The message? Tread very carefully, Mr. Ambassador. Mexico is entering an election year, and polls suggest that President Felipe Calderon’s ruling PAN party will be ousted by the opposition party PRI, which ran Mexico with an iron fist in a velvet glove for most of the 20th century.
“Everything will be used against everybody, including the United States. There will be no loyalties, no convictions, no holds barred,” said Mexico’s former foreign minister Jorge Castaneda, according to one of the experts who attended the event.
Calderon himself has been amping up the rhetoric against the United States, blaming U.S. gun dealers and drug consumers — and a feeble response by Congress and President Obama — for the deadly firebombing of a Monterrey casino that killed 52 people last month. Alas, the roots of the casino tragedy more likely involve Mexican corruption than American drug users.
The education of Tony Wayne comes six months after his predecessor was essentially booted out of the country by Calderon — a stunning break in a partnership that U.S. diplomats boasted was one of “unprecedented cooperation.”
Until it was not.
Calderon was furious with revelations contained in former ambassador Carlos Pascual’s diplomatic cables, released by WikiLeaks, criticizing the infighting and timidity of Mexico’s security forces in their battles against the hydra-headed drug cartels, including a dig about the army being “risk averse,” which Calderon translated as cowardly. It didn’t matter that most Mexican analysts agreed with Pascual, who resigned in March.
Also vexing to Calderon, according to his inner circle and U.S. diplomats, was the fact that Pascual, a bachelor, was dating Gabriela Rojas Jimenez, daughter of a PRI party leader and the ex-wife of Calderon’s chief of staff.
Wayne is coming to Mexico after serving as deputy ambassador in Kabul, where he was praised by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for “reorganizing, reforming, redirecting, and reinvigorating” U.S. programs in Afghanistan. After time in that war-weary country, several panelists suggested, Wayne’s approach to Mexico would be “more realistic than idealistic.”
In interviews with The Washington Post, Wayne’s tutors at the day-long briefing described him as “the diplomat’s diplomat,” who did more listening than revealing. One participant offered, “He asked smart questions.” Another said, “He didn’t seem to know a lot about Mexico.” Some participants agreed to speak on the record about their own remarks at the briefing, while others asked to remain anonymous to speak more candidly about the session.