Cuba and Haiti in Mexico's Foreign Policy

Article excerpt

The principles of Mexico's foreign policy remained essentially unchanged during the Cold War and into the early post-Cold War period. The most vigorous discussion concerning change-or even rupture-in Mexican foreign policy were prompted by the negotiations for the North American free trade agreement (NAFTA), and Mexico's internal political opening towards the end of the 1990s. This paper will examine Mexican policy towards Cuba and Haiti to assess the extent of change and continuity in Mexican foreign policy in a post-Cold War and post-September nth context.

For some time during the 1990s, Mexican governments resisted international trends towards the active promotion of democracy and human rights, although they enthusiastically endorsed goals such as economic liberalization and free trade. In time, however, Mexican governments recognized they could no longer ignore the importance of democracy and human rights, not only because of the influence of the international agenda, but also because of rapid social and political transformations domestically. Thus, as President Vicente Fox took office in 2000, the promotion of democracy and human rights became a key element in Mexico's foreign policy and the discussion about Mexican foreign policy change deepened. As a country that had traditionally defended the principle of non-intervention and the right to self-determination, Mexico was now taking forceful positions in favour of democracy and respect of human rights everywhere in the world. The two cases examined here, Cuba and Haiti, are related to Mexico's new attitude towards international politics. The promotion of democracy and human rights was a consideration in Mexican policy towards both Cuba and Haiti, and yet its approach differed significantly in each case. With respect to Cuba, Mexican policy changed significantly from what it had been since 1959 by including an explicit position in favour of the adoption of democracy and the protection of human rights in Cuba. In other words, the Mexican government has taken a stand for political change in Cuba, thereby leaving aside principles such as non-intervention and the right to self-determination. This new policy, coupled with Cuba's resistance to change, led to a deterioration in bilateral relations not seen since the Cuban revolution.

The Haitian case, on the other hand, illustrates the limits of Mexico's support for democracy and human rights abroad. The Mexican government agreed on the need to encourage democracy and the protection of human rights in Haiti through multilateral mechanisms, but rejected the use of force and refused to join United Nations efforts to stabilize Haiti. Thus, the Cuban case illustrates change in Mexican foreign policy whereas the Haitian case reflects continuity. In both cases, Mexico acted in accordance with a regional agenda that privileged democracy and human rights but, as this paper will argue, only when domestic circumstances benefited from it.

REGIONAL SECURITY, DEMOCRACY, AND THE UNITED STATES

The 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks have been taken as the end of the post-Cold War era and the beginning of the antiterror era. Although they did not mean a complete rupture in the international structure and dynamics-international politics is always composed of a series of continuities and changes-the terrorist attacks did give a more specific meaning to the idea of a security threat in US foreign policy.

As US foreign policy did not have a clear regional enemy or security threat once the Soviet bloc disintegrated and Nicaragua and El Salvador joined most Latin American countries in embracing democracy, issues such as drug trafficking and organized crime were given an important position in the US foreign policy agenda, and were even considered security threats not only to the United States, but to the region as a whole. This did not occur in a straightforward way, however, with all hemispheric countries agreeing on a "new" security agenda. …