Foreign Relations Secretary Sets off Debate with Proposal to Contribute Mexican Troops to Un Peacekeeping Missions

Article excerpt

Mexico is struggling to define its role in the international community, as nationalistic tendencies come into conflict with the desire to become more engaged politically in global affairs. This conflict is especially strong on the question of whether Mexico should commit troops to UN peacekeeping missions.

Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez ignited a debate on the issue in mid-May with suggestions that Mexico should not only support the UN monetarily but also with personnel. "Are we not hypocrites by putting up money but not putting up troops?" Derbez said to reporters in Madrid.

Derbez noted that Mexico ranks ninth in donations to the UN's fund for financing peacekeeping operations. "One could say we are not participating, but [we are] to the degree that we are financing those who are [participating]," Derbez said. "There are no Mexican military forces, but there are military forces financed with Mexican money."

Congress criticizes plan, cites Constitutional constraints

Derbez's statements immediately drew criticism in the Mexican Congress and raised questions regarding whether President Vicente Fox's administration would break with Mexico's traditional position and contribute troops if a UN peacekeeping force were sent to Iraq. "Mexico is not inclined to be bellicose, and much less when our country opposes the occupation of Iraq," said Sen. Cesar Jauregui Robles of Fox's center-right Partido Accion Nacional (PAN).

Senators from other parties supported this position. "This is an unfortunate statement that has no legal or political substance," said Sen. Antonio Soto Sanchez of the center-left Partido de la Revolucion Democratica (PRD). "There is zero possibility that this proposal would gain support in the Senate or among the Mexican public."

Derbez later qualified his statements, saying that Mexico was not ready to commit any troops to Iraq or any other peacekeeping missions but was willing to provide training and preparation for law-enforcement personnel.

PRI Sen. Dulce Maria Sauri Riancho said the point is moot because Article 76 of the Mexican Constitution expressly prohibits the use of the Mexican military for such purposes. "Our Constitution does not provide for any exceptions," said Sauri.

Sauri criticized Derbez for bringing up the wrong issues related to Mexico's participation in the UN. "There are other issues that need to be debated, such as the reform of the UN and the possibility of making Mexico a permanent member of the Security Council," said Sauri. Mexico was elected as a nonpermanent member of the Security Council during 2002 and 2003 (see SourceMex, 2001-10-10).

The possibility of Mexican troops participating in UN peacekeeping operations was endorsed by Derbez's predecessor, former foreign relations secretary Jorge Castaneda. "If the governments of Chile and Brazil can commit some of their troops to UN missions in Haiti, I don't see why Mexico cannot do the same," said Castaneda, who has launched an independent campaign for the Mexican presidency in 2006.

Derbez's statements were immediately dismissed, however, by President Fox, who was on a tour of European countries. "Our Constitution does not allow it," Fox told reporters in Switzerland. "And this administration has no intention of participating militarily in Iraq."

The Mexican president is attempting to avoid situations where Mexico appears willing to cave in to the wishes of the US. …