A Lost Opportunity?

Mexico’s abrupt fall from the top of the Bush administration’s foreign policy agenda in the aftermath of Sept. 11 attacks left President Vicente Fox scrambling to redefine bilateral relations in the transformed diplomatic environment.

Washington’s immediate shift in foreign policy focus to combating terrorism and preventing future assaults on U.S. soil “implies a return to normality in Mexico-U.S. relations—that is, Mexico will be important to Washington but not the top priority,” Mexican political scientist Rafael Fernández de Castro wrote in the liberal newsmagazine Proceso of Mexico City (Sept. 16).

“The emphatic declarations of President George W. Bush during President Vicente Fox’s visit to Washington [in early September] that Mexico is the priority, will be consigned to the souvenir chest....It is not the end of the world, but it is the end of the honeymoon.”

In a subsequent Proceso analysis (Sept. 30), Fernández de Castro observed that the Mexican government’s “tepid display of solidarity” in the first weeks after the attack betrayed a long historical legacy of “anti-Yankee” nationalism that persists in the political establishment and is exacerbated by infighting within the administration over the extent of Mexico’s commitment to the war on terror. “Instead of advancing the nation’s interests,...a national Pandora’s box has been opened over what type of relationship we want with our neighbor to the north.”

An early casualty of the Sept. 11 attacks was the momentum built during Fox’s summit with Bush in the previous week regarding bilateral negotiations on a sweeping reform of U.S. immigration policy. Armando Labra, writing in the left-wing La Jornada of Mexico City (Oct. 1), argued that even though in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks “nothing seems less viable than an immigration agreement, at the same time nothing seems more urgent than to revisit the theme.”