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He’ll have to go

23 March 2011

As Juanita Cortez pointed out in her commentary on my very short piece on U.S. Ambassador Carlos Pascual’s resignation, one factor that undercut the Ambassador’s effectiveness was his romantic ties to an opposition politician’s daughter.

She’s right, and I am grateful for her observation.  But, even if, like Edward VIII of England, who “found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love”, the Ambassador, like Edward, did renounce his position for “the woman I love,”  however honorable and romantic we might find that, we are likely to recognize in time that the renunciation prevented their respective nations (and others) from utter disaster.

Not that Carlos Pascual is stupid, or evil, or thoughtless, or a likely collaborator with his country’s enemies — characteristics later attached (fairly or otherwise) to the former monarch — but that by training, temperament, and the traditions of U.S. diplomacy in Latin America, Pascual’s short tenure in office demonstrated an inability to discern that those establishment figures he listens to are not those who have his nation’s best interests at heart.

Thomas Corwin

By “his nation” I mean the United States, not Mexico.  While there have been “effective” ambassadors, only two stand out as having fostered good relations between the two nations:   Tom Corwin, Abraham Lincoln’s Ambassador, who earned the gratitude of at least President Juarez and others who remembered Corwin’s stand against the U.S. invasion of 1846, and Dwight Morrow, the Wall Street banker, and old college chum of Calvin Coolidge who inadvertantly selected the only Ambassador who was well-enough liked to have a street named for him (in Cuernavaca).  As Time Magazine wrote on Morrow’s death, “President Coolidge sent Ambassador Morrow to a country that diplomatic careerists avoided like a plague. By the time he got back, Ambassador Morrow’s daughter Anne was married to the U. S. national hero and Mexico’s Plutarco Elias Calles was calling Ambassador Morrow one of his best friends”.  Most were tolerated, and more than a few did more damage to their own country than to Mexico.

Dwight Morrow

U.S. Ambassadors and diplomatic personnel since Joel Roberts Poinsett  sought to subvert Mexico’s leadership to U.S. interests, sometimes leading to spectacularly damaging unintended concequences.  Poinsett, besides stealing noche buenas from a Morelos church altar (and earning the hatred of generations of Mexican horticulturalists) did the United States no favor through his meddling in Mexican politics.  While his involvement with the Yorkista Masons might have been meant to steer a nearly bankrupt new nation towards a pro-United States (and anti-British) trade policy, it led instead to a chaotic political and economic situation — in which the mining properties in Mexico ended up, not in the potentially friendly hands of Mexican investors, but in the hands of the British (don’t forget that up until the first world war, the United States and Great Britain were hardly allies, and more than once came very close to turning a cold war into a shooting one).

And so it went.  While none compared with Henry Lane Wilson (who, having staged a conservative “constitutional coup” in 1913, saw U.S. investments in Mexico go up in flames over

Poinsett, Henry Lane Wilson, John Gavin (in his pre-ambassadoral days)

the next 7 years of resulting civil war and cordial relations with all of Latin America likewise burned), the United States was ill-served by non-entities like James Sheffield.  His laughable money-wasting plot to “infiltrate” Mexican schools with U.S. football players aside, his leaked plans for invading the oil fields was the beginning of the serious push for nationalization and for throwing the foreign companies out of the country.  Ronald Reagan’s Ambassador, John Gavin (the former film star) would have gone better if Ambassador Gavin hadn’t punched out a Mexican news photographer… and as you can imagine soured the Latin American media on giving automatic “kid glove” treatment to U.S. policy makers in the future.

Carlos Pascual hasn’t punched out any reporters, or staged any coups (not that we know of anyway), and there is no reason to think he’s been anything but a stand-up guy, who worked assiduously to implement his government’s policies towards Mexico, based on his own considerable experience as a diplomat.

That has been the problem.  As Esther (From Xico) was the first to point out, Pascual’s experience is with diplomacy in crisis situations:

I think the Administration may have thought of him as experienced with military presences in chaotic states. I think he himself is not a militarist at all. Obama’s government continues to disappoint. It seems to confuse the need for military action with the need for stability; it seems to stress cooperation and inclusion of views that may be erroneous and worse for respect for people with different opinions.

It isn’t Pascual’s fault that he was appointed BECAUSE of an erroneous view of U.S. interests in Mexico, but because of who he was, and because of his background, that erroneous view has seriously worsened U.S. interests in this part of the world.  While the U.S. fixation on “stability” (meaning subservience to U.S. economic hegemony in Mexico) in my view was somewhat responsible for the dubious electoral legitimacy of the present Mexican administration, it has created a situation in which that administration’s “war” on gangsters (or drugs, or dissent, or …) became essential to creating legitimacy.  That the United States has allowed itself to prop up — and largely been consumed by — this administration and its “war” — has not been in the best interests of Ambassador Pascual’s nation.

As Esther wrote in February 2010:

The area of criticism that most interests me is how he and his administration are dealing with Mexico in three areas: e/immigrants, the trans-border drug situation, and trade. He is certainly showing no hint of enlightenment in these areas.  I would be very interested to know if he is getting any information from his ambassador to Mexico, Carlos Pascual, a man who may know better than the people in Washington.

Militarizing Mexico has not been in the country’s best interests, and has distracted (or seriously damaged) U.S. interests better served by a Mexico in which U.S. investors would feel secure, and in which Mexican consumers were buying U.S. goods. One in which Mexican farmers were earning enough to stay at home (and not grow opium poppies and marijuana or set up meth labs) and Mexican manufacturers were turning out products rather than turning away workers to become bus boys in the U.S.

Instead, with a U.S. administration, unable to come to grips with its own narcotics problem, and with political leaders addicted to bribes (aka “campaign contributions”) from those in the United States that benefit from the “drug war” and from militarization, Pascaul has allowed the United States Embassy and diplomatic corp in Mexico to become subservient to secret police operatives (from the C.I.A., the D.E.A., etc.), to scare off U.S. investors and tourists, and even alienate the very Mexican administration (and set it up for rejection by Mexican voters) that the United States government seems to identify as best serving its own interests.  Not to mention making life in Mexico potentially much more dangerous for United States citizens.

I have nothing against Carlos Pascaul, and I would hope his future career (and love life) is a fruitful one.  But he was the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Not that the song is quite apropos, but the title was, and it’s a great song by a sometimes forgotten great singer:

One Comment leave one →
  1. 23 March 2011 9:46 am

    I´m going to have to start blogging seriously again! I’ve been indexing too much. Thanks for the quotes.

    By the way, I loved the piece on Elizabeth and Richard in Puerto Vallarta.

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