind the Mexicans of the U.S. invasion.

C hildren in Mexican schools are taught about the war in a way that arouses nationalistic sentiments and anti-American feelings. The obligatory textbook for the first grade, for example has a map of Mexico that depicts Mexico as it was before the loss of te r ritory to the U.S. Mexican officials in their speeches constantly refer to the loss of territory to the U.S. A private statement made by Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, Mexico's president from 1964 to 1970, reveals how profoundly many Mexicans are affected, by past c o nflicts with the U.S. He said There is no real Mexican who doesn't want to get even with the United Statesi''3 2 Anti-American attitudes, however, are not universal. In the northern states, closest to the U.S. border, anti-Americanism is practically nonex i stent. A plausible reason is that many northerners have visited the U.S. or been influenced by American culture and feel attracted 1 "Mexico Broadens Foreign Policy Planning Financial Times, February 9,1988, p. 4 2 Ciencias Sociales, Primer Curso, Secreta ria de Educaci6n, Cultura y Bienstar Social del Gobierno del 3 Julio Scherer Garcia, Los Rwidentes (Mexico City: Editorial Grijalbo SA 1986 p. 16.

Estado de Mexico, p. 83 5 I to its way of life. Also, northerners are distrustful of the central government i n Mexico City and from time to time, have demanded greater autonomy. In consequence, any anti-Americanism promoted by politicians in Mexico City is unlikely to be accepted in the north!

U.S.-Mexican relations improved shortly after the war of 1846-18

48. In 1861, after Mexico suspended all payment to its creditors, Spain, Great Britain, and France decided to intervene militarily in Mexico Less than four months after landing in Veracruz, the British and Spanish troops withdrew, but the French troops staye d . Napoleon III had plans to create a Mexican empire under French protection. During the French occupation 1861-1867 Mexico turned to the U.S. for military and political support. The U.S provided weapons to the Mexican rebels fighting the French invaders i n northern Mexico and refused to recognize the government that France had imposed on Mexico. U.S.-Mexico relations improved further during the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz, who ruled from 1876 to 19

10. He created a stable environment that attracted considerable investment from the U.S.

Such stability crumbled with the outbreak of the Mexican revolution in 1910 From the 1910 Mexican Revolution to 1970 Memories of the 1846-1848 war came alive in 1914 during the U.S. occupation of the port of Veracruz. President Woodrow Wilson dispatched a squadron to support the opponents of General Victoriano Huerta, who seized the presidency in 19

13. Wilsons aim was to interdict a shipment of German weapons for the Huerta government. Wilson underestimated Mexican nationalism. Not only Huerta, but his op ponent Venustiano Carranza, condemned the U.S. occupation as an intervention in Mexicos internal affairs.

Although the six-month U.S. occupation of Veracruz effectively cut off Huertas supply line and custom revenues it also gave Mexicans a new reason to resent the U.S Oil Crisis. When the Mexican revolution ended in 1917, the issues dominating relations between the U.S. and Mexico were oil and foreign-owned land. The Mexican constitution of 1917 provided for state ownership of the subsoil, a provision th a t predictably worried foreign oil companies. Because of this implicit policy of nationalization of private property the U.S. for three years refused to recognize the government of Alvaro Obregon 1920-1924 The oil situation appeared to be settled, however, by the Bucarelli Agreements of 1923, which converted the property rights of foreign companies into practically indefinite concessions Two years later, the Bucarelli Agreements were reversed when the Mexican Congress limited the subsoil concessions to 50 y e ars. This triggered a new U.S.-Mexico oil-related crisis. Some oil companies even lobbied in Washington for U.S. military intervention. In 1928, Mexico revised its law to allow open-ended concessions This policy, however, changed once again under Lazaro C ardenas, who became president of Mexico in 19

34. In 1938, Cardenas expropriated and nationalized all foreign companies 4 Even in the central and southern states attitudes toward the U.S. are ambivalent, ranging from bitter feelings of resentment to discre et and enthusiastic admiration for American attitudes and culture 6 The U.S. then imposed a boycott on oil imports from Mexico. Finally, in 1942 the Mexican government agreed to pay compensation to the oil companies A period of almost three peaceful decad e s in U.S.-Mexican relations fol1owed:They were years of an essentially passive Mexican foreign policy Since 1970 Under Luis Echeverria Aivarez. Luis Echeverria assumed the Mexican presidency in December 1970, succeeding Gustavo Dim Ordaz, a president who was relatively conservative and pro-American. Echeverrias policies, by contrast, were definitively leftist.

