Satisfied With Clinton's Message, Mexicans Find Other Reasons To Gripe: News Analysis from Feet in Two Worlds

By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor

MEXICO CITY — As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton departed Monterrey, Mexico for Dallas Thursday the consensus among Mexican officials seemed to be that finally the United States has decided to acknowledge its share of blame in the growth of the drug cartels –and the violence they cause.

Thursday's El Universal cover

Thursday's El Universal cover

Mexican politicians greeted with approval and even delight Clinton’s statement that Americans’ “insatiable demand” for narcotics fuels the drug trade from south of the border. “Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police officers, soldiers and civilians,” she had said Wednesday. (Of course the reaction in the U.S. was quite different.)

“A self-critical discourse which has never before been heard from a high-level American official,” said an editorial in El Universal, perhaps Mexico’s most influential newspaper, which ran Clinton’s quotation across its cover yesterday, above the headline:

“Hillary: Unfair To Blame Mexico for Narco

But Mexicans’ elation was not complete, as two other newspapers highlighted on their covers: while Clinton made the statements Felipe Calderón’s government wanted to hear, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano continued a recent trend of statements about the Mexican situation that are offensive to Mexican ears.

During a Senate hearing Wednesday, Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) asked Napolitano: “Are you generally in agreement with my comment that the struggle that Calderón and the Mexican government is engaged in with the drug cartels is an existential threat to the very fabric of the government of Mexico? Do you agree with that statement?”

Napolitano thought it over for a few seconds and, nodding as if to show her conviction, answered, “Yes.” [You can watch the hearing here; McCain’s question begins at 54:24.]

The statement made the covers of both the business-friendly Reforma (“FCH’s government at risk”) and leftist La Jornada (“U.S.: Narco puts Calderón’s government at risk“.) And, of course, it did not please pundits.

La Jornada columnist Julio Hernández López wrote:

But, oh, the Anglophone gods of ambivalence! While in the Mexican capital everything was delight and satisfaction, in the American capital Secretary Janet Napolitano played the role she gets to play in the good cop, bad cop strategy.

Here, Hillary pleased underdeveloped ears, while the gringa Homeland Security secretary mouthed an unequivocal “yes” to Sen. John McCain’s question.

Napolitano’s (and McCain’s) statement is bound to rile Mexicans. While the government is indeed fighting a bloody war against the drug cartels, an “existential threat” seems far from a fair description of the situation. Added to a recent description of Mexico as a “failed stated,” and comparisons to the situation in Pakistan, these statements seem to detract from the goodwill the Obama Administration appears intent on showing Mexico.

Yet another piece of news coming from Washington D.C. was a cause for concern in the Mexican political world.

News leaked yesterday that the U.S. may name Cuban-American career diplomat Carlos Pascual as its next ambassador to Mexico.

What would be the problem with that?

Pascual –who was ambassador to Ukraine– “has written extensively about ‘failed states'”, The New York Times reported. In 2005, he co-authored an article entitled “Addressing State Failure” for Foreign Affairs magazine.

As columnist Enrique Galván Ochoa wondered in La Jornada, “Is the messenger the message?”

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