Union Tribune

September 10, 2002 

Mexico's timing on treaty pullout faulted
Hostile message sent, critics say


WASHINGTON – Mexico's announcement last week that it will
withdraw from a hemispheric defense treaty is drawing criticism on
both sides of the border.

The critics don't blame Mexico for trying to jettison the treaty, which one U.S. scholar described as anachronistic.

Instead, they are alarmed by the timing of the announcement, just
before the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, saying it sends an antagonistic message.

"The timing is egregious," said Delal Baer, an expert on U.S.-Mexico
relations at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

In a column yesterday in the Mexico City daily Reforma, Juan Enríquez Cabot said that by failing to understand the post-Sept. 11
preoccupations of the United States and by continuing to press its own agenda, "Mexico is committing a historic mistake."

"We are rejecting, angering and losing the confidence of our principal partner," Enríquez said. 

He also cited President Vicente Fox's delay last year in expressing
support for the United States in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11.

Enríquez, who is doing research at Harvard University this year,
ripped the timing of last week's announcement.

Claiming that the decisions provoked in Washington "an anger seldom seen against Mexico," Enríquez added, "there is no betrayal that hurts more than that of a buddy."

A spokesman for the Mexican Embassy declined to comment but
referred to a statement last week by the Foreign Ministry suggesting the announcement was tied to a different anniversary – Fox's Sept. 7, 2001, speech calling the 1947 Inter-American Treaty for Reciprocal Assistance obsolete.

The State Department last week said it was "disappointed" by Mexico's move, calling the treaty "a vital tool in ensuring hemispheric security."

The Inter-American Reciprocal Defense Treaty, signed in 1947, was
originally intended to protect nations in the Americas against
communism. It says an attack on one treaty member is considered an attack on all. 

George Grayson, a professor at the College of William and Mary in
Williamsburg, Va., said Mexico's move comes against a background of frustration at its inability to win an immigration agreement with the United States. 

Fox's hopes for quick passage of such an accord were dashed by the
Sept. 11 attacks. Immigration talks stalled as border security
dominated the U.S. agenda.

With the timing of last week's treaty announcement, Grayson said, "The Fox administration wanted to give the Bush administration an elbow in the ribs, to let them know that Mexico should not be forgotten."

Grayson criticized the symbolism of the Mexican announcement, even as he conceded the treaty has been overtaken by post-Cold War concerns.

"It is anachronistic; I can't fault them on that," Grayson said. "But in international affairs, you have to decide what your objectives are. In Mexico, I think, the objective should be to maintain the best relationship possible with the U.S. and recognize that 9/11 has forced a setback in the whole immigration discussion. . . . The Mexicans, I think, expected instant gratification from President Bush."

Jerry Kammer: (202) 737-7681; jerry.kammer@copleydc.com