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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06MEXICO3338 2006-06-16 21:49:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Mexico
Cable title:  

EMBRACING THE WINNER AND RETHINKING BILATERAL

Tags:   PREL SNAR MX 
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MEXICO 003338 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/16/2016
TAGS: PREL SNAR MX
SUBJECT: EMBRACING THE WINNER AND RETHINKING BILATERAL
MECHANISMS

REF: MEXICO 3324 AND PREVIOUS

Classified By: AMBASSADOR ANTONIO O. GARZA, JR., REASONS; 1.4(B/D)



1. (C) Summary: This is the last in a series of six cables on transiti
issues in Mexico. Washington should embrace the winner of the July 2
presidential election early and often (this is all the more important i
the winner turns out to be Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador). We hope that
senior USG officials will be available to begin to engage with the
incoming administration starting shortly after the election and continu
through the inauguration in December, which we hope the First Lady will
attend. We also believe an invitation to the president-elect to visit
Crawford would be extremely useful.



2. (C) As we approach the transition to a new administration, this is a
useful time to ask if our existing bilateral fora are properly structur
to help us achieve our interests in Mexico. Some mechanisms have clear
outlived their usefulness, others need tweaking, and at least one new o
may be in order. Here we look at the Binational Commission, Senior Law
Enforcement Plenary, Bilateral Interdiction Working Group,
Inter-Parliamentary Group, various border state activities, Joint Staff
talks, political-military talks, and Border Liaison Mechanisms. End
summary.

Reaching Out


--------------------------





3. (C) We should be the first government to extend a hand to the new
Mexican administration. As we have detailed in previous reporting, one
our concerns here is preserving the levels of cooperation we have achie
with the Fox administration. Mexico has a scant tradition of democrati
transition and, despite promising civil service reforms, there is very
little "bench" here to help new officials find their way. Given our
extensive agenda with Mexico, we need to engage quickly. Moreover, pre
public, investors, and other governments in the region will be watching
closely for signals of the USG attitude towards the winners. We want t
message to be one of confidence in Mexican and North American
institutions. With that in mind, we recommend an invitation for the
president-elect to visit Crawford sometime between July and December.
earlier the better, as this would set the stage for further consulation
between officials of the two governments. We also suggest the followin
schedule of visits
(obviously we have not yet discussed this with the Mexicans):

July - Secretaries of Treasury and Commerce (jointly);
August - SECDEF;
September - U/S for Political Affairs and A/S for WHA; separately, CJCS
and USNORTHCOM for the annual independence celebration (Grito);
October - Border tour for new GOM officials, accompanied by Secretary
Chertoff if possible;
November - Law enforcement summit (see reftel); and
December - Inaugural delegation which we recommend be led by the First
Lady.


Rethinking Bilateral Institutions: Binational Commission


--------------------------



--------------------------





4. (C) If senior U.S. leadership comes away from an event such as this
asking, as it has for the last few years, "how can we make this more
substantive?" that may be a clue. The BNC is an archaic concept that d
not reflect the modern U.S.-Mexico relationship. That relationship is
dynamic, broad, intense, and often filled with creative tension as we
search together for new ways to grapple with difficult problems such as
border violence. The BNC, by contrast, is staid, formal, timid, and of
characterized by the ennui of bureaucrats trying to pad an agenda.



5. (C) Launched in 1981 at a time when Mexico's principal objective was
probably to create the appearance of constructive engagement without
actually having too much, the BNC is a poor use of senior officials' ti
(not to mention the staff work that goes into it). Instead of meaningf
discussion of timely topics, it has become a heavily scripted ritual in
which self-congratulation has replaced problem solving. There is even
less return on the public diplomacy investment. The annual hunt for BN
deliverables is yielding increasingly trivial and sometimes downright
silly finds. Instead of symbolizing the strong and growing ties betwee
the U.S. and Mexico, it generates a spate of stories every year about o
failure to achieve "breakthroughs." Good drafting cannot hide the fac
that BNC fact sheets and press releases tend to be of the "both

MEXICO 00003338 002 OF 003


governments reconfirm their commitment to..." variety.



6. (C) The only argument for not giving the BNC a decent burial is that
doing so will generate stories alleging problems in the bilateral
relationship. This can be minimized by preparing the press in advance
relying on the facts. There has been a rapid advance in communications
technology since 1981. The BNC predates both NAFTA and the SPP. U.S.
Mexican senior officials talk and meet regularly in meetings driven by
bilateral agenda, not by the calendar. When the BNC was launched a
quarter-century ago, it represented the one time every year working gro
counterparts met face-to-face to work out our broad agenda of mutual
concerns. Today it is just one more meeting in year's worth of contact
visits and conversations that now include not just federal authorities
state and local as well. In effect, the U.S. and Mexico have grown too
close for a "same time next year" relationship.



7. (C) There may be some in the GOM who will want to cling to the BNC
(just as there are some whose ideas of bilateral relations have an odor
the 19th Century). That is no reason to keep doing it. By timing a
decision to retire the BNC with the coming of a new Mexican administrat
and stressing that the BNC is inappropriate to the new, more mature,
relationship reflected by the SPP, we could keep the focus on the
positive. We do not, after all, have a BNC with Canada (or with any ot
of our closest allies). In any case, the BNC will be quickly and
deservedly forgotten.



8. (C) Some, arguing you cannot replace something with nothing, have
suggested that an SPP-based trilateral mechanism is the appropriate
replacement for the BNC. This might be popular with some in the GOM, b
we do not recommend it. It would simply trilateralize the disadvantage
of the BNC without bringing any apparent benefit. SPP meetings can and
should happen, maybe more than once a year, but they should be driven b
events and necessity, not by an arbitrary annual schedule. By offering
calendar of proposed meetings to the incoming Mexico Government coverin
the first year of the administration we may be able to demonstrate
engagement without committing to a six-year series of annual repeats.

