- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Mexico miffed

Mexican politicians are disgruntled with the U.S. ambassador and might vent their anger when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visits Mexico City today.

President Vicente Fox, Interior Secretary Santiago Creel, Foreign Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez and Roberto Pedraza of the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party all have complained that U.S. Ambassador Antonio Garza is meddling in Mexico’s internal affairs.

Miss Rice is scheduled to meet with Mr. Fox and Mr. Derbez.

In a speech last week, Mr. Garza called on Mexico to take stronger measures to control illegal immigration into the United States and tackle government corruption.

Mr. Creel, who is expected to run for president next year, complained about Mr. Garza’s “interference.”

“What we want is a good neighbor … not someone who judges us,” he said, according to reports from Mexico City yesterday.

Mr. Pedraza, a member of the Mexican Congress, said, “I think there is meddling, not only in themes of common interest such as the border, trade and migration, but now they’re also judging us on corruption and low economic growth.”

Mr. Garza last week told the American Chamber of Commerce in Mexico that the government’s failure to secure the border is threatening President Bush’s efforts to promote immigration reform, including the creation of a guest-worker program.

“I want to reiterate that we have no interest in criticizing Mexico gratuitously, but where the safety and security of U.S. citizens are at stake, I will not hesitate to speak out forcefully and unequivocally,” he said.

Mr. Garza added, “There should be no doubt … that immigration reform will become far more likely when the U.S. public and its leaders feel confident that the border is secure and Mexico is doing everything it can to create economic opportunities here at home.”

He warned the Mexican government that it is relying too much on remittances sent to Mexico by legal and illegal immigrants in other countries, especially the United States. The money sent home totaled $13.3 billion in 2003, representing about 2 percent of the gross domestic product. By comparison, oil revenues brought in $15 billion.

“Reliance on remittances from the U.S. is not a viable economic policy,” Mr. Garza said. “This only increases dependence on the United States and delays Mexico’s full participation in the global economy.”

The ambassador urged Mexican authorities to adopt economic programs that will create jobs in a country where nearly half of the population lives in poverty.

“Imagine what else could be achieved were corruption less pervasive, no longer able to poison business deals, encourage illicit activity and chill investment,” he said.

U.S. warned Chavez

The United States twice warned Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez of suspected attempts on his life, U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield said this week in Caracas.

He told the El Universal newspaper that Charles Shapiro, the previous U.S. ambassador, warned the leftist president of assassination plots in the spring of 2002 and informed Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel in the fall of that year.

“We fulfilled our obligations in that regard because that is what our law mandates,” Mr. Brownfield said.

Mr. Chavez, who frequently accuses the United States of plotting against him, recently declared that Washington would be responsible if he were assassinated.

New nominees

President Bush has tapped two ambassadors to fill top posts at the State Department. He selected Christopher Hill, now ambassador to South Korea, to serve as assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs, and White House aide Dan Fried, a former ambassador to Poland, to become assistant secretary for European affairs.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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