After decades of diplomatic passivity, Mexico charged into the international spotlight.

Among the leftist causes championed by Echeverria during hi s six years in office were the demand for a radical international economic order, the establishment of closer ties with Cuba and Chiles socia1,ist government, support for a United Nations resolution equating Zionism with racism, and the endorsement of Pal estine Liberation Organization (PLO claims.

Echeverria traveled overseas more extensively than any of his predecessors, visiting 35 countries and the Vatican and meeting with 64 heads of government. He established diplomatic relations with 62 more nations. Critics of Echeverria in Mexico pointed out that in doing so, he was trying to gain the favor of as many countries as possible to fulfill his aspirations of obtaining the Nobel Peace Prize and of becoming secretary-general of the United Nations. If that is so, he failed in both.

The two key objectives of Echeverrias foreign policy were: 1) reducing economic dependence on the U.S. by diversifying financial and commercial relations and 2) wooing the Mexican political Left by opposing U.S. interests.

Echeve rria embraced the development theory known as dependency This theory implies that Third World countries can achieve economic growth and development only by cutting off their economic and political dependence on the industrialized world, especially the U.S .

One of Echeverrias most important initiatives was the so-called Charter of Economic Rights and Duties approved by the United Nations in 1974 by a vote of 120 to 6, with 10 abstentions. The charter was a collection of Third World complaints and positions blaming industrialized countries as the main cause of economic backwardness. Although it added no new positions, the adoption of the charter by the United Nations gave Echeverria a cause to promote on his trips around the world The Lopez Portillo Era. Ech everrias successor, President Jose Lopez Portillo (1976-1982 did not depart substantially from Echeverrias course. Jorge Castaneda, deputy foreign minister under Echeverria, became Lopez Portillos foreign minister.

While concluding that Echeverria had gone too far in alienating the U.S the Lopez Portillo administration, nonetheless, created more tensions with the U.S this time over Nicaragua and El Salvador. Mexico became a strong supporter of the Sandinistas, providing them with hundreds of millionq of do l lars in oil and other economic aid as well as with decisive political support long after it became clear that the Sandinistas were 7 Marxist-Leninists. Lopez Portillo in 1981 also recognized the communist guerrillas in El Salvador as a "representative pol itical force."

Lopez Portillo believed that its oil wealth would reduce Mexico's economic dependence on the U.S. and allow it to assert an independent foreign policy. He was convinced that such an approach would help him gain the Left's affection and confe r "revolutionary legitimacy Facing Economic Realities. When he took office in December 1982, Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado faced serious economic problems. In his relations with the U.S de la Madrid attached a high priority to the issue of the foreign debt. Despite average oil revenues of about $11.25 billion per year between 1979 and 1982 for the Mexican Treasury, Mexico had borrowed $60 billion overseas during the six years of the Lopez Portillo presidency. In August 1982, four months before de la Madrid t o ok office, Mexico announced that it was no longer able to service its debt. Falling oil prices had sharply reduced Mexican hard currency export earnings De la Madrid started renegotiating the foreign debt. This required lowering the volume of Mexico's Thi r d World rhetoric, so typical of his two predecessors. Thus while de la Madrid is on good terms with Cuba, he has not traveled there. De la Madrid also realized he could not continue Lopez Portillo's policy of open, even strident, support of the Sandinista regime without endangering his foreign debt renegotiating position. At the same time Mexico was not willing to abandon the Sandinistas. He found a.formula to resolve the dilemma: covering Mexico's support of the Sandinistas under a mantle of multilaterali s m Contadora Efforts. The key to this formula was the Cyntadora Group. In January 1983 Mexico proposed that Colombia, Venezuela, and Panama meet to seek a formula for peace in Central America. Known as the Contadora Group because it met on the Panamanian i s land of Contadora, it was led from the start by Mexico. Through the Contadora Group Mexico has continued supporting the Sandinista regime by opposing U.S. aid to the Nicaraguan democratic resistance and by not pressuring the Sandinistas to comply with the ir 1979 promises to the OAS to bring democracy to Nicaragua At the same time, however, de la Madrid normalized relations with the non-Communist government of El Salvador in June 19

