Castañeda’s Legacy for U.S.-Mexico Relations

U.S. Policy in a New Transition

How should Washington deal with Castañeda’s foreign policy, if it were to reemerge in its original form? This is a dilemma since, after all, he was appointed the foreign minister of Mexico’s first democratic and legitimate government in over seven decades, and his reappointment by Calderón would confirm that Mexico’s ruling class indeed prefers an assertive foreign policy towards Washington.

An openly aggressive response by the United States to Castañeda’s provocations would ultimately be interpreted as an affront to Mexico itself. It may also vindicate the foreign minister’s (and the illiberal Left’s) rhetoric of victimization, or be interpreted as U.S.discomfort towards Mexico’s newfound sense of international activism. (Whereas Castañeda was widely unpopular as foreign secretary, the perception of Mexico’s more active foreign policy is popular.[liv])

On the other hand, an appeasement of Castañeda byWashingtonand the acceptance of his agenda may strengthen the foreign minister politically, and may serve as a precedent for future Mexican foreign ministers and even for other countries to follow in their dealings with Washington. Other Latin American countries may be observing the results of Castañeda’s brinkmanship with the United States. A favorable and accommodating U.S. policy of course may benefit Mexico in the short run, but it may unnecessarily complicate relations in the medium and long term, since a precedent would have been set on how to deal with Washington.

Mexico’s strategic importance in the Hemisphere has increased due to the tide of countries governed by leaders hostile to Washington, namely in Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, and to a lesser extent also Argentina and Brazil. As Castañeda has been perceived to have broken with this network, there will be an impulse in Washington to accommodate Mexico, and Castañeda may extract high costs for his “cooperation” against Washington’s enemies in the Hemisphere. With his presidential ambitions in mind, that cost will most certainly entail a comprehensive package of immigration reform.

Should Washington adopt a “peace in our time” approach in its dealings with a Castañeda-style Mexican foreign policy, however, it is likely to produce ever-more-unreasonable demands from the government in Mexico City – which is attempting to pass-the-buck for its lackluster economic performance these past six years. A polite but firm rebuke from Washington would likely provoke a heated condemnation from the Mexican elites in the short run.  In the medium-term, though, it would encourage the latter finally to pass needed reforms in Mexico and not shift the blame northward.

After all, as in all co-dependent relations, it is recommended that the offended party politely stand up for its interests and cease to tolerate – to say nothing of encouraging – unreasonable behavior from the other party, if it wants a bilateral relationship that is healthy and constructive.



[i] See, for example, Fredo Arias-King, “Mexico’s Wasted Chance,” The National Interest, Winter 2005/6, pp. 87-93.

[ii] Guadalupe Irízar, “La memoria de López Portillo,” Reforma, 11 December 2001, p. 10A.

[iii] See for example former ambassador Agustín Gutiérrez Canet’s comments in María Elena Medina, “Le recomienda Gutiérrez Canet trabajo en equipo,” Reforma, 23 November 2000, p. 6A. See also Rafael Fernández de Castro, “El primer año de política exterior: diez en diseño y siete en ejecución,” Reforma,10 December 2001, p. 35A.

[iv] Jorge G. Castañeda, “Indicios de que se trabaja en Estados Unidos para desestabilizar a De la Madrid,” Proceso, 11 February 1985, pp. 12-5.

[v] There are several articles where he brings up the debt issue. See for example, Jorge G. Castañeda, “Seis preguntas al presidente,” Proceso, 29 July 1985, pp. 34-5; “Las previsiones económicas fallaron y quedan dos soluciones: una mala y otra peor,” Proceso, 20 May 1985, pp. 16-7; “El primero de mayo y la deuda,” Proceso, 6 May 1985, p. 33.

[vi] Castañeda, México: El futuro… op. cit., p. 53.

[vii] Castañeda, México: El futuro… op. cit., p. 49.

[viii] Leopoldo Mendívil, “Asunto: Barba Roja,” El Heraldo de México,4 February 2002, p. A1.

