The ambassador emeritus, Martha Bárcena, affirms that “all feminist foreign policy is a bit false” and in the current administration it has been more rhetoric than practice, because the money was not allocated to the strengthening and empowerment of women, but to programs Young People Building the Future and Sowing Life; Furthermore, many appointments have been for being friends or widows of prominent men, not for their training.
In an interview with El Sol de México, the former representative of Mexico before the United States government during the period 2018-2021, took stock of what until today has been the diplomacy of the government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, first in charge of Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon and then Alicia Bárcena Ibarra, chancellor for whom it has not been easy to “right the ship.”
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The diplomat, who also represented Mexico in Turkey and Denmark, recognizes successes of the current administration of the so-called Fourth Transformation, such as the ratification of the T-MEC, but in general she evaluates as erratic the way in which Mexico has conducted foreign policy in the last five years.
How do you evaluate the foreign policy of the current administration, already heading towards the final stretch?
Very erratic, because on the one hand it was said that we respect the principles of foreign policy and especially that of non-intervention, but at the same time Mexico got into the kitchen to give its opinion on issues like Peru, now Argentina, so it is not being coherent. Foreign policy in this six-year term has been very erratic.
And then, unfortunately, we had a chancellor in the first years whose priority was not foreign policy, but his intentions to be a candidate for the presidency of the Republic and that conditioned all the decisions that were made in the chancellery.
How do you evaluate the participation of women in Mexican diplomacy?
As in the entire administration, we have chiaroscuros. And the fact that we now have a female chancellor is good news, a good participation, but I consider that this feminist foreign policy thing was actually more rhetorical than practical. Rhetoric in the sense that if you want to have a feminist foreign policy you put the money into what you say is your priority and, for example, all cooperation should have been dedicated to projects to strengthen and empower women, but in reality the money that, it is not clear how much it was or anything, went to Jóvenes Construiendo el Futuro and Sowing Life.
The fact that gender mainstreaming was defended in international organizations is not from this administration, it has already come from past administrations. And this administration didn’t make much of a difference either. I think the whole feminist foreign policy is a bit disingenuous.
Regarding the appointments of women in important positions, more female ambassadors and consuls have indeed been appointed, especially in the United States, which is very good because they are very competent. In the entrance exams to the Mexican Foreign Service (SEM) we are already 50/50, but the problem is that the conditions are not yet in place for them to remain in the SEM. And then, something that I personally don’t think we have to celebrate is that many elections of women have not been of women trained in diplomacy, but rather they have been appointed because they are friends, widows of, that the widow of José María Pérez Gay in Argentina, that the widow of Gustavo Iruegas in Honduras and that is not serious, because the merits of the husband do not necessarily belong to the woman and to say that because you accompanied your husband on some diplomatic missions makes you have diplomatic experience is not TRUE.
I think that is why we should not count the number of appointments of women, but the quality of the appointment of women and that has been very weak in this government, not necessarily; Especially in political appointments, the quality of women has prevailed.
Was the Foreign Service not respected?
No, there hasn’t been much respect. The Foreign Service has been hit hard and that is a shame, because President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said, in his government project, that he was going to respect it and that it was the best career civil service, but then someone got into his head. which was a burden, because it was not an ideologically militant Foreign Service, because the Foreign Service is at the service of the State, they are not ideological militants, but the function was confused.
How did Alicia Bárcena receive the chancellorship from Marcelo Ebrard?
Personally, I think it is in a state of disaster with serious financial problems. Regarding decisions that were made, in the area of transfers and promotions, without having budgetary support; many mistakes in foreign policy. I think righting the ship hasn’t been easy for her.
How do you see political quotas in foreign policy, especially for PRI members?
Bad, I can’t have any other definition of political appointments than bad, especially these supposed awards to PRI politicians who handed the elections in their state to Morena, because maybe Morena would have won anyway, but the reading in the opinion public is that the embassies were given to them in exchange for having handed over the governorships in their states, because they would not have needed it anyway.
Furthermore, being a good governor, if they have been good governors, does not make them good diplomats. Diplomacy requires training, a specialty, knowledge that they do not have.
How does this leave our country abroad?
We have lost ground, prestige, people and, of course, respect. I can say, without citing anyone, because I am not going to put you in a difficult situation, that several diplomatic friends from other countries abroad ask me where is Mexico? Mexico is missing, where are our interlocutors? Where do we have that highly prestigious, professional Foreign Service? We no longer see it.
What can be done between now and the end of this six-year term?
The only thing left is to have resistance and resilience. Seeing that there is always hope that the value of a civil service as old as the career Foreign Service will be recognized and that it will be recognized that a country like Mexico, which is not a great power, but rather of medium development, but of the most important in the world in economic and cultural matters, needs a professional Foreign Service, not improvised or ideological.
Are there successes that can be rescued from the administration in foreign policy?
Of course. He highlighted the ratification of the T-MEC as a great success, since without the T-MEC we would be in a serious economic situation. The T-MEC is the anchor of Mexico’s economic development, I think that has been one of the great achievements. It is what has the vision of the future.
I could also highlight the arrival of foreign investment, despite the fact that we have not created the necessary conditions to bring it in its large dimension. Another thing would be the issue, yes, of emphasizing the great cultural strength of Mexico that, however, has not been manifested in exhibitions of Mexico abroad. Also the rescue of some archaeological assets of Mexico and cultural assets, which had also been done since previous administrations, but which has increased now and, of course, the defense of the intellectual property rights of indigenous communities. Another is the expansion of consulates in the United States.
How do you evaluate Mexico’s performance in crises such as Ukraine or the war in Israel?
Also with contradictions, but I think that finally in Ukraine when the Mexicans left, fortunately we had the most experienced ambassador there in matters of protection of Mexicans abroad, so that was really very good.
The issue of hostages in Israel is much more difficult, because the negotiations are beyond the capabilities of the Mexican government and not because of a lack of capacity, but rather the issue is so delicate that it is being carried out through Qatar, to the United States. United is doing it like this. I believe that there have been contradictions and unclear messages in the Russia-Ukraine invasion, such as the issue of the Hamas attack, which is totally condemnable, and also Israel’s exaggerated response, which goes beyond legitimate defense.
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I consider that the crisis management has not been a disaster, but neither has it been as neat as it would have been convenient.
Could the extradition of Tomás Zerón, detained in Israel, be interpreted as a failure of Mexican diplomacy?
No, that is a much more complicated issue, because we do not have an extradition treaty with Israel and that makes it more difficult.
Zerón de Lucio, former head of the Criminal Investigation Agency of the former Attorney General’s Office of the Republic during the six-year term of Enrique Peña Nieto, was identified by the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts, which investigated the disappearance of the 43 normal school students from Ayotzinapa , which occurred on September 26, 2014, of planting plastic bags with bones in the San Juan River, in Cocula, Guerrero. In 2020, an arrest warrant was issued for torture and forced disappearance, among other crimes, however, he requested political asylum in Israel, a nation with which Mexico does not have an extradition treaty.
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