Magazine article SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico

Mexico Attempts to Recapture Leadership Role in Latin America at Regional Summit; Energy, Sustainability on Agenda

Magazine article SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico

Mexico Attempts to Recapture Leadership Role in Latin America at Regional Summit; Energy, Sustainability on Agenda

Article excerpt

President Felipe Calderon succeeded to some extent in repositioning Mexico as a leader in Latin America, hosting what was generally perceived as a successful summit of Latin American and Caribbean countries in Quintana Roo state on Feb. 20-23. As host, Mexico took a lead in pushing through a proposal to create a regional consultative bloc that excludes the US and Canada. Calderon was also at the forefront in renewing regional awareness on issues related to energy and environmental sustainability. Although the summit's 10-point action list did not mention energy policy or environmental sustainability, these topics were included in an 88-point document. Mexico also used the summit to solidify its economic relations with Brazil, especially regarding energy. The two countries are the largest economies in Latin America.

For some, Mexico's decision to embrace creating a bloc that would rival and perhaps marginalize the Organization of American States (OAS) was important symbolically. "Mexico strengthened its ties to Latin America this week in a manner unseen since last century," the Mexico City daily newspaper El Universal noted in an editorial on Feb. 25.

By making this move, the newspaper said, Mexico took a step back from the US, its longtime economic and political ally. "Even if we suppose that it is convenient for Mexico to have the US as its most important ally, the move toward Latin America is an excellent strategy," said the editorial. "This way our neighbor to the north will have to realize that ignoring its ally would be costly."

Although countries like Venezuela, Bolivia, and Cuba--which are seen as adversarial to the US--had pushed for creating the bloc as an alternative to the OAS, Calderon and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva went to great lengths to emphasize that the new grouping should not be seen a direct affront to the US.

"No one needs to be concerned, because we are only looking for ways to organize ourselves [as a region], to establish a forum to help each other," said Lula.

"We are building the type of community that we wanted for many years," said Calderon. "This community will open up opportunities for all, not only through economic, political, and cultural integration, but also by creating a space to address controversies and allow us to solve our own problems."

But others suggested that Mexico, by embracing the new bloc so strongly, was trying to compete with Brazil for leadership in the Americas. "What lies behind the creation of the proposed Community is an effort by Mexico to regain a foothold in Latin America, after three years in which the Calderon government has allowed Brazil to virtually displace it from the region's diplomatic community," said syndicated columnist Andres Oppenheimer. "Over the past three years, Brazil has consolidated its UNASUR [Union de Naciones Suramericanas] diplomatic bloc, which automatically excluded Mexico for geographical reasons, and allowed Brazil to become Latin America's undisputed leader."

Mexico meets with Caribbean nations to discuss Haiti

Observers said Mexico demonstrated regional leadership in other ways, such as bringing together countries from the region to discuss trade, economic cooperation, and reconstruction efforts for Haiti following the devastating earthquake in January (see NotiCen, 2010-01-21 and 2010-02-18). "In a private session [with Haitian President Rene Preval], which also included representatives of Guyana, the Bahamas, St. Lucia, and Suriname, the Mexican president presented his proposal of regional cooperation to address the emergency situation facing Haiti," said Inter Press Service.

Some analysts suggested that the meeting with the Caribbean countries was part of an effort by Calderon to recover influence in the region, which was lost when Mexico de-emphasized its role in the Acuerdo de San Jose, or San Jose Pact. Under this 1980 agreement, Mexico and Venezuela sold 160,000 barrels of oil to Central American and Caribbean countries at a low cost. …

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