NEWS

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March 2, 2004

Ex-U.N. official talks on policy

Adolfo Aguilar Zinser, a former U.N. ambassador from Mexico, spoke Monday night about the strained relationship between Mexico and the U.S., focusing on the impact of the war with Iraq.

The event entitled, "The United States and Mexico: Between Dissent and Understanding," was sponsored by the Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS) and the Mexican Studies Program.

It was designed to define U.S. and Mexican relations since 2000.

It is the first in what CLAS hopes will be a series of events showcasing Mexican policy makers at the University.

Zinser resigned from his post as Mexican representative on the U.N. Security Council last November after President Vincente Fox announced that Zinser would leave the U.N. at the end of the year.

Fox decided to not renew Zinser's U.N. post after the former ambassador characterized U.S. relations with Mexico as unequal and secondary to European countries in a talk at the Iberian-American University in Mexico City.

Zinser, a former Mexican senator and National Security Advisor, also taught as the Tinker Visiting Professor at Chicago in 1992. His courses, "The Cycle of the Mexican Revolution" and "U.S. and Mexican Relations," showed his commitment to an independent and democratic Mexico that can still maintain a healthy relationship with the United States.

"The United States and Mexico were tied beyond the recognition of their leaders, especially the leaders of the United States," Zinser said. "What I tried to convey to those students who took my course at the time was Mexico is very much a part of the history and being of the United States, in ways that are not apparent."

Zinser cited the election of Fox and the ousting of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) from the Mexican presidency as the fulfillment of the Mexican Revolution and the beginning of true democracy in Mexico.

The initial euphoria caused by the opposition's election quickly dissipated into malaise that now affects Mexico's domestic and international agenda, Zinser said.

According to Zinser, factors plaguing Mexico include graft, unaccountability, and corruption in the Mexican government. He also cited the strained relationship between the U.S. and Mexico, particularly on immigration and the war on Iraq.

Zinser said that, initially, Fox's presidency attempted "ranch diplomacy" with President Bush—frequently attending dinners with the Bush at his Texas ranch.

Fox's main goal was to convince Bush to initiate sweeping immigration reform for Mexicans. The U.S. first rebuffed Mexico's 2001request for immigration reform. This January, Bush proposed changing U.S. immigration laws to allow illegal immigrants to obtain legal status as temporary workers.

The United States then demanded fiscal and oil reform from Mexico, Zinser said. While the Mexican government was for the most part willing to comply, these reforms would raise taxes, causing the Mexican government to hesitate.

The issue further distanced Fox from an already disillusioned Mexican population.

Zinser said the turning point for Mexican-U.S. relations was the war on Iraq. While serving on the Security Council, Zinser heard the intentions and resolutions of the U.S. and its allies become more belligerent towards Saddam Hussein's regime every day. This was despite the fact that the U.S. was not successful in proving its case, Zinser said.

"The evidence the United States was presenting did not justify its intentions in Iraq," Zinser said. "But instead before our eyes we could see the evidence against the United States grow bigger."

Mexico did not support the war on Iraq, its relationship with the U.S. has been relatively strained since.