Whether President Trump’s government is willing to admit it or not, Mexico is an indispensable ally for the United States in terms of national security. However, it is also true that our country can step aside and let the US handle its own problems.
What would happen if Mexico somehow decided to open its borders to each and every country around the world wishing to enter our territory as a means –legal or not- to get to the United States? What would happen if all patrolling activities were halted and all efforts to forbid drug cargoes that are meant to reach the border were stopped? What would happen if the border zones of Northern Mexico turned into sanctuary cities for extremist groups? What would happen if Mexico dismantled the whole intelligence and information-sharing network that connects Mexican and US anti-drug agencies? What would happen if Mexico unilaterally suspended every valid extradition treaty?
None of the aforementioned hypothetical situations had any sense at all while relations between both countries were based on mutual respect and a common position of shared responsibility facing common challenges. The transition along which Mexico and the United States moved from certification processes and mutual mistrust towards a common search for solutions to deal with the issue of cross-border security was not easy and was not smooth. And the position of the Mexican government was fundamental in this transition.
As a response to the Helms-Burton Act, which jeopardized Mexican investments in Cuba, President Zedillo skillfully wove a set of alliances with Canada and the European Union. After California Proposition 187, which aimed to restrict the undocumented populations’ access to basic services, President Zedillo not only openly protested, but he also strengthened Mexico’s consular network in the United States. During his administration, Mexico reached a figure of 41 consular offices (there are currently 50). No other country has such an extensive consular network in the US.
President Fox’s skills for pragmatic negotiation with his counterpart George Bush in a meeting in Guanajuato in 2001 led to the end of the “certification” scheme that used to be imposed by the US State Department, which was eliminated in 2002 with Mexico’s commitment to sustain efforts to control drug-trafficking.
The Merida Initiative, convened by the government of President Calderón in 2007 –and which is still currently valid- prompted the United States to commit to transfer vast resources, technology, equipment and training for our country. It was not a reactive measure to the interests of the United States, but rather a complementary action of a domestic policy aiming to strengthen our institutions, effectively prosecute criminals and restore the social fabric.
Facing a drastic shift in the position of the United States government, it seems convenient to recover the formula used by preceding Mexican governments, who would paradoxically agree with one of the key ideas of President Trump in his inauguration speech last January 20th: “We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action — constantly complaining but never doing anything about it. The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action.” Mexican society does not expect, nor does it deserve any less: the meeting that will be held between the Presidents of Mexico and the United States next January 31st looks like the ideal opportunity to go beyond declarations and venture into the domain of strategic, stately and effective action.