[ix] All quotes found in Castañeda, México: El futuro… op. cit., pp. 49, 49 and 47, respectively.

[x] American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, IV Edition (Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association, 1994), p. 651.

[xi] Ibid., p. 654.

[xii] Jorge G. Castañeda, “Malbaratar la história,” Proceso,4 March 1985, pp. 40-1.

[xiii] See for example his attack on President Miguel de la Madrid in Jorge G. Castañeda, “El gobierno más pronorteamericano,” Proceso,30 September 1985, p. 36.

[xiv] Juan Hernández, ed., Vicente Fox: Sueños, Retos y Amenazas (Dallas, TX: The Center for U.S.-Mexico Studies, 1998), p. 11.

[xv] Ibid, p. 40.

[xvi] Mary Beth Sheridan, “Bush-Fox Friendship Serves Both,” The Washington Post,3 September 2001, p. A1.

[xvii] See for example, Lorenzo Meyer, “Nuevo régimen, ¿nueva política exterior?,” Reforma,24 August 2000, p. 13A.

[xviii] The foreign policy philosophy towards theUnited States of both foreign ministers is strikingly similar. See for example Ariel Cohen, “The Watershed in U.S.-Russia Relations: Beyond ‘Strategic’ Partnership,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder,17 February 1999. Cohen’s “zero-sum” term describing Primakov’s philosophy towards theUnited States served as inspiration for the title of this paper.

[xix] Andrés Oppenheimer, “La política exterior de Fox: ¿más de lo mismo?,” Reforma,5 December 2000, p. 28A.

[xx] Sánchez Susarrey, op. cit., p. 19A.

[xxi] Jaime Sánchez Susarrey, “El gabinete de Fox,” Reforma,18 November 2000, p. 19A.

[xxii] Sergio Aguayo Quezada, “El equilibrista,” Reforma,22 November 2000, p. 29A.

[xxiii] Francisco Garduño E., “Relaciones Exteriores será promotora de nuestras inversiones, anuncia Fox,” El Heraldo de México,27 October 2000, p. A1.

[xxiv] A reflection of this thinking can be found in Castañeda, México: El futuro… op. cit., p. 162-3, and in Castañeda, “Cuando todo sale mal,” Proceso,29 April 1985, p. 36.

[xxv] See for example, Andrés Oppenheimer, “Surgen grietas en la relación México-EU,” Reforma, 14 September 2002, 23A.

[xxvi] This was manifested by Castañeda’s deputy Gustavo Iruegas. See “Justifican retiro del TIAR: México no tiene enemigos,” Reforma, 13 September 2002, p. 15A.

[xxvii] Reforma, 8 September 2002, p. 22A.

[xxviii] “Consideran obsoleto el Tratado de Río,” Reforma, 8 September 2002, p. 10A.

[xxix] Reforma,15 November 2002, p. 16A.

[xxx] Maribel González, “Protestan por el cierre de oficina de migrantes,” Reforma,4 August 2002, p. 16A.

[xxxi] See for example, Miguel Angel Granados Chapa, “Castañeda entre Bush y Castro,” Reforma,24 March 2002, p. 11A.

[xxxii] Roberto Zamarripa, “Negocian con Castro y entregan a cubanos,” Reforma,2 March 2002, p. A1.

[xxxiii] Armando Suárez, “¿Qué pasó con Fox?,” Reforma,2 March 2002, 13A.

[xxxiv] Conversation with senior officials from Nicaraguan presidential candidate Enrique Bolaños’s campaign who requested anonymity.

[xxxv] Jorge G. Castañeda, México: El futuro en juego (Mexico City: Planeta, 1987), p. 116.

[xxxvi] For a brief history of Ortega’s repression of the Miskito Indians, see Stephanie Courtois, Nicolas Werth, Jean-Louis Panné, Andrzej Paczkowski, Karel Bartosek and Jean-Louis Margolin, The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999), pp. 668-9.

[xxxvii] “Pide Perdón,” Reforma,20 August 2001, p. 12A.