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

Of the ten personality disorders recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, the one defined as “Borderline Personality Disorder” is described as:

“prone to sudden and dramatic shifts in their view of others … These individuals may suddenly change from the role of a needy supplicant for help to a righteous avenger of past mistreatment …[they] frequently express inappropriate, intense anger or have difficulty controlling their anger. They may display extreme sarcasm, enduring bitterness, or verbal outbursts.”[x]

“Fear of abandonment” is another symptom found in Borderlines, as is “a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation [as well as an] unstable self-image.”[xi]

The theme of abandonment recurred often in Castañeda’s descriptions of communist regimes facing problems. He once made an impassioned plea for the Mexican government to provide free oil to the Ortega regime in Nicaragua since “those countries and governments that believe in themselves should not make firewood of the fallen tree; you do not hit those who are on the ground, attempting to lift themselves….Mexico cannot become a country that bargains with a friend that is drowning.”[xii] As late as the year 2000, during the Fox campaign, Castañeda spoke of Gorbachev’s “cowardly abandonment” of figures such as Erich Honecker, Nicolae Ceausescu and Wojciech Jaruzelski eleven years earlier.

Returning to the issue of intervention in the internal affairs of other countries, Castañeda appears not to have left this behind, but apparently carried it over to the foreign secretariat. There are many such examples, both before and after the election. For example, in a speech he penned for Fox (which the candidate vetoed because of its virulence) in May of 2000 to read before theCalifornialegislature, Castañeda vowed:

A democratic government in Mexico will not sit idly while its citizens are persecuted, beaten up and exploited abroad. Under our watch, the protection of Mexican migrants will be the foremost priority of Mexican foreign policy and, whenever circumstances require it, we will respond to abuses to the full extent of our national energy.…You must be assured that we will use every legal, political and diplomatic instrument at our disposal to shield them from brutality and exploitation [including…] coalition-building within the United States:  We will create working alliances with non-governmental organizations, unions, political leaders, and private citizens in this country to transform migration policy and public perceptions about migrants.


Fox’s “Conversion”

When Vicente Fox, a gentleman rancher and former Coca Cola executive, joined politics at the behest of the PAN 1988 presidential candidate Manuel Clouthier, it was to challenge the PRI regime. Fox became an uncompromising critic of President Carlos Salinas (1988-94) as a congressman, earning him the personal dislike of the authoritarian president. Fox even raised a few eyebrows inside the PAN, which by then was tacitly collaborating withSalinasto pass the economic reforms that the PAN had long advocated.

When Fox ran for governor in his native Guanajuato, Salinas prevented his victory. Fox also felt betrayed by the PAN leadership when Salinasadmitted fraud but still refused to allow Fox to take office, instead inviting another PAN member to rule as acting governor. In the meantime, Fox met Castañeda and other forces (mostly from the left, both liberal and illiberal) that had also broken with the PRI and shared his outrage at the status-quo. Castañeda had broken with the PRI in the 1980s not because of its lack of democracy (as is often perceived), but because he believed it had become pro-American.[xiii] Fox apparently was impressed with Castañeda’s seemingly complex ideas on international affairs, economics and politics, and even made use of him to meet (mostly leftist) world figures as he was already harboring presidential ambitions.

Castañeda has repeatedly boasted that he “converted” Fox away from the “simplistic” views of the PAN and into the “center-left.”[xiv] Others who know Fox personally have mentioned that the president’s views on foreign relations were indeed gradually influenced by Castañeda. It is not a secret that complex international issues are not Fox’s forté. However, Fox actually was probably the only Mexican presidential candidate in memory that was openly pro-American. In an interview in 1998, he mentioned that “Let us work together to build a marvelous Mexico and, why not, to continue supporting the U.S/ so that it will continue being such a country of leadership.”[xv] Quite opposite to this philosophy, Castañeda’s view was that Mexicans who are not anti-American (such as the last three PRI presidents and the PAN) are that way because they need legitimacy they can’t get at home.