Andrés Rozental
"U.S.-Mexico Relations: A Post-September 11 Scenario"

November 27, 2001


 

Ambassador Rozental offers insight about the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico.

Kate Davidson, Graduate School of Journalism

On November 27, the Center for Latin American Studies concluded it's fall semester U.S.-Mexico series with a talk by Ambassador Andrés Rozental. Rozental is Ambassador at Large and Special Presidential Envoy to Mexico's new president, Vicente Fox. His talk was entitled, "U.S.-Mexico Relations: A Post September 11 Scenario."

"There is no less of an intensity in the [U.S.-Mexico] relationship than before September 11," Rozental said.

But, he indicated, this intensity was made possible by the bilateral talks immediately preceding September 11. These talks, he said, recast the relationship between the two countries. In doing so, they set the stage for Mexico's internal debate and external response to the attacks and their aftermath.

On September 7, Vicente Fox returned to Mexico from the United States after a highly successful state visit. He returned, Rozental said, with major accomplishments in hand.

Not least among them was the fact that President Bush had bestowed on Fox the honor of the administration's first state visit. Every activity broke precedence, Rozental said, indicating that the United States and Mexico were "at last true partners and neighbors." He commented that this was the "tone under which the entire state visit took place."

Rozental said a language of cooperation prevailed for the first time in discussions of the "thorny" issues of migration, drug trafficking, and border security.

"Both Mexico City and Washington delighted in portraying the visit as a resounding success and a harbinger of a true partnership for prosperity," he said.

"Then came September 11 and the attacks on New York and Washington," he continued. "The collapse of the twin towers brought an apparent collapse of this budding new relationship between the two neighbors-which only four days before had led George Bush to proclaim Mexico the most important country for the United States."

Washington's focus necessarily shifted from its southern neighbor. However, Rozental asserted, while September 11 dampened the urgency of Fox's suggestion that the Bush administration address Mexican migration and regularization, the issues themselves were not swept away.

In fact, Rozental relayed, Representative Richard Gephardt and Senator Tom Daschle recently traveled to Mexico with the message that "the relationship is exactly in the state it was before September 11." The House and Senate Democratic leaders said that the crucial issues challenging the partnership were still on the agenda, and would be given the same emphasis by the United States.

Rozental indicated that this would likely happen on a different timetable. It is now clear, he said, that agreement on an overall regularization plan for Mexicans already in the United States could not be fulfilled by the end of the year. Instead, he expects talks to resume in January.

Rozental structured his assessment of the post September 11 relationship between Mexico and the U.S. as a narrative stemming from the gains of the state visit. Several themes emerged from his remarks to show why he believed that the primacy of the U.S.-Mexico relationship would survive this tumultuous period.

Among them was the complex economic and social importance of Mexico to the United States. The sympathies of the former Texas governor, the importance of the Hispanic vote, and Mexican workers' financial contributions make Mexico too crucial an ally to ignore, he asserted. Rozental also said that Mexico's democratic reaffirmation gives it a greater legitimacy vis a vis the U.S. and the international community.

Mexico has exercised this legitimacy in its effort to support the United States through the structure of the OAS, Rozental continued. Likewise, Mexico has issued statements of support for U.S. retaliatory action conducted in collaboration with the United Nations.

And, ironically, some of the issues that Mexico has long pressed the U.S. to resolve have gained greater urgency since the September 11 attacks.

It is indispensable, Rozental said, to address the issue of undocumented people already in the United States. "It is now in the interest of U.S. national security to know who is here and to regularize them," he said.

Border security has also taken on an added importance. Mexico has worked to normalize its northern border and to strengthen its southern border.

As with many of Rozental's reflections, concrete achievement was matched with hope for greater safety and freedom of movement for Mexicans. Rozental said that eventually he would like to see the establishment of a North American security perimeter-a strong external border for the facilitation of movement between Canada, the U.S., and Mexico.

 

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