Mexico: leak shows rivalry with Venezuela

Mexican president Felipe CalderĂłn Hinojosa has been trying to “repair” relations with Venezuela, according to an Oct. 27, 2008 US diplomatic cable obtained by the WikiLeaks group and posted by the Spanish daily El PaĂ­s on Dec. 18, but there are tensions because the two countries are both “looking to assert [their] leadership in the region, particularly in Central America.”

An embassy cable released earlier had said that President CalderĂłn was trying to help the US fight the influence of leftist Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez FrĂ­as and his “Bolivarian” programs. In the new cable, however, the Mexicans seem more concerned about a rivalry with Venezuela over the countries in Plan Puebla Panama (PPP), a regional integration project linking Central America, Mexico and the US. Bosco MartĂ­, an official who then headed the Foreign Relations Secretariat (SRE) office for PPP, “complained…that Mexico could not compete with Venezuela when it came to the kind of money it was tossing at member countries through its ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas) initiative.”

The Mexican government was also concerned about Venezuela’s influence inside Mexico. The main Mexican intelligence agency, the Center for Investigations and National Security (CISEN), had “identified some 500 serious Bolivarian activists—all Mexican citizens—across the country, which are often in contact with each other and tend to be linked to larger social movements,” according to the cable. Other sources told the embassy that “Venezuelan officials also have regular contact with members” of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and other parties. But CISEN had said it had “no evidence…that Venezuela currently is providing direct funding to Mexican political candidates.” “Sensitive collateral reporting also indicates that the Venezuelan Embassy has been unsuccessful in building rapport with [2006 center-left presidential candidate AndrĂ©s Manuel] LĂłpez Obrador.”

CISEN was “looking for close links between Venezuela and the more radical, violent groups in Mexico,” like the rebel Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR), but hadn’t succeeded in finding any.

The US embassy concluded that “Mexico does not offer the kind of fertile ground for Bolivarian activism as do some other countries in the hemisphere.” The embassy also noted that according to CISEN, “the Venezuelan and Cuban Embassies seem to operate quite independently on most matters in Mexico.” (El PaĂ­s, Madrid, Dec. 18; La Jornada, Mexico, Dec. 19)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 19.

See our last post on Mexico, Venezuela and WikiLeaks.