84. He also put some pressure on the Salvadoran guerrilla organizations Far abundo Marti Liberation FrontlDemocratic Revolutionary Front FMLNIFDR to curtail public activities in Mexico? De la Madrid's tactic succeeded Without having to change the essence of Mexico's foreign policy in Central America Mexico managed in 1987 to resc h edule its debt repayments and even secured over $10 billion in new loans from the international financial community I Recent Developments Ronald Reagan and de la Madrid have met six times in the six years that their presidential terms have coincided. The f irst meeting was in October 1982 and the most recent was last February 13 in the Mexican port of Mazatlan. This last meeting was the most cordial. At 5 The Salvadoran government insists that Mexican aid to the guerrillas continues 8 previous meetings, the dominant issue was Central America. In Mazatlan, however, both presidents agreed to de-emphasize their differences on the Central American issue and to emphasize the bilateral issues of trade and foreign debt where some progress has been made.

Briefly touching on Central America, de la Madrid reiterated the longstanding Mexican position that negotiations rather than arms should resolve the conflict in Nicaragua. He also referred to social injustice alone as the sole source of the conflict, conv e niently ignoring communist infiltration. He said: We are concerned that violence and instability in the region could deepen serious institutional and social insufficiencies that are rooted in the origin of the c0dict.d MEXICOS FOREIGN POLICY TOWARD LATIN A MERICA Central America Mexicos policy toward Central America today is focused on 1) preventing Cuban-sponsored subversion in. Mexico, 2) appearing independent from the US and 3 placating the Mexican Left by actively supporting Cuba and Nicaragua as well a s leftist: 1 groups in Central America. For, years, however, Mexico almost completely ignored Central America. Not until 1966 had any Mexican president ever visited a Central American t country. Economic relations were minimal. Mexicos chiefly was interest ed in maintaining political stability in the area and was satisfied even if such stability was the result of military I dictatorships Violating Principles. Mexicos political involvement in Central America has increased dramatically since 19

79. That May, w ith president Anastasio Somoza still in power in Nicaragua, Mexican President Lopez Portillo broke diplomatic relations with Nicaragua. By implicitly backing the Sandinista rebels, Lopez Portillo was violating the much proclaimed Mexican principle of noni n tervention in internal affairs of other countries. Interestingly this action was preceded by a visit from Fidel Castro to Lopez Portillo earlier in the same month Mexico then took the lead in working with Costa Rica, Venezuela, Panama, and Cuba to provide diplomatic, economic, and other support to the anti-Somoza groups; Mexico permitted its territory to be used .to ship weapons to the Sandinistas? When in December 1980, Jimmy Carter suspended economic aid to Nicaragua because of its support of the 6 FBIS- L atin America, February 16,1988, p.7 7 Constantine C. Menges, Mexicos Central American Strategy, The Ch&tian Science Monitor, July 13,1981 9 communist guerrillas of El Salvador, the head of Mexico's ruling PRI traveled to Managua to pledge unrestricted sol i darity with the Sandinista regime. Since the Sandinistas took power in Nicaragua in July 1979, Mexico has given the Sandinista regime at least $800 million in economic aid and has supported them strongly in Latin America, Western Europe, the Organization o f American States, and the U.N.8 Irritating Washington. To support the Sandinistas further, Mexico launched the Contadora initiative. Not only did it fail to bring peace to the area, it failed to prevent the Sandinista military buildup. The formal end of the Contadora Group, and with it the end of Mexican interference in Central American conflicts, was this January at the Costa Rican meeting of the Central American leaders.

Mexico's El Salvador policy has irritated Washington as much as has.Mexico's Nicara gua policy. In August 1981, Mexico issued a joint declaration with the new socialist government of France in support of the communist Salvadoran guerrillas, recognizing them as a representative political force The Mexican initiative was repudiated by fift e en Latin American countries, which denounced it as an act of intervention. Last November 5, El Salvadoran President Jose Napoleon Duarte accused Mexico of supporting,the Salvadoran guerrillas. Mexico denied the char es and emphasized Mexico's "wholehearte d support to the principle of nonintervention 8 Hands Off Guatemala. Mexico's support for revolutionary movements in Central 1 9 America has been selective. Lopez Portillo, while supporting communist guerrillas of El Salvador, did not back the communist gu e rrillas in Guatemala: Said Lopez Portillo Mexico will take no sides in the [Guatemala] conflict It is an internal problem and we view internal affairs in the context of nonintervention Mexico apparently believes that, by supporting communists in Nicaragua and El Salvador it will prevent communist subversive activities inside Mexico..There is probably a .tacit agreement between Mexico and Cuba, by which the latter agrees not to sponsor subversive activities in Mexico if Mexico agrees to support radical move ments in Central America.

