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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06MEXICO3438 2006-06-22 14:30:00 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 003438 

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
transition issues in Mexico. Washington should embrace the winner of
the July 2 presidential election early and often (this is all the more
important if 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 an
continuing through the inauguration in December, which we hope the Firs
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
structured to help us achieve our interests in Mexico. Some mechanisms
have clearly outlived their usefulness, others need tweaking, and at
least one new one 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
of our concerns here is preserving the levels of cooperation we have
achieved with the Fox administration. Mexico has a scant tradition of
democratic 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, press, public, investors, and other governments in the regio
will be watching closely for signals of the USG attitude towards the
winners. We want the 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. The earlier the better, as this would set the stage
for further consulations between officials of the two governments. We
also suggest the following 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
does not reflect the modern U.S.-Mexico relationship. That relationshi
is dynamic, broad, intense, and often filled with creative tension as w
search together for new ways to grapple with difficult problems such as
border violence. The BNC, by contrast, is staid, formal, timid, and
often 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'
time (not to mention the staff work that goes into it). Instead of
meaningful discussion of timely topics, it has become a heavily scripte
ritual in which self-congratulation has replaced problem solving. Ther
is even less return on the public diplomacy investment. The annual hun
for BNC deliverables is yielding increasingly trivial and sometimes
downright silly finds. Instead of symbolizing the strong and growing
ties between the U.S. and Mexico, it generates a spate of stories every
year about our failure to achieve "breakthroughs." Good drafting
cannot hide the fact that BNC fact sheets and press releases tend to be

MEXICO 00003438 002 OF 003


of the "both 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
and 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. and Mexican senior officials talk and meet regularly in
meetings driven by the bilateral agenda, not by the calendar. When the
BNC was launched a quarter-century ago, it represented the one time
every year working group 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 contacts, visits and conversations that now include not
just federal authorities but 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
of 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
administration 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 other 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,
but we do not recommend it. It would simply trilateralize the
disadvantages 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 by events and necessity, not by an arbitrary annual
schedule. By offering a calendar of proposed meetings to the incoming
Mexico Government covering 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
debilities as the parent (just as the BIWG reflects the weaknesses of
the SLEP). U.S. and Mexico law enforcement cooperation has accelerated
considerably in the last few years. It needs to accelerate even more.
Our law enforcement contacts are intense and daily at the working leve
both here 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

SIPDIS
senior law enforcement officials, are frequent. We cannot see the valu
in getting together every six months to exchange PowerPoint
presentations.



10. (C) Because they have a lower profile than the BNC, the SLEP and
BIWG do not create and disappoint public expectations, but they do eat
up considerable amounts of energy on both sides. We also fear that the
sometimes serve the worst instincts of some in the GOM by channeling
our law enforcement concerns into a low energy "talk-fest" where GOM
agencies such as SRE that are less disposed to innovative law
enforcement solutions have a chance to apply the brakes. When we want
to get a problem solved, we typically turn to ad hoc meetings focused o
a given issue, just as we do with most other countries. Helping the GO
manage law enforcement cooperation centrally, which is what the SLEP an
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
us 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
support (e.g., logistics), we are happy to do so. The IPG is one of th
best mechanisms available to inform Mexican legislators of U.S. views o

MEXICO 00003438 003 OF 003


a variety of topics. It also serves as something of a pressure valve
here, allowing Mexican legislators to tell the press that they will
surely box the ears of their U.S. counterparts about this or that
(usually 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
when 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 legislators 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. The 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 ho
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)
engaged in annual Joint Staff talks. These talks have started modestly
reflecting the caution of the Mexican services (especially SEDENA), and
we need to continue to be patient as the Mexicans' trust and willingnes
to engage on issues of greater substance builds.



14. (C) As a complement to this effort, we also need to consider
inviting 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 th
Mexican military does not want to engage on an issue and no way to judg
the real state of play when the military and civilians play "good
cop/bad cop" with us. Mexico recently agreed to pol-mil talks with
Canada (tentatively scheduled for September 2006), and we hope that wil
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 really just beginning to flower. Th
Mexican military, especially SEDENA, loves structure and predictability
so a formulaic approach might be the right medicine in this case.
Again, an eventual invitation to Canadian "observers" might help
integrate 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
approach to cross-border problem solving. Perhaps BLMs are a victim o
their success. The fact that there are so many issues and so many
participants 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 where 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
of course has resource implications for the consulates, which are not
staffed to organize and chair half a dozen subgroups, and it inevitably
means that other agencies involved in the BLMs are going to have to tak
leading roles on their issues. SRE periodically raises its interest in
"revitalizing" the BLMs. Assuming that interest survives the
transition, we would like to join with the border post principal
officers and WHA and engage SRE in a serious discussion of what works
and what does not, with a 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

GARZA