Senior Law Enforcement Plenary and Bilateral Interdiction Working Group


--------------------------



--------------------------





9. (C) The SLEP, a child to the BNC, suffers many of the same debilitie
as the parent (just as the BIWG reflects the weaknesses of the SLEP).
U.S. and Mexico law enforcement cooperation has accelerated considerabl
in the last few years. It needs to accelerate even more. Our law
enforcement contacts are intense and daily at the working level both he
in Mexico City and at the border. When more senior officials need to
weigh in, they pick up the phone or get on a plane. Conversations or
meetings between our Attorneys General or our Secretaries of Homeland
Security and Government, not to mention other senior law enforcement
officials, are frequent. We cannot see the value in getting together
every six months to exchange PowerPoint presentations.



10. (C) Because they have a lower profile than the BNC, the SLEP and BI
do not create and disappoint public expectations, but they do eat up
considerable amounts of energy on both sides. We also fear that they
sometimes serve the worst instincts of some in the GOM by channeling ou
law enforcement concerns into a low energy "talk-fest" where GOM agenci
such as SRE that are less disposed to innovative law enforcement soluti
have a chance to apply the brakes. When we want to get a problem solve
we typically turn to ad hoc meetings focused on a given issue, just as
do with most other countries. Helping the GOM manage law enforcement
cooperation centrally, which is what the SLEP and BIWG do, is not
necessarily in our interests, especially as we look for ways to expand
cooperation with the states. We may wish to consider holding the BIWG
meetings semi-annually, rather than quarterly, to address drug
interdiction issues of interest to both countries.

Inter-Parliamentary Group, Border State Activities


--------------------------



--------------------------





11. (C) The IPG belongs to the legislatures, not to the Executive
Branches. We mention it here not because it would be appropriate for u
to meddle with it, but rather because it seems to work well and merits
recognition. To the extent that we are asked to provide limited suppor
(e.g., logistics), we are happy to do so. The IPG is one of the best
mechanisms available to inform Mexican legislators of U.S. views on a
variety of topics. It also serves as something of a pressure valve her
allowing Mexican legislators to tell the press that they will surely bo
the ears of their U.S. counterparts about this or that (usually

MEXICO 00003338 003 OF 003


immigration). Of course, very little boxing of ears actually goes on.
The real utility is that Mexican legislators, and through them the
political parties, find out first hand that we are not exaggerating whe
we talk of rising U.S. concern over issues such as border violence or
illegal immigration. This is also a possible target for
"trilateralization" by inviting Canadian legislator
s to observe.



12. (C) The Border Governor's Conference, Border Attorneys General
Conference, and Border Legislators' Conference are likewise useful fora
providing opportunities to air important concerns along the border. Th
Border Legislators' Conference is sponsored by USAID, but the other two
get no direct support from the USG or GOM. Without interfering in the
states' activities, it might be useful to look at how we could support
these conferences in order to provide some continuity between annual
meetings and follow-up on the useful ideas that often emerge.

Joint Staff and Political-Military Talks


--------------------------





13. (C) DOD and USNORTHCOM have done an excellent job of getting the
Mexican Secretariats of National Defense (SEDENA) and Navy (SEMAR) enga
in annual Joint Staff talks. These talks have started modestly,
reflecting the caution of the Mexican services (especially SEDENA), and
need to continue to be patient as the Mexicans' trust and willingness t
engage on issues of greater substance builds.



14. (C) As a complement to this effort, we also need to consider inviti
Mexico to engage in pol-mil talks. Like many Latin American countries,
Mexico lacks a strong civilian component to its national security
apparatus. This leaves us with no one else to talk to when the Mexican
military does not want to engage on an issue and no way to judge the re
state of play when the military and civilians play "good cop/bad cop" w
us. Mexico recently agreed to pol-mil talks with Canada (tentatively
scheduled for September 2006), and we hope that will be a positive
experience. Annual pol-mil talks would not be an unrealistic goal.
Although that is directly counter to our recommendation regarding fora
such as the BNC, SLEP, and BIWG, military-to-military relations are rea
just beginning to flower. The Mexican military, especially SEDENA, lov
structure and predictability, so a formulaic approach might be the righ
medicine in this case. Again, an eventual invitation to Canadian
"observers" might help int
egrate this into an SPP-framework.

Border Liaison Mechanisms


--------------------------





15. (C) If we did not have BLMs we would have to invent them, yet they
remain after more than ten years a less than fully satisfactory approac
to cross-border problem solving. Perhaps BLMs are a victim of their
success. The fact that there are so many issues and so many participan
causes some to feel that they are not getting sufficient return for the
considerable time they have to invest in the meetings. Also, are we
properly tracking the issues raised in the BLMs, keeping the focus wher
it needs to be, ensuring follow-up in the capitals when that is called
for, and pushing towards solutions?



16. (C) Part of the solution, which several border posts are already
pursuing, is to break up the BLMs into issue-specific subgroups. This
course has resource implications for the consulates, which are not staf
to organize and chair half a dozen subgroups, and it inevitably means t
other agencies involved in the BLMs are going to have to take leading
roles on their issues. SRE periodically raises its interest in
"revitalizing" the BLMs. Assuming that interest survives the transitio
we would like to join with the border post principal officers and WHA a
engage SRE in a serious discussion of what works and what does not, wit
view towards putting more energy and accountability in the BLM process.


Visit Mexico City's Classified Web Site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/wha/mexicocity

BASSETT