The meeting of Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, at the start of the week, with all the consuls in Washington, DC, made a lot of sense and few precedents.
The 52 consulates throughout the United States are the armed wing of Mexican diplomacy in that country. They concentrate about half of all the diplomacy deployed in the world. The consular mission makes a lot of sense: serving the Mexican community, getting closer to Mexican Americans, and looking after our economic, political, and social interests, where nearly 80 percent of our exports are concentrated.
The Ebrard meeting was specifically for the purpose of disputing the narrative of a handful of Republican, arch-conservative and generally anti-immigration lawmakers who are trying to name Mexican cartels as terrorist groups. If he succeeds, his army could fight criminal groups.
Ebrard is right. It is easy for the United States to blame Mexico for the misfortunes in American society that fentanyl is causing: 70 percent of the 108,000 opioid overdose deaths in 2022.
Since the late 1960s, Republican President Richard Nixon launched the war on drugs. He literally shut down the public health programs and put all the resources into the security departments. To subdue drug traffickers beyond their borders and strengthen interdiction.
Six decades later there is ample evidence that punitive approaches focused on combating the supply of drugs have had disastrous consequences. Unremitting violence in Latin America and increasing drug use in the United States, and also in our region.
The problem with the consular diplomacy offensive that Ebrard proposes is that it arrives late and with little ammunition. Furthermore, political polarization and the arrival of electoral times in the United States complicate Mexican diplomatic activism.
The meeting was held late. AMLO’s six-year term is waning. Four years and months have passed. AMLO’s diplomacy has been negligent, to say the least, with our great natural ally in the United States: the Mexican diaspora. This is made up of 39 million people: 12 million nationals and 27 million Americans of Mexican origin. And AMLO, as president, has not seen fit to make a single visit to this diaspora.
Ebrard instructed the consuls to go out and report on Mexico’s actions to combat fentanyl. The arsenal, however, is scarce. Mexico’s efforts have been meager. A national media campaign on the ravages of synthetic morphine and seizures at the common border. A binational fentanyl group was also created, which has not yet shown results.
AMLO’s emphasis and his diplomacy have consisted in criticizing and defenestrating the above: the Merida Initiative. The Bicentennial Agreement was launched. This one suffers from ambition and teeth.
In the United States the electoral winds are already blowing. Next year there are presidential and legislative elections. What better for many politicians, like Rep. Dan Crenshaw (Republican of Texas), than to show his activism by introducing a resolution on Capitol Hill to name the Mexican cartels terrorists.
If the Mexican consular offensive is not carried out with care and knowledge of the different local political scenarios, it will be like getting between the legs of the political horses of that country. The enormous political polarization that characterizes the United States is causing true culture wars: white supremacy versus a plural country in which the Anglo-Saxons will no longer be the majority.
Consular diplomacy must be careful not to touch cultural chords that provoke conservatives or liberals. The high number of consuls with political appointments who lack the knowledge and experience to navigate the troubled waters of their neighbor is worrying.
My conclusion is that Ebrard’s request to his consuls to go out and defend AMLO’s record against cartels and organized crime is, to say the least, an uphill task.