Monday, January 9, 2017

Did Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto Reinstall #LuisVidegaray To Please Donald Trump?

Claudia Ruiz Massieu and Sen. Jeff Flake
Things are as hot as habanero peppers right now South of the border. Mexicans, already wounded by the express visit of President-Elect Donald Trump last year, and the devaluation of their peso due to his hateful campaign rhetoric, now find themselves dealing with a twenty percent increase in gas prices. Unrest has erupted throughout the country since the beginning of the year, and the looting of stores has been widespread. Thousands and thousands of businesses have had to shut down, and what does President Enrique Peña Nieto do? He angers his people even more, showing that the Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI) has not abandoned its old bad habits.

In a Russian-style move, last Thursday President Peña Nieto has brought back Luis Videgaray to his administration, naming him his new Foreign Minister. Videgaray had already served as Mexico's Finance Minister, but was sacked last September after orchestrating the now-infamous meeting between the Mexican President and then Republican candidate Donald Trump.

Why bring Videgaray back, a man widely known as a corrupt career politician, and take out Claudia Ruiz Massieu, who as Foreign Minister defended us Mexicans better than any other diplomat that I know?

"Everyone knows that the card that now-Secretary Videgaray is playing to get this diplomatic position is his personal relationship with the inner circle of the President-Elect of the United States, Donald Trump," wrote Universidad Iberoamericana professor César Villanueva Rivas in a column for Proceso. "For people who analyze these issues, it is clear that Trump has arrived, installed himself, and has for a while been setting the pace in Mexico's diplomacy."

Honestly, Villanueva Rivas' position seems the most logic to me. As Foreign Minister, Claudia Ruiz Massieu was the most outspoken critic of Trump's rhetoric. "When an apple's red, it is red. When you say ignorant things, you're ignorant," she plainly told the Washington Post last February. About the border wall that the President-Elect ran his campaign on, she said that "it is impractical, inefficient, wrong and, frankly, it is not an intelligent thing to do."

The day after Trump's trip to México City last August, Ruiz told Excelsior TV that this was "a visit that opened a space where México could, through its President, make clear  on the one hand how offended we are for the statements spread by the Republican candidate throughout his campaign. His positions represent, in case of becoming president of our main commercial partner, a threat to our community." We all know that right after meeting with the Mexican President, Trump flew to Phoenix, and reiterated that México will pay for his contentious fence.

"The PRI Gears Up for the 2018 Presidential Election."

There is a second theory about Ruiz Massieu's departure: The PRI is gearing up for the 2018 presidential election, and its two main forces, the Peñistas and the Salinistas, are parting ways. The Salinistas are the wing supported by former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari.

"Claudia Ruiz Massieu is the clear candidate for the Salinismo headed toward the 2018 presidential election," Miguel Basáñez, a former ambassador to the United States, said in a forum at the Colegio de México which was covered by Proceso. Basáñez, a Tufts University professor, said that the two currents "are setting their distance," and that if Ruiz Massieu is the flag-bearer of the Salinistas, then Secretary of State Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, Finance Minister Jose Antonio Meade and Luis Videgaray form a trio vying for the presidential candidacy among the Peñistas.

Regardless of what theory is right about Ruiz Massieu's dismissal, the real losers no doubt are the Mexicans. We need politicians who have enough courage to communicate our will, and no one did it more effectively than the foreign minister. She is a great diplomat, and does not think twice before defending our interests. Ruiz Massieu has been a great national spokesperson.

Where is Mexico's dignity?

 "Where is the dignity in Mexico's foreign policy, and its prestige for fighting for morally just causes?" professor César Villanueva Rivas accused. Yes, what happened? "For how much longer will career diplomats give us lessons about "high diplomacy" to face the burdens imposed by an insensible technocracy that is now installing itself in the Foreign Ministry, ironically?".

México is a wonderful country, with lots of money, and has been on the right side of history many times, but it has also been ruled by many thieves for decades, and most of this time the PRI has been in power. Half of its people live in poverty, and it is the most corrupt country in the world according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Edgardo Buscaglia, director of the International Law and Economic Development Center, says that México is about to hit rock bottom because it is suffering from the "incompetency and corruption among politicians from all sides." In an interview with Sin Embargo, Buscaglia urges citizens to unite and demand a reform of the rigid electoral laws that reign the country.

"If people get their egos together, their wishes to be landowners, to begin a move to reform what is now a mafiocracy, not a democracy like it should be. I have hopes, when I see a crisis like this, that stemming from them will be spontaneous movements."

Whatever route the country takes, it was a grave mistake of President Peña Nieto get rid of Claudia Ruiz Massieu. She did a wonderful job, and her reputation is not discredited like that of Videgaray. The links of Videgaray (and the President's) to companies like Grupo Higa, which handled numerous state projects while President Peña Nieto was Governor of México State, are widely known. It was wrong of the President to do this to his country, and to the Mexicans who live in the United States.

"Finding sources of dialogue with any actor that has a potential of having influence on our relationship and our community is one of our responsibilities," Ruiz Massieu said while defending the President after his tough encounter with Donald Trump. She should continue to be a spokesperson for him, and for all of us who are expecting what we deserve from a proper democratic government.

Link to Spanish story.