By RICARDO CASTILLO
I can breathe a sign of relief; it didn’t happen!
My biggest fear about last week’s fly-by-night visit to Mexico City by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was that he’d announce the replacement of Ambassador Roberta Jacobson. That didn’t happen and that’s very good news. That, of course, should be a warning to ambitious fellows who want the post.
Tillerson’s Mexico visit while on a Latin American tour was significant because, unlike “El Trumpo,” the U.S. secretary of State is well liked in Mexico and definitely welcome by all authorities. I couldn’t even imagine the possibility of a state visit by U.S. President Donald J. Trump.
Just think about the massive protest that would no doubt gather millions of so-called Mexican pimps, rapists, criminals, drug offenders — in my eyes and to my knowledge, all decent persons – who have come to truly hate The Donald. For Mexicans, he’s the most despicable human being that U.S. voters could have elected for president. But then, it was the “deplorables” who got him to where he’s at and, we should remember, the popular majority did not vote for him.
Now, with this off of my chest, let’s get back to the meaning of Tillerson’s visit last Thursday and Friday, and the political damage anyone related to Trump does in Mexico.
Two issues arose after Tillerson’s visit, and both have caused collateral damage here in Mexico. One was the stance of Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Videgaray – who definitely continues to be a most unpopular figure – and the second, Tillerson’s view of potential Russian interference in the upcoming Mexican presidential elections.
First, let’s review how the visit affected Secretary Videgaray: Definitely Luis continues to be Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s handpicked protégée. The president has kept him in the cabinet against – to use a fashionable phrase – fire and fury. Mexicans at large just can’t forget that Videgaray was the Treasury secretary who invited Trump to visit Peña Nieto after his election victory in what was to become the beginning of the demise of the current administration on Aug. 31, 2017.
Definitely, Videgaray continues to be the talk of the town in Mexico as he is not just Peña Nieto’s failed “dauphine” for president, but is also being compared to Miguel Miramón, who died at the hands of a firing squad next to “Emperor” Maximilian of Hapsburg in Queretaro back in 1867.
Certainly, times have changed and comparing Videgaray to “traitor” Miramón is totally unfair. Nevertheless, the comparison is there and, for the meantime, Videgaray had best enjoy his 15 minutes of fame because his name turns to mud when Peña Nieto steps down at midnight next Nov. 30.
It must be admitted, however, that Videgaray has kept his cool for over a year, dealing quietly with the Trump administration. And he has done a good job in keeping a low profile by not taking on the collision course with such an intransigent and irascible individual as Trump has proven to be.
Now, let’s consider the issue of alleged Russian interference in the Mexican elections, which raised more than one eyebrow in Mexico, not just because it is possible, but because Russia – and Fidel Castro’s Cuba – were major players in the 1968 communist student rebellion that finally led to a very gory repression by then-President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz.
When asked at a press conference about potential Russian interference in Mexico, Tillerson just made a brief, but meaty comment on the issue: “You asked about Russian interference in Mexican elections,” he replied. “All I could say to you is we know that Russia has fingerprints in a number of elections around the world. We hear this from our European counterparts as well. My advice – to Mexico – would be: Pay attention. Pay attention to what’s happening.”
These words were immediately interpreted not as a piece of advice – as Tillerson claimed they were intended – but as a direct order to keep the Russian “octopus” – as many a columnist has called Putin’s government – from branching out into Mexico, again.
In any case, the good news about Tillerson’s quick jaunt to Mexico City is that, in the end, he will not remove Ambassador Jacobson, a gesture that seems to put an end of hopeful Larry Rubin’s ambitions of toppling her.
One last comment about that visit: Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland joined both Tillerson and Videgaray in what turned out to be a trilateral gathering, underscoring a crucial diplomatic point that, no matter what happens, our three nations are territorially linked, forever.