Cablegate: Inter-Parliamentary Conference Dialogue Tames

DE RUEHME #1777/01 1621836
R 101836Z JUN 08



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary. The Mexican press has been consumed over much
of the last two weeks with criticism of potential
"conditions" attached to legislation being considered by the
U.S. Congress in the debate over the Merida Initiative.
Senior Mexican government officials and Congressional leaders
alike have categorically rejected any conditions on U.S.
assistance to Mexico insisting on "coresponsibility." This
theme was repeated in the course of the annual
Interparliamentary Conference hosted this year in Monterrey
June 6-8 with participation of senior Congressional leaders
from Mexico and the U.S. The U.S. congressional delegation
applauded Mexico for its efforts in the fight against
organized crime, committed the U.S. to cooperating with
Mexico in this struggle, and conveyed appreciation for
Mexican sensitivities about conditions, pledging to produce a
new version that both sides would find acceptable. End

The Storm Before the Calm

2. Mexican commentators and politcians have been practically
unanimous in rejecting conditions on U.S. assistance to
Mexico to fight organized crime. Many have likened the
conditions to the drug "certification" process which Mexico
found so disagreeable over the last decade. Mexico's Deputy
Attorney General Vasconceles remarked that the U.S. should
spend its money addressing problems on its side of the border
if it was going to attach conditions to the Merida
Initiative. Interior Secretary Juan Mourino similarly made
it clear that Mexico would consider conditions placed on the
initiative "inappropriate" and "unacceptable." The Director
of Mexico's National Commission on Human Rights (CNDH) Jose
Luis Soberanes Fernandez maintained that his organization
would monitor the military's compliance with human rights
norms and didn't need the U.S. Congress to do it for him. He
objected to language in Congressional legislation that would
call for Mexico to try cases against the Mexican military in
civilian courts maintaining this would be unconstitutional.
He also challenged a provision in U.S. draft legislation to
give the UN's Human Rights Office in Mexico one million
dollars to support its work.

3. The Mexican Congress lined up behind the government
similarly rejecting any U.S. conditions on assistance.
Senator Rosario Green, the President of the Mexican Senate's
Foreign Relations Commission, told PolOff that all of
Mexico's parties had come together in agreement on this
issue. She stressed Mexico was fighting a war with its
police and military outgunned and that it was insulting for
the U.S. to insist Mexico meet certain conditions before it
receives assistance. She appreciated the need for
cooperation with the U.S. but maintained it was "in the
blood" of Mexicans to resist any appearance of infringement
on Mexican sovereignty. She was resentful that Mexican NGOs
had filed complaints with U.S. officials, asserting Mexico
availed plenty of institutions for their complaints. She
warned that some groups abused their access, suggesting that
at least one group in the past had passed funds it had
received from the German government to a Zapatista guerrilla

4. Seeking to establish an oversight function on the Merida
Initiative, the President of the Mexican Senate's North
American Commission, Senator Ricardo Garcia Cervantes,
sponsored a resolution May 23 to create an ad hoc committee
to evaluate the Merida Initiative, track its "progress," and
pursue coordination with U.S. congressional officials. When
a group of some eight Mexican senators and eight deputies
convened on June 4 they agreed on a resolution that asserted
that Mexico's Permanent Commission

-- endorsed the Government's rejection of any conditions
placed on U.S. assistance;

-- rejected any strategy that did not recognize both
countries' responsibility in the fight against drug

-- and exhorted the Mexican delegation to the
Interparliamentary Conference in Monterrey to seek a
resolution of this matter with its U.S. counterparts in the
framework of shared responsibility and respect for the
sovereignty of both countries.

Letting Off Steam in Monterrey

5. Mexico's delegation of some 10 Senators and 13 Deputies
minced few words in conveying its objections to U.S.
congressional conditions on the Merida Initiative at the
Interparliamentary Conference in Monterrey June 6-8.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Deputy Alejandro Chanona
Burguete of the Convergence Party, inter alia 1) rejected any
conditions on assistance, 2) called for cooperation in the
fight against drug traffickers, and 3) recommended the
creation of a binational committee to evaluate the strategy
for combating organized crime. Congressional representatives
from across Mexico's entire political spectrum repeatedly
stressed their desire to cooperate with the U.S. but made it
clear they found the subject of conditions "insulting."

