By KELIN DILLON
On Tuesday, July 5, an editorial by the New York Times’ Natalie Kitroeff and Maria Abi-Habib revealed that the United States has purportedly lost faith in its appointed ambassador to Mexico, Ken Salazar, and reportedly believes that the diplomat has exhibited a repeated pattern of favoring Mexico and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) policies over the interests of the United States.
When Salazar initially took over the ambassadorial position in September 2021 – some nine months after his predecessor, Christopher Landau, resigned from the position – he was allegedly told to foster a strong relationship with López Obrador in hopes of creating a positive bilateral relationship between the two countries. However, according to the NYT, Salazar’s relationship with AMLO has put the immigration policies of the Biden administration in jeopardy.
“There is growing concern within the administration that the ambassador may have actually compromised U.S. interests in the process — and has not leveraged the relationship into policy wins when Biden needs them most, according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former officials and analysts,” wrote Kitroeff and Abi-Habib.
One such compromising incident found Salazar backing AMLO up on his claims that Mexico’s independent electoral institutions are corrupt, reiterating controversial allegations that the 2006 election was stolen from López Obrador, going so far as to ask a Mexican election authority “was there fraud?” and saying in an interview that “he was not convinced that the election was clean, challenging the stance of the United States at a time when democracy is under threat at home and across the hemisphere.”
This relationship between Salazar and AMLO has likewise caused problems for the United States’ immigration issues, especially when considering the Mexican-U.S. border is the largest buffer for U.S. immigration policy. As the United States experiences record levels of undocumented migration underneath the Biden administration, cooperation with López Obrador’s government is instrumental in ensuring that the U.S. migration policy is effective, and AMLO’s seemingly laissez-faire attitude to the situation has “the power to damage Biden’s political future.”
According to the NYT, Salazar has “questioned the integrity of a U.S.-funded anticorruption nonprofit that had gone up against the president; caused a political storm by appearing to signal support for an energy overhaul the U.S. government opposed; and has stayed silent as López Obrador relentlessly attacks journalists,” not to mention exhibited little pushback on AMLO’s contentious energy policies that have the potential to harm U.S. investment in Mexico.
Though Salazar continues to claim his relationship with AMLO is a positive one for the United States, his compatriots up north do not seem to share his perception of the situation, with anonymous senior U.S. officials revealing their belief that Salazar’s close ties to López Obrador may be in fact emboldening him against the United States, rather than encouraging him toward collaboration.
To Vice President of Strategy at the Wilson Center Duncan Wood, Salazar is clearly “being played by AMLO,” with “nothing to show for” their purportedly close relationship.
Though Salazar has claimed some of his words in favor of AMLO were taken out of context, and the Biden administration continues to publicly show support for its ambassador to Mexico, whispers out of Washington seem to reveal that Salazar’s future in Mexico is not as secure as it seems.