By ALEJANDRO ENVILA FISHER
Despite what he might think, Mexican Foreign Relations (SRE) Secretary Marcelo Ebrard Casaubón will not be a National Regeneration Movement (Morena) party candidate for the 2024 presidential elections for Morena. and that has already been determined by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) himself.
Instead, Ebrard has become — intentionally or otherwise — a convenient scapegoat for the president, who has resorted to using his outrageous outbursts regarding international relations to distract public attention from the growing list of his personal and political scandals, such as his verbal assault on Spain on Feb. 9, which was intended to draw media attention away from the controversial exposé on his eldest son José Ramón López Beltrán’s multimillion-dollar income and lavish lifestyle.
But AMLO’s threat to “pause” diplomatic relations with Mexico’s second-largest investor nation has had significant collateral effects on national politics, specifically regarding the presidential succession.
The determination of Morena’s 2024 presidential candidacy has now entered a gray area because the image of Ebrard’s main contender, Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, has begun to be tarnished by her mindless mimicking the president’s behavior and a cascade of mistakes by her political team, among which the most flagrant was the distribution of Ivermectin, an anti-parasite drug used to treat animals, to thousands of covid-19 patients, despite the fact that this off-label use has been strongly discouraged by its manufacturer, the World Health Organization (WHO) and even Mexico’s federal covid czar, Hugo López-Gatell. (To make matters worse, Sheinbaum responded to reports of the Ivermectin use by accusing the media of having launched a smear campaign against her, rather than firing those who were responsible, thus rewarding the culprits at the cost of concealing negligence and corruption.)
In politics, there are no empty spaces, and Sheinbaum’s setback should have improved the chances of Morena’s other main presidential wannabe, Ebrard.
And the chancellor, a true AMLOite, has faithfully done his job like no other member of the presidential cabinet. He served as the bridge that built the controversial but functional relationship between former U.S. President Donald Trump and López Obrador. He dutifully complied with the president’s instruction to organize the agreement with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) for the government purchase of medicines for Mexico. (The failure of that measure had to do with the shoddy execution by the UN, not with the formalization of the pact that Ebrard drafted.)
Once the covid pandemic began, Ebrard went out into the world, first to demand on behalf of Mexico equal access to vaccines against the coronavirus through the Global Access Facility (Covax) mechanism, and then to negotiate the acquisition of doses from various pharmaceutical companies. (The problem of immunization in Mexico has been due to the slowness to inoculate, for electoral reasons, not to the availability of doses.)
While negotiating the purchase of vaccines, Ebrard also found time to initiate an ingenious and audacious lawsuit against arms manufacturing companies in the United States, which Mexico is suing for the violence and deaths that their products generate in our country. Some will say that the lawsuit is ridiculous and has no future. But the media and political blow was dealt by Mexico with absolute precision and the resolution, perhaps unfair but legal, will be in the hands and consciences of North American judges.
Ebrard has demonstrated, by far, to be the most efficient — and also the most qualified — of López Obrador’s team. However, the glut of mistakes in foreign policy, all attributable directly to the president, have splattered with scandalous soil both the Mexican foreign secretary and the international prestige of Mexican diplomacy as a whole.
The degradation of embassies and consulates to improvised government employment office — often headed by ignorant and unpresentable friends of the president –definitely shows SRE in a bad light. But that is the work of the president, not of Ebrard. Paying off former Sinaloa Governor Quirino Ordaz for delivering the governorship of his state to Morena by giving him the embassy in Madrid was López Obrador’s doing, but was paid for by a dimming of the prestige of Ebrard and Mexican diplomacy. The same thing happened in the case of the consulate in Barcelona with former Sonora Governor Claudia Pavlovich and, much earlier, with the embassy in Turkey, which was handed over to a journalist who showed up at AMLO’s morning conference to ask the president for publicity for her internet portal but who had absolutely no diplomatic experience: Isabel Arvide Limón.
There is also the case of disgraced history professor Pedro Salmerón (accused of multiple cases of sexual assault), pro-marijuana and caustically offensive Jesusa Rodríguez and the Panamanian foreign minister, who AMLO compared to the Holy Inquisition, plus AMLO’s insult to the Austrian president, who on Feb. 7 he accused of being selfish and anticultural.
And, now, to top it all off, AMLO’s biggest smokescreen of all — so far — in diplomatic matters: his saying he wanted to “hit the pause button” on relations with Spain.
The author of each and every one of these diplomatic blunders has been the president, and yet the main person affected has always been Ebrard.
Today criticism of Ebrard abounds, both in traditional media and on social networks, blaming the foreign relations secretary for not adequately advising the president on matters of international relations.
But that is not the case. Ebrard consistently offers AMLO his opinions and advice, but obviously he is neither listened to nor respected by his boss.
The president simply does not recognize the importance of his actions in a globalized and interdependent world.
But he does know that Marcelo Ebrard has been his best collaborator, by far, during the first half of his six-year term.
Still, López Obrador seems determined to annihilate Ebrard’s path to the presidential candidacy, because instead of defending and supporting him, AMLO instead makes him his fall guy, letting him take the blame for all the mistakes generated inside the National Palace.