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Mexico - Foreign Relations

The principles of Mexican foreign policy are respect for international law and the judicial equality of states, respect for the sovereignty and independence of nations, nonintervention in the domestic affairs of other countries, the peaceful resolution of conflicts, and the promotion of collective security through participation in international organizations. Traditionally, Mexico's foreign policy has been considered leftist, prorevolutionary, and nationalistic. Demonstrating independence from United States foreign policy, Mexico supported the Cuban government during the 1960s, the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua during the late 1970s, and leftist revolutionary groups in El Salvador during the 1980s.

Mexico has played a minor role in international affairs through most of its history. Since the mid-nineteenth century, Mexican foreign policy has focused primarily on the United States, its northern neighbor, largest trading partner, and the most powerful actor in hemispheric and world affairs. Mexico's role in international affairs was limited until the 1970s, mainly because of the country's need to concentrate on domestic issues, particularly on internal stability and economic growth.

The discovery of vast petroleum reserves during the 1970s, however, placed Mexico in the forefront of oil producers and exporters. Mexico soon became the principal supplier of oil to the United States after the 1973 energy crisis. The heavy inflow of dollars contributed to changing Mexico's perceptions of its role in world affairs while increasing its potential of becoming an important regional power. Mexico has maintained an independent oil policy, however, refusing to join the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) during the 1970s, but participating in the Organization of Latin American Petroleum Exporting Countries (OLAPEC) during the 1980s.

Beginning with the presidency of Luis Echeverría (1970-76), Mexico developed and implemented a more independent and assertive foreign policy. Following an activist policy independent of the United States, the Echeverría government asserted Mexico's position as a leader in the developing world's affairs, particularly on discussions for establishing a new international economic order as part of the so-called "North-South Dialogue." The Echeverría administration boycotted the General Assembly meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) in 1973 to protest the military coup in Chile that deposed the popularly elected government of Salvador Allende Gossens and suspended diplomatic relations with Chile and South Africa because of these governments' human rights violations. The Mexican government frequently criticized United States foreign policy for favoring military regimes throughout the Third World. Most distinctively, Mexico adopted an aggressive role as a leader within Latin America in concerted efforts to adopt a unified position in regional relations against the United States.

During the late 1970s, Mexico broke diplomatic relations with the Somoza regime in Nicaragua on the advent of the Sandinista revolution and in 1980 joined Venezuela in the San José Accords, providing favorable trade conditions for oil supply to the depressed economies of Caribbean and Central American countries. In 1983 Mexico was instrumental in the establishment of the Contadora (see Glossary) Group, a diplomatic effort by four regional governments (Colombia, Mexico, Panama, and Venezuela) to present a Latin American solution to the crisis in Central America. The document developed by the Contadora Group was instrumental in the final Central American Peace Plan.

During the Salinas administration, the central theme of Mexican foreign policy became free trade, especially NAFTA. Mexico focused on bilateral discussions with countries within the hemisphere in an effort to improve trade and investment potential. By 1994 it had signed free-trade agreements with Venezuela and Colombia (effective January 1, 1995) as well as with Bolivia. Under President Salinas, Mexican nationalism was redefined as "progressive nationalism," or the pursuit of economic development while strengthening Mexico's international role. Salinas felt that national independence demanded that Mexico effectively insert itself into the international market. In the mid-1990s, President Ernesto Zedillo continued to stress Mexico's strategic position and market potential worldwide.

In 2000, Mexican foreign policy took a new approach under the leadership of a recognized scholar, Jorge Castañeda. The Stanford-educated Castaneda brought intellectual legitimacy to the Fox administration, as he is considered one of the foremost political scientists in Latin America. He designed a new foreign policy strategy based on increased activism at international fora and a new relation with the United States. Legislators from all parties, including many PAN members, frequently questioned Castaneda's performance as Mexico's top diplomat. In particular, the foreign relations secretary is blamed for shepherding the administration's policies that led to the Mexican government's unofficial break with Cuba. Mexico and Cuba were close allies for decades, including the years when former Presidents Miguel de la Madrid, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, and Ernesto Zedillo were in office. Castañeda resigned in January 2003.



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