- The Washington Times - Friday, August 16, 2002

Mexican President Vicente Fox's decision to abruptly cancel his scheduled visit at the Crawford Ranch with President Bush requires a firm, if measured, State Department response. Mr. Fox canceled the visit in protest of this week's Texas execution of a cop killer of Mexican ancestry. The Mexican government had been complaining that the killer was born in Mexico and, thus, had a right to assistance from the Mexican consulate at the time of his arrest in 1988. Texas officials said the killer had claimed he was born in Texas. It was not contested that the killer lived most of his life in America and spoke English. Before his execution on Wednesday, he admitted his crime.

But the decision by Mr. Fox to insult our president is already being seen as yet one more act of worldwide condemnation of the use of capital punishment here in America. It is in that context that our government's first response that this event would not "dent" U.S.-Mexican relations must be seen as inadequate. We have every right to continue the use of capital punishment. And we should put other countries on notice that future calculated diplomatic snubs of our president or other high U.S. officials will have a price.

Obviously, we should not smash our relations with Mexico over this affair. However, what is needed is, precisely, a "dent" in U.S.-Mexican relations. Secretary of State Colin Powell should recall our ambassador in Mexico City back to Washington for consultations. After a decent interval, the ambassador may return to his station. Such a carefully modulated disruption in diplomatic relations will adequately constitute a point made.

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