Mexico’s New Foreign Policy: A Return to the Past – courtesy of Geopolitical Futures

by Marilou Moursund on January 16, 2019

in Brexit,Geopolitical

I think it is interesting that we tend to pay more attention to Europe and the UK rather than what is going on right to the south of us.  Many of the same issues revealed by the Brexit vote, the Yellow Vests in France, and the election of populist leaders around the world are also showing up in South America.  Geopolitical Futures published an interesting article today describing Mexico’s foreign policy under its new President, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.  From the linked article:

For 70 years, until Vicente Fox took office in 2000, Mexico’s foreign policy had been guided by the Estrada Doctrine. Named for Genaro Estrada, who served as the Mexican foreign affairs secretary from 1930 to 1932, the doctrine took a noninterventionist approach to diplomatic relations, promoting the idea that countries shouldn’t interfere in the domestic affairs of other nations and that they especially shouldn’t comment on the legitimacy of foreign governments. From this perspective, anything short of minor signals of disapproval – such as recalling diplomatic staff or limiting diplomatic presence in a foreign capital – is viewed as unacceptable.

It’s not hard to see why Mexico adopted such an approach. Throughout its history, Mexican governments have had to deal with foreign invasions and regimes that refused to acknowledge their legitimacy and Mexico’s autonomy. Since the 19th century, Mexico fought Spain for its independence, was invaded by France and was partially annexed by the United States. But the country’s problems weren’t brought on only by external factors. After gaining independence, it descended into civil war, and in the early 20th century, numerous revolutions threatened to destabilize the country. Foreign powers often took sides in these fights. Mexico, therefore, has repeatedly felt the frustration of being subjugated by foreign governments and struggling to gain international recognition.

This history was the foundation of the Estrada Doctrine. But as Mexico developed into an emerging economy, it began experimenting with other foreign policy approaches to reflect its new status. In 2000, when the National Action Party unseated the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which had been in power since 1929, the administration of Vicente Fox aspired to increase Mexico’s influence in multilateral organizations and strengthen its ties with the U.S. Fox believed cooperating with Washington would help boost Mexico’s international profile, as one of the United States’ top and most trusted partners. This approach continued with the administrations of Felipe Calderone in 2006-12 and Enrique Pena Nieto in 2012-18.

But it had some major drawbacks and ultimately proved detrimental to Mexico’s broader objective of increasing its role in the region. As part of its closer alignment with the U.S., Mexico began to take positions on issues that were inconsistent with its historical orientation. It criticized the governments of Cuba, Venezuela and Honduras (among others) and commented on their domestic affairs. Some began to see Mexico as a puppet of the United States, using its cultural, linguistic and historical ties to Latin America to do Washington’s bidding in the region. And in doing so, Mexico put at risk one of the biggest advantages it had in the region over the U.S. – its credibility among Latin American countries. Mexico’s international status did improve, but it came at a price.

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