South America Mexico has never played a political role in South America. Exports to Latin American and Caribbean countries represented no more than 6 percent of total Mexican exportsin 1985; imports from the area in that year were only 5 percent of Mexico's total imports 8 According to the Central American magazine Militancia Democmtica, it would seem that since 1979 Mexico has provided credit to Nicaragua for a total of $2 billion. Of this, only $800 million was approved and docu m ented by regular credit authorities. The other $1.2 billion was hastily given to Nicaragua to cover a temporary balance of payments defi;cit. Mexico has been trying, without success, to document such credits to make them an official obligation of the Sand i nista government. The Sandmistas, by delaying the documentation of the obligation, have made the Mexican goverpnent hostage to their interests in any peace negotiation process. Militancia Democmtica (Costa Rica), No. 3,1987, p. 12 9 FBIS-Latin America, No v ember 9,1987, p.11 10 As quoted in Alan Riding, Distant Neighbors (New York Alfred A. Knopf, 1985 p.357 10 The Contadora Group was one of Mexico's few efforts at working with South American countries. Another effort is the so-called Group of Eight It is c o mposed of the Contadoran nations of Colombia, Mexico, Panama, and Venezuela plus Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Uruguay. The Group of Eight met for four days in the Mexican port of Acapulco last November to discuss their shared problem of foreign debt. Thei r final communique however, reflected widely diverse interests. The communique outlined general positions on foreign debt, but it did not call, as some observers had expected, for the formation of a debtors' cartel.

At the end of the conference, President de la Madrid complained that the Organization of American States (OAS doesn't effectively fulfill its function He spoke of the desire of the Group of Eight to reincorporate Cuba into t$f OAS. These views, however, were not reflected in the conferences's f i nal communique FOREIGN POLICY TOWARD .THE SOVIET BLOC Cuba In 1964, Mexico was the only Latin American country that did not obey the OAS resolution calling on its members to sever diplomatic relations with Cuba. For one thing, it was widely believed that t he resolution had been inspired by Washington; this gave Mexico the opportunity to appear independent of the U.S. For another thing, Mexico seemed to have an implicit understanding with Cuba that, if Mexico were not to obey the resolution then it would no t suffer from Cuban-sponsored subversion. Mexico's refusal to go along with the OAS was very well received by the Mexican political and ideological ,Left. From 1964 to 1970, Mexico was the only Latin American country that had diplomatic relations with Hava na. In 1970 Chile, under Salvador Allende, reestablished relations. with Cuba i Most Dear to Us Relations between Cuba and Mexico have improved since the early 1970s. During the 1976-1982 presidency of Lopez Portillo, they became very cordial.

According to Brian Latell, a senior Latin America specialist at the National Intelligence Council and Georgetown University lecturer, Castro and Lopez Portillo held annual summits "at which, among other things, they apparently coordinated their countries policies tow ard Central America."12 Under Lopez Portillo, Mexico gave Cuba strong political and even timely financial support. In 1981, Mexico secretly loaned $100 million to Cuba.13 Mexican imports from Cuba, for many years very small, started to increase in 19

79. B y 1981, Mexico was buying 11 Matt Moffett Latin American Presidents Urge Relief from Debt but Take No New Initiative The Wall 12 Brian Latell Continuity and Change in Mexican Foreign Policy California Western International Law 13 Prepared Statement of Jor g e G. Castaneda, Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Street Journal, November 30,1987, p. 15 Journal, Vol. 18, No. 1,1987-1988, p. 88 before the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs, Committee on Foreign Affairs, U.S. House o f Representatives, Washington, D.C., October 16,1985 11 $190 million in Cuban goods while only selling $25 million to that nation. Lopez Portillo, in an action apparently intended to reaffirm Mexico's political independence from the U.S told a Cuban delega t ion in early 1982 Without doubt, the Latin American country most dear to us is our Cuba. Please send an embrace to the Comandante [Ca~tro The close coordination of policies between Mexico and Cuba with regard to Central America apparently continues. Last J uly, shortly before the signing of the Guatemala agreement (the Arias plan) on Nicaragua and the other Central American countries Mexican minister of foreign relations Bernardo Sepulveda Amor is believed to have visited Cuba secretly to discuss the situat i on in Central America. One week after his return to Mexico City, he declared that U.S. assistance to the Nicaraguan Resistance constituted the most serious obstacle to a diplomatic settlement.15 Soviet Union Mexico was the first Western Hemisphere country to establish diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, doing so in 19

