By RICARDO CASTILLO
Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Videgaray seems to be a master chef for all the dishes in the nation’s formidable international menu. But being a jack-of-all-trades has its shortcomings, and, indeed, Videgaray is now in hot water many reasons.
FIRST: Last Monday, May 21, Videgaray convened with the so-called Lima Group’s (GL, for Grupo de Lima) representatives, comprised by 14 American countries (Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Saint Lucía), which gathered under the Organization of American States (OAS) to oversee elections in Venezuela. On Sunday, May 20, “democratic” dictator Nicolás Maduro won his reelection to nobody’s surprise. Needless to say, the GL, which was established in August 2017 after the Peru Summit with the objective of seeking a solution to the perennial political and economic crisis in Venezuela, condemned the reelection. to which Maduro answered “we don’t care.”
But in Mexico, Videgaray’s “hypocritical” position on Venezuela is seen as a contradiction as to what’s been happening in Mexico, where he is “seeking to reelect” the political system headed by President Enrique Peña Nieto, this time through his handpicked candidate and faithful crony, José Antonio Meade.
Beyond that, most traditional Mexican diplomats decry the “greenhorn’s” (Videgaray is not a career diplomat) leadership at the Foreign Relations Secretariat, claiming that he has breached to the hilt Mexico’s traditional “Estrada Policy,” by which the Mexican government stayed aloof from electoral and internal political conflicts in other nations, particularly within the OAS, given the kinship sensitivity Latin American countries share. By taking sides, Videgaray – and, hence, Peña Nieto – have broken with traditional values that had, up until now, gained respect for Mexico abroad.
SECOND: At this point in time, most Mexicans are wondering who is running the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations with Canada and, mainly, the Trump administration. Reports by the Wall Street Journal of a clash between the official negotiator, Mexican Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo, and Videgaray is making the present state of the negotiations more difficult because of the goals of each of Peña Nieto’s cabinet members. A U.S. negotiations officer is quoted by the WSJ as saying it is “extremely difficult” to come to an agreement with Mexico given the “divisions” between those who want an agreement and those who don’t. Of course, “those who do” is Videgaray and “those who don’t” is Guajardo.
In reality, both Mexican officials are acting in terms of what’s good for the nation. But Videgaray wants a deal now, while Guajardo would rather keep on negotiating until Nov. 30, President Peña Nieto’s last day in office, to truly come to an agreement. Peña Nieto has also show division between the two officials.
Yet in practice, and Peña Nieto knows it, Videgaray is stepping on Guajardo’s toes as in the endgame it is Guajardo who is responsible for finding a successful, “win-win-win” outcome for the negotiations and is the expert now on the issue. Indeed, 17 months of continuous renegotiations have made Guajardo the true pro.
Ah, but Videgaray is showing clout because he’s got a trump card under the sleeve. Or is it two?
Mexicans won’t easily forget that it was Videgaray who was the man who masterminded Donald Trump’s visit to Peña Nieto, which brought disgrace to Mexico’s presidential residence of Los Pinos and the beginning of Peña Nieto’s fall from the people’s grace.
Yet, despite all that, Peña Nieto has stuck with Videgaray, given his solid friendship with Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. This friendship is what gave the Foreign Relations Secretary “new life” after his downfall following Trump’s visit and even a full revival after Trump’s victory at the Electoral College – not the polls.
Though this has awarded Videgaray a direct ticket to the Oval Office, in Mexico his “subservient” presence in Washington is widely criticized. On Thursday, May 24, a political cartoonist published a joke with Trump calling immigrants from Latin America “animals” and showing Videgaray in a dog leash telling him “I don’t mean you.” (As a side note on Trump’s “animals” comment, he meant it exclusively for the murderous El Salvador Mara Salvatrucha gang. but in Mexico it was interpreted to mean all Mexican immigrants. But then, distorting language is part of politics.) In any case, this is how hard the Mexican press is beating down on Videgaray. who several opinion leaders claim is Peña Nieto’s “alter ego.”
THIRD: Going back to the meandering into the Venezuelan elections on the part of Videgaray, and the Group of Lima, Peña Nieto critics claim that it is ironic that in an administration infamous for carrying out constant “electoral frauds” that – as the old Spanish adage goes – Videgaray is “light on the street and darkness at home.”
Most political parties – other than the president’s own Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) – claim that last year elections for governor in Coahuila and the State of Mexico were “master frauds,” and to be demanding clean elections to other nations, including Venezuela, is hypocritical.
Furthermore, with Videgaray at the forefront of Mexican foreign relations, the days of the PRI in power are numbered, and all nations must prepare for a radical shift in foreign policy, and perhaps a return to the dreaded past, when Mexico was a diplomatically independent country.