Little given to interfering in what happens outside of Mexico, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has delegated from the beginning of his Government the management of the active diplomacy of the North American country to Marcelo Ebrard (Mexico City, 62 years old). The foreign minister undertook this week a tour that took him to Colombia, where the summit of the Pacific Alliance was also held, of which Mexico has just taken over the presidency pro tempore. In Bogotá, where he met with the vice president and chancellor, Marta Lucía Ramírez, Ebrard stressed that Colombia and Mexico are two great nations, but he lamented the excess of drug series that distort the image of both countries. “We have to face it,” he says in a telephone interview with EL PAÍS, before leaving for Honduras for the inauguration of President Xiomara Castro this Thursday. In the conversation, the head of Mexican diplomacy also anticipated that Ecuador’s entry as a new member of the bloc it shares with Colombia, Peru and Chile will take place in the coming months, and celebrated the arrival of Gabriel Boric to power in the southern country. as a political renewal for all of Latin America.
The four founding partners of the Pacific Alliance, which is approaching its first 10 years, have experienced in that period changes in the ideological trend of their governments, which are currently occupied by López Obrador in Mexico, Iván Duque in Colombia, Pedro Castillo in Peru and, already leaving, Sebastián Piñera in Chile. Colombia will also hold the first round of presidential elections in May. Despite these twists, “the Pacific Alliance is not expected to lose interest or strength. There are already a series of free trade agreements between countries that are not expected to be modified”, Ebrard points out. “Now the Alliance’s focus is on increasing its links with countries like Singapore, which has just joined, South Korea, Japan, Canada… What changes could there be in the future? That the Alliance complements each other and is not just free trade”.
Alliance members have just signed an unprecedented trade agreement with Singapore. “It is a very significant advance because I did not have any partner on the other side of the Pacific. Now you have a crucial partner, very important. Not only because of the success it has had, because it is a very thriving economy, but also because it is a strategic logistics point between the two sides of the Pacific. It comes to bring a new dimension to the Alliance, that is promising, and it will precipitate or accelerate the incorporation of other countries on the other side of the Pacific coast, such as South Korea”, reaffirms the Mexican diplomat.
The meeting of leaders in Buenaventura – which López Obrador did not attend, but a Mexican delegation did – was also the farewell to this type of forum for Piñera, who hands over power on March 11. Mexico aims to consolidate an alliance that incorporates President-elect Gabriel Boric into its regional strategy, whom Ebrard already visited in Santiago this January. “For Latin America –and especially in Mexico, due to the influence and the very close relationship that there has been with Chile, especially after the coup–, I would say that it is going to be a benchmark for the new generation of progressive forces. It is a fresh air, it is a new form, idea and composition of an important progressive coalition, which we see with sympathy and interest. It is a great novelty. It will surely bring a renewal for all of Latin America”, values the foreign minister.
The president of Ecuador, Guillermo Lasso, also participated in the summit, who hopes to conclude this year his country’s entry into that bloc created in April 2011. “I am convinced that it will be so, talks for that purpose are already well advanced.” . The entry of Singapore and other decisions approximate that Ecuador will have to be resolved in the coming months, “says Ebrard. The Alliance intends, among other things, to facilitate the flow of people among its members. Mexico reinstated the entry visa for Ecuadorian citizens in August in the face of a new migratory wave, after detecting that there were networks that carried migrants to the United States. “I don’t see that this measure of visas, which is also temporary, could mean any type of difficulty for the integration of Ecuador,” declares the Secretary of Foreign Affairs.
Mexico has regained regional prominence with the so-called vaccine diplomacy, which Ebrard himself has defended before the United Nations. All the countries of the Alliance supported the resolution in the UN Assembly, which was one of the most voted in history, demanding equitable and universal access to vaccines, treatments and medicines, Ebrard points out. “The pandemic made it clear to us that there are two blocks of countries. Those who have the capacity to produce vaccines and those of us who depend on other countries to carry out the development and not share it. What we are doing is ensuring that companies from developed countries have a presence and we can produce in combination with these companies in our countries, as well as promoting and facilitating research and development in our own countries. We cannot forget or ignore the lessons of this pandemic,” he explains.
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While passing through Bogotá, Ebrard announced that they intend to jointly counteract the weight of the stigma of drug trafficking in the international image of both countries. “Narcoseries have largely specialized in the image of Mexico and Colombia. So, we have to face it, to carry out a great cultural action. The cinema, the series, are forming a popular culture, we have to act there. A work team was also formed that will propose a series of possible actions that make sense, in order to present the culture of our peoples in a competitive and effective way. We will be announcing the steps we take. We understand that this cannot be resolved in a day, but we have to propose it. The beginning is that. We have to have actions immediately to compete with that very negative idea that these so-called narcoseries promote, ”he points out. “We are going to enter the world of series, of cinema. Mexico and Colombia have significant power in this area. We have great filmmakers, directors, photographers, just like Colombia. We are going to summon them to think about this. Defend our language, our culture, our civilization.”
In addition, it smoothed out the rough edges caused by the so-called little room in Mexican airports, where people are detained before being admitted or returned to their countries. Colombia has protested the non-admissions, which have strained relations with several South American countries. “We have agreed on a system, which was largely proposed by Colombia, which is a kind of electronic pre-check, so that we avoid those who are not admitted. They are people who arrive in Mexico and do not have, according to current regulations, the hotel where they are going to stay or other things. To avoid discretion, we are going to try to implement this pre-check”, explained Ebrard. “It is not a visa, it is an electronic pre-check. We’re going to try to make it as simple as possible.”
Mexican diplomacy has also gained relevance by sponsoring the difficult negotiations between the government of Nicolás Maduro and the Venezuelan opposition that have had several rounds in Mexico City. “We are in favor of a dialogue, we have been insisting on it. We have tried to facilitate it, there were several meetings there in Mexico and now we are at an impasse, but we hope that this dialogue can be resumed soon, in which Norway has also played a fundamental role”, says the foreign minister. “It is worth it and it is a bet that we must maintain in search of the Venezuelans themselves agreeing how to resolve the differences they have, and then the situation that is being experienced today can be dismantled and also overcome the sanctions that have been imposed on that country. ”, he points out. “I see that there has been a good disposition (…) hopefully in the coming weeks we will have good news to get back on track.”
–Did the November regional elections have the guarantees of a democratic regime?
I think a lot of progress has been made. Of course, it is not up to Mexico to qualify the processes that are carried out, nor is it in its interest. But what we do care about is that the dialogue bears fruit, and from what we were able to observe in the dialogues in Mexico City there are some significant advances.
– Despite the repetition of the elections in the state of Barinas?
– The dialog path is the only possible path. The other routes that have been proposed have been resounding failures. Sometimes dialogue takes time and patience, but there is nothing better than that path.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.