- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 12, 2009

MEXICAN APPEAL

In his latest newsletter, Mexican Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan urged President Obama to make Latin America a foreign-policy priority when leaders of the Western Hemisphere meet next month in the fifth Summit of the Americas.

The ambassador, in his personal message, made no mention of the drug wars that are threatening the stability of Mexico, although the Mexican Embassy did include an item in the newsletter about Mexico’s fight against the drug cartels.

“The next Summit of the Americas, as the first major multilateral diplomatic engagement in which President Obama will participate, offers a unique opportunity for the U.S. administration to re-engage with the hemisphere in a forward-looking and creative way,” Mr. Sarukhan wrote.

The ambassador cited a decade of success as many Latin American nations moved toward “democracy, tolerance, respect for human rights, the search for greater accountability, transparency and social justice and efforts to achieve economic growth through more open and fair trade policies.”



Leaders from 34 nations of the Organization of American States plan to attend the summit in Trinidad from April 17 to 19.

The newsletter also claimed Mexican authorities are “delivering results” in the war against drug traffickers. Citing U.S. government figures, the newsletter said Mexico has been so successful in fighting drug smugglers that the price of cocaine has soared more than 100 percent since January 2007.

However, the newsletter ignored reports of the growing army of drug smugglers. The Washington Times last week quoted a senior U.S. Defense Department official as estimating the strength of the drug cartels at 100,000 “foot soldiers,” nearly equal to the Mexican army of 130,000 troops. Drug violence claimed 7,000 lives last year, as drug dealers often beheaded rival drug smugglers.

Meanwhile, a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Antonio O. Garza Jr., defended Mexico against speculation of the country collapsing in chaos because of the drug wars.

“Failed states do not have functioning executive, legislative and judicial branches,” he told the Houston Chronicle. “They do not boast the world’s 12th-largest economy, nor do they trade with the United States at a pace of more than $1 billion a day.”

Mr. Garza, ambassador under President George W. Bush, often cited the illegal drug trade in the United States as a cause of the narcotics smuggling in Mexico.

QUIET DIPLOMACY

The South African ambassador defended his government’s so-called “quiet diplomacy” with Zimbabwe against critics who complained that his country allowed a political crisis to drag on for months, swelling South Africa with refugees from its northern neighbor.

In a speech at Utah’s Brigham Young University last week, Ambassador Welile Nhlapo said South Africa’s efforts eventually led to a coalition government between authoritarian President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who accepted the post of prime minister.

“In conflict resolution, there are certain things you cannot do, and one of them is take sides,” the ambassador said. “It is the responsibility of Zimbabwe to solve their problem. At the end of the day, we will leave it up to the people of Zimbabwe to decide.”

South Africa’s former president, Thabo Mbeki, came under intense international pressure to force Mr. Mugabe to accept the outcome of a presidential election that most observers said Mr. Tsvangirai won.

Under Mr. Mugabe’s ruinous economic policies, inflation in Zimbabwe has hit 10 sextillion percent, according to some economists. A sextillion is represented by the number 1 followed by 21 zeroes.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail James Morrison

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