6. U.S. Senator Dodd had set the tone for dialogue over the
weekend when in his opening remarks he recognized the Mexican
government's sacrifices in the fight against organized crime,
applauded its efforts, stressed the importance of cooperation
between the U.S. and Mexico, and appealed for a "lowering of
the temperature" on the debate in recognition of his
confidence that the U.S. would come up with legislation that
Mexico would find acceptable. He also circulated a letter
from from Senator Leahy that pledged a commitment to
cooperation with Mexico. Other members of the U.S.
delegation, including Representative Pastor who gave a
detailed description of the legislative process and
Representative Brian Bilbray who promised to be Mexico's most
passionate advocate on its security efforts reinforced the
U.S. delegation's appreciation for Mexican sensitivity over
conditionality. Dodd urged the Mexican Congress to hold its
executive leaders accountable for their efforts including the
Merida Initiative.

7. Dodd used the press conference to send a positive message
of unity on the Merida Initiative. Speaking directly to the
Mexican drug cartels, he maintained the U.S. and Mexico may
have their differences but that the U.S. stood with Mexico in
its fight against organized crime and that the cartels would
lose. Deputy Ruth Zavaleta, Mexico's delegation head,
declined to comment directly on the controversy over the
Merida Initiative. However, after repeated queries, Mexican
Senator Green remarked that Senator Dodd had "promised" to
address concerns on conditions. The Mexican delegation was
predisposed to trust their U.S. counterparts but needed to
wait and see what the final draft looked like.

And the Rest of the Story in Monterrey

8. In addition to its session on the Merida Initiative, the
two delegations in Monterrey focused on migration and
competitiveness. The Mexican representatives stressed
concern about U.S. policy relating to deportations which they
described as inhumane; they also complained that construction
of a wall set the wrong tone for two neighboring countries
seeking to deepen commercial ties and law enforcement
cooperation. Zavaleta, the President of Mexico's Chamber of
Deputies, gave an emotional speech about how her brother had
crossed into and continued living in the U.S. illegally as an
undocumented worker, injecting a human, personal element into
the issue.

9. The U.S. representatives presented a divided picture.
Democrats spoke to their commitment to reform that would
allow for millions of undocumented workers to gain -- over
time -- legal status. They described both candidates for
U.S. President as forward leaning on this issue but conceded
neither candidate would likely move on immigration reform as
a high priority in his first year. The Republican
representatives spoke to the need for reform to allow more
workers to come into the U.S. legally to take up employment
in targeted areas but rejected the concept of "rewarding"
those who had already entered and were living in the U.S.

10. The merits and faults of NAFTA served the focused for
much of the debate over competitiveness with Mexican leftists
insisting it had proven counterproductive but with supporters
arguing for greater integration of our economies. The U.S.
representatives offered Ireland as a developmental model for
Mexico urging more GOM attention to education. The Mexicans
pointed out that Ireland had received much financial support
as a member of the European Union, hinting the U.S. should
consider providing Mexico with that kind of support. Both
sides discussed the need to facilitate trade and commerce on
the border.

11. Comment. Most Mexicans regard cooperation with the U.S.
as an essential component in the country's efforts to take on
organized crime. However, in view of Mexico's history with
the U.S. and the responsibility they believe the U.S. shares
for the problems Mexico faces as a result of the drug trade,
almost all Mexicans describe the concept of conditions on
U.S. assistance to Mexico as unacceptable. The Mexican
representatives signaled they were prepared to give their
U.S. counterparts the benefit of the doubt on the question of
recrafting the legislation on the Merida Initiative. They
want to find terms that Mexican can live with. The challenge
for the U.S. Congress will lie in producing language that
meets the minimum U.S. requirements for exercising oversight
and complying with U.S. law without overstepping Mexico's red
lines when it comes to terms it consider tantamount to a
certification process.
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