24. Yet relations between the two countries were minimal for many decades. This changed dramatically after Luis Echeverria took office in 19

70. He visited Moscow in 1973 and later s igned several bilateral accords with the Soviets. Indeed in 1975, Mexico signed an agreement with the Soviet-controlled Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, generally known as COMECON, becoming the first non-communist Latin American country to do so. T wo Mexican-Soviet joint commissions were established and cultural, commercial, and scientific exchanges considerably expanded.

Relations between Mexico and the USSR improved further during the presidency of Jose Lopez Portillo, who visited Moscow for over a week in 19

78. More agreements were signed between the two countries in the mid and late 1970s than in the preceding 50 years.16 Although most of these agreements are at the commercial, cultural, technological, and scientific level, Moscow attaches grea t importance to such accords, because they help to keep open communication channels, which later can be used for political purposes. After the announcement that Carlos Salinas de Gortari would be the PRI's presidential candidate in July's elections, thus a ssuring him of victory, the Soviet Ambassador to Mexico Rostislav Sergeyev declared that commercial, cultural, and economic exchanges between Mexico and his country could grow under Salinas presidency.17 Received by Gorbachev. Strong indications of the in c reasing level of relatiomwere the October 1986 visit to Mexico of Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Schevardnadze and last May's visit'to Moscow of Mexican Foreign Minister Bernardo Sepulveda, where he was received by Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Foreign ministers from Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay have visited the Soviet Union, but they were not received by Gorbachev.

Gorbachev may visit Mexico this year 14 Riding, op. cit p. 353 l5 Constantine C. Menges Mexican Actions in Central America: Time for a Pos itive Change," American 16 Latell, op. cit p. 90 17 FBIS-Latin America, October 13,1987, p. 7 Enterprise Institute Wonkirag Paper, January 1988 12 A political issue that has brought Mexico and the Soviet Union closer in recent years is that of ''peace and disarmament A Mexican initiative in 1967 the Treaty of Tlatelolco aimed at prohibiting nuclear weapons in Latin America, opened the door for Mexico to embrace the cause of "peace The Soviet Union, sensing the possibility of political profit has supported t he treaty since the late 1970s. Thus began the increased cooperation between ,the two countries on issues of international peace and disarmament FUTURE MEXICAN FOREIGN POLICY Mexico probably will continue to pursue an activist foreign policy that stresses independence from the U.S. This year's Mexican presidential elections and .domestic economic problems, however, could pull foreign policy rhetoric in opposite directions; On the one hand, populist and anti-American rhetoric will exploit nationalistic sent i ments. On the other, conciliatory gestures toward the U.S. could assure the continuity of economic and financial benefits in time of urgent need, as when Mexico in 1986-1987 secured U.S support for a financial bailout that included over $10 billion in new loans. I Mexico is likely to maintain a multilateral approach toward Central America and will continue opposing the U.S. in the region. It also will continue seeking closer collaboration with other Latin American countries on such issues of common interes t as the foreign debt Apart from foreign debt, however, it is unlikely that any other issue will prompt Mexico to start a new initiative in Latin America, at least in the short run.

Mexico's current policy of consultation with Cuba about Central America is not likely to change. Closer and increasing relations with the Soviet Union are probable.

The traditional Mexican principles of foreign policy nonintervention self-determination, and peaceful resolution of differences will continue in foreign policy rhetoric. But they are sure to be violated, especially the principle of nonintervention wheneve r Mexico feels it to be in its interest. This unchanging foreign policy is further confirmed by PRI presidential candidate Carlos Salinas de Gortari's pledge .to continue it.

Jorge Salaverry Policy Analyst 13


Kim Holmes

Former Executive Vice President