Cuban Daily Takes Parting Shot at Mexico’s Jorge Castañeda

Adiós, Castañeda

Jorge Castaneda
Jorge Castañeda, a left-wing Mexican academic turned foreign minister, resigned from his post Jan. 9, 2003 (Photo: AFP). 

Jorge Castañeda’s resignation from the post of Mexico’s foreign minister was a departure that many sectors of Mexican society had been longing to see, and it appears to have produced more satisfaction than sorrow. Except in President Vicente Fox, that is. Fox now finds himself obligated to reshuffle his Cabinet earlier than expected, particularly given that Mexican peasants opposed to the Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement have recently been calling for the resignation of his Minister of Agriculture as well.…

Praise is scant for the outgoing Foreign Minister Castañeda. The acceptance of his resignation, finally made official yesterday [Jan. 10] by President Fox, brings to an end the turbulence and controversy that had defined his tenure as foreign minister. His policy decisions often seemed contaminated by his very personality—arrogant, haughty, and power-hungry are some of the adjectives that have been used to describe him.

Perhaps the most damaging thing Castañeda can be credited for was his supposedly pragmatic attempt to readjust Mexico’s foreign policy to “new times,” thus undermining the foreign policy traditions that have historically defined Mexico as a nation.

During his two years in the Foreign Ministry, the principle of “respect for others” was sadly discarded, and the Estrada Doctrine—which had established the Mexican tradition of non-intervention and the recognition of other nations’ sovereignty—suffered a mortal blow.

While some fear that his departure will harm Mexico’s relationship with Washington—President Fox swears it won’t—there are many who criticize those ties for making Mexico’s foreign policy subservient to U.S. interests. It is a relationship that one famous Latin American, [echoing former Argentine President Carlos Menem,] has described as a “carnal affair,” arguing that the Mexican government has broken with an established national tradition and is in violation of the will of the Mexican people.

Castañeda’s policies were also rejected by the majority of Mexico’s Congress, which had demanded Castañeda’s resignation when he was caught lying about the real reasons behind Cuban President Fidel Castro’s early exit from the Monterrey Summit last year. Ultimately they discovered the truth—that an attempt to please George W. Bush was behind it. What happened to Mexico’s self-determination?

Many Mexicans were also unhappy when Castañeda became one of the first to embrace his neighbor Bush’s anti-terrorism crusade, for which he pledged his unconditional support.

But there are other factors behind Castañeda’s resignation that have yet to be formally presented, and rumors continue abound as to what happened. Some have cited his frustrated longings to hold another, more powerful political position, from which he could exert more influence on Mexican domestic policy. Others cite the damage Castañeda sustained for his failure to successfully strengthen ties with Washington and forge a migratory agreement that would have given legal status to undocumented Mexican immigrants in the United States.

In fact, many today question Castañeda’s attempt to cozy up to the U.S. government, a government that has done little for the Mexican people.

Ironically, some now argue that President Fox will be among the principal beneficiaries of Castañeda’s resignation. It is a Congressional election year, and Fox’s popularity could increase now that he has rid himself of the controversial Castañeda... even if Fox bid him a fond farewell and praised him for his work.

But discontent in Mexico extends well beyond Castañeda. In the midst of the Mexican peasants’ struggle against the unfair NAFTA agreement with the United States and Canada, millions of Mexicans continue to feel excluded and to live in miserable conditions, contrary to the economic growth that President Fox promised would result from closer ties with Washington.

Rumors persist that Castañeda was seeking a free hand to make a run for the presidency, though the ex-foreign minister has claimed he has said goodbye to politics once and for all.