It has been a turbulent week for Mexico’s diplomats in the U.S. The reason for the shakeup can be summed up in two words: Donald Trump.
This week, the Republican presidential front-runner released details of one of his oft-repeated campaign promises — to make Mexico pay for construction of a border wall.
The plan, which involves blocking billions of dollars that Mexicans working in the U.S. send back home, seemed to shake up Mexico’s top officials and cause a break in their months of relative silence about Trump’s anti-Mexican comments.
With swift aim, Mexico gave its ambassador in Washington the boot, replacing him with a career diplomat. And a key operative known for his public relations acumen took over one of the highest profile jobs in Mexico’s Foreign Ministry.
What is in Trump’s plan?
Trump says as president, he would block the estimated $24 billion in remittances that Mexicans in the U.S. send back home until Mexico pays $5 billion to $10 billion for the construction costs of the wall.
Once the money is deposited, he says he would allow the flow of remittances to resume to Mexico again. In his campaign memo outlining the plan, Trump writes, “It’s an easy decision for Mexico. Make a one-time payment of $5 – $10 billion to ensure that $24 billion continues to flow into their country year after year.”
Why did Mexico pull its ambassador from Washington?
Mexico’s Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu told Mexico’s El Universal newspaper Tuesday that there has been an “exacerbated mood” against Mexicans in the U.S. She said there is fear “that this spirit can grow and overflow and may generate hostilities.”
The same day, Ruiz announced the shake-up in Mexico’s U.S. diplomatic staff, presumably to encourage a more aggressive response to counter perceived anti-Mexican sentiment in the U.S. after Trump’s rhetoric.
Out is current Ambassador Miguel Basañez Ebergenyi, who had held the top diplomatic post only since September. Basañez, an academic who taught at Tufts University, had taken a quiet approach to Trump’s comments — even predicting that the Republican front-runner would soon apologize for making disparaging remarks about Mexicans.
Like most Mexican officials until now, Basañez has often said he didn’t want to dignify Trump’s increasingly hostile comments with a response and wanted to stay out of the domestic U.S. political fray.
In as new ambassador is Carlos Manuel Sada Solana, a career diplomat who is accustomed to posts in North America. He’s currently consul general in Los Angeles and previously held the same job in New York, Chicago, San Antonio and Toronto.
Meanwhile, Paulo Carreño will move from the president’s communication’s staff to become head of North American affairs in the Foreign Ministry. Tasked with improving Mexico’s image abroad, Carreño is well-versed in public relations and is not shy at confronting reporters, especially from the foreign press, when he feels Mexico is not portrayed in a positive light.
What is Mexico hoping its new crop of diplomats will achieve?
Mexico wants to protect its image and hit back harder than in the past, and the government appears to be letting the Foreign Ministry take charge of this effort.
Mexico will use its 50 U.S. consulates and its embassy to promote the country and the role of Mexicans in America. It is also offering free citizenship workshops at many of those consulates, to help Mexican immigrants become U.S. citizens — and voters.
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