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Cablegate: Bahia Summits, Part 3: The Surprise of Bahia:

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O 201819Z DEC 08
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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3140
INFO RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS
RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 8825
RUEHRI/AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO 7010
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C O N F I D E N T I A L BRASILIA 001638

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/19/2018
TAGS: PREL KSUM ECIN MARR BR MX
SUBJECT: BAHIA SUMMITS, PART 3: THE SURPRISE OF BAHIA:
MEXICO COZIES UP TO BRAZIL

REF: A. BRASILIA 1636
B. BRASILIA 1637
C. BRASILIA 1301

Classified By: Ambassador Clifford M. Sobel, Reason 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (C) In a meeting on December 19 with Ambassador Sobel
regarding the outcome of the regional summits hosted by
Brazil December 15-17 in Costa do Sauipe, Bahia (see
septels), Mexican Ambassador to Brazil Andres Valencia
Benavides (protect), just back from Bahia, revealed that
President Calderon's remarks during the closing session
regarding a possible "Union of Latin American and Caribbean
Nations" were purely Calderon's idea and had not been mooted
previously with either other leaders or the Mexican foreign
ministry. Clearly at a loss to explain them, Valencia
stressed that, "In the ministry, we are focusing on
strengthening the Rio Group. Perhaps sometime in the future
it will lead to a union." Noting that he understood Brazil
and Mexico were looking to restart trade talks, Ambassador
Sobel suggested that Mexico could be a good "bridge builder"
between Brazil and North America as a whole. "If asked,"
Valencia said, "Mexico stands ready" to help engage Brazil in
this regard.

2. (C) Later that day, in a meeting that also dealt
extensively with the Bahia summits, Brazilian Defense
Minister Nelson Jobim (protect) confided to Ambassador Sobel
that the "biggest surprise" of the CALC was Mexico's
enthusiastic support for the new Latin America/Caribbean
forum and for sending a strong message on Cuba to the United
States. Jobim's take is that Calderon took a risk by
attending the summit and expressing strong support for Cuba
because of a lack of support in his own party. He had done
so, Jobim said, because he wants a closer relationship with
Brazil and is playing to his broader domestic audience that
is more supportive of these positions. Jobim reported that
Calderon had invited him to Mexico to define strategies and
be briefed on the South American Defense Council. Calderon
also invited President Lula to visit Mexico, specifically
asking Lula to accompany Calderon to "the wall" along the
U.S.-Mexico border. When Ambassador Sobel asked if Lula
would go, Jobim responded, "If Calderon presses, yes."

3. (C) Comment: It is generally taken as gospel here that
Mexico is the only other LAC country besides Brazil with the
ability to convene a region-wide gathering and that, in
general, Mexico and Brazil seek to check each other's
ambitions to be the leader in the region and "representative"
of the region in other fora. In the wake of Brazil's CALC
initiative, Mexico's emphasis on strengthening the Rio Group
appears to be a not too subtle attempt to do just that. So
Calderon's overtures, which seem to have caught the
Brazilians and perhaps Calderon's own foreign ministry by
surprise, will be welcome in Brasilia. A closer partnership
between Lula and Calderon could well set the stage for a more
cooperative dynamic among these two regional leaders in
shaping the region's message to the United States and in
global fora.
SOBEL

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