On March 17th, 2003, the UN Security vote on the Iraq question was cancelled. This meant that, after all the American pressure and domestic controversy, Mexico didn’t have to vote for or against the U.S. attack on Iraq.
For weeks this had been a hot topic in Mexico. Opposition to a U.S. attack on Iraq was running as high as 90% and the political class was solidly against any support for the U.S. If Fox were to vote against the U.S., American reprisals were feared. If Mexico were to vote yes, opposition parties could be counted upon to attack Fox as a U.S. lackey-the biggest insult in Mexican politics. And this could have hurt the president's party in upcoming congressional elections.
Several factors were militating against Mexican support for the U.S. One is inertia - Mexico has a long tradition of opposing the U.S. at international forums. Mexico prides itself on its pacifism and non-militarism. (Ironically, they can afford to be non-militaristic because they know the U.S. would protect them if a third nation attacked.)
President Bush is not particularly popular in the Mexican media, where he is regularly accused in the Mexican media of having a low IQ and having stolen the 2000 election. Pundit Maru Dornbrierer called Bush “the Gringo Hitler,” while Carlos Fuentes, premier Mexican man of letters and reconquista cheerleader, compared Bush’s moves against Saddam Hussein to Hitler’s actions on the eve of World War II.
And yet, wonder of wonders, there were some influential voices in Mexican society who did call for Mexico to support the U.S.A. What’s interesting is why they did so. Most of those calling for Mexican support of the U.S. did not do so out of agreement with Bush’s war aims. Support for the U.S. was simply seen as a good bargaining chip for Mexico in its bilateral relationship– principally in the area of immigration.
The most pro-American statement I saw in print was from Concanaco, a national organization representing the tourist industry. Way back on February 13th, 2003, Concanaco’s official statement on the matter declared that “The United States is not only our best friend and neighbor, but also is and will continue being our best ally.” Wow!
Coparmex , another national business organization, also wanted Mexico to support the U.S.: “We should analyze the bilateral agenda that we have with the U.S. in commerce and migration and I believe that we can position ourselves very well for negotiation.” Coparmex, in other words, saw the support for the U.S. as a bargaining chip for gaining trade and immigration concessions.
Some of the pundits who did support backing the U.S. gave some interesting reasons for doing so. Rafael Fernandez de Castro wrote that “To not vote in favor would be an irreparable affront to President Bush and his government ...” and that Bush could decide that “Mexico is a partner and neighbor in whom he can’t confide.”
Gabriel Zaid, another Mexican commentator, called for a Mexican vote for the U.S., not because he really supports the U.S., but because he supports world government. The UN, he explained, is a developing world government. Therefore, wrote Zaid, if the UN nixes the U.S. plan to invade Iraq, the U.S. will do it anyway, setting back the progress of world government. “Mexico should vote with the U.S., ” wrote Zaid, “ not only to to avoid its aggressions (already announced), but to avoid the ‘locos’ at the steering wheel from destroying the United Nations.”
In an article entitled “A vote for the interests of Mexico,” Luis Carlos Ugalde wrote that he opposed the war and Bush’s military policies, but that Mexico should vote for the U.S., so as to protect its own interests in trade and immigration.
Mexican President Vicente Fox is much less pro-American than his cheerleaders in the U.S. press would have you believe. As a committed globalist and strong UN supporter, his opposition to unilateral U.S. action was no big surprise.
But on February 28th, 2003, Fox took the unprecedented step of calling Saddam Hussein a “tyrant.”
This was a real breakthrough, because it's rare for a Mexican official to criticize an enemy of the U.S.A. On March 2nd, 2003, Fox tried to split the difference by declaring that “we are totally against war and totally in favor of peace...(but) the tyrant (Saddam) must be disarmed.” By this time there were growing rumors that Mexico might support the U.S.
After the UN Security vote was cancelled, March 17th, 2003, in a televised address to the nation, Fox did a skillful job of covering all his bases. He said that he shared the goals of the U.S. (disarming Saddam) but not with the time-table and the way it was to be done, and he re-iterated that the U.S. is still Mexico’s closest partner, friend and neighbor.
The UN Security Council vote crisis was over. Since the vote was cancelled, Mexico had to vote neither for nor against the U.S.A. But a New York Times article indicated that late on the 16th, Fox had decided to vote no. And in fact, Fox himself admitted that this was the case, that Mexico would have voted no.
As for the Iraqi government, it viewed Mexico’s UN stance as pro-Iraq. An Iraqi diplomat in Mexico stated that “The government of Iraq appreciates the attitude of Mexico. The Presidency has acted very well, the Congress, the parties. The people have demonstrated against the war, have burned the American flag....the people of Mexico like the people of Iraq.”
What are we to make of all this? Let's respect Mexico's sovereignty but not be naive about our own. Since taking office two years ago, Vicente Fox has been demanding veto power over U.S. immigration policy. But the Mexican president is manifestly unwilling to supporting the U.S. - Mexico's principal trading partner and benefactor - in the UN Security Council, or any international forum, even to gain leverage on immigration. When it comes to the war against Saddam Hussein, Vicente Fox is not our ally; he has turned his back on America.