Latin American Security Council Members


By Laura Carlsen

Interhemispheric Resource Center
March 5, 2003

Two Latin American countries--Mexico and Chile--are sitting in the hot seats of the UN Security Council. As members of the "middle six," countries still listed as undecided on a U.S. resolution to authorize an attack on Iraq, both countries have felt the heat turn up over the past week.

On March 3, George Bush Sr. met with Mexican president Vicente Fox, and Otto Reich was dispatched to Santiago de Chile. Although the U.S. envoys insisted no pressure was exerted, former Chilean ambassador Gabriel Valdes complained that the pressure was palpable--and unwelcome: "Talking with the United States is like talking to an elephant. It's very large, heavy, and generally bad-mannered. The U.S. considers Latin America its backyard."

Mexican and U.S. diplomats have spoken openly about a trade-off between U.S. willingness to negotiate an immigration agreement for Mexico's vote in the UN Security Council. Although some immigration groups in Washington find the proposition tempting, others have taken a clear anti-war stance. Arnoldo Garcia of the National Network for Immigration and Refugee Rights responds that a migrant rights-for-war deal is "completely unprincipled on both the U.S. and the Mexican side." The California-based immigration network argues that the position undermines immigrant rights work because it would hasten a war that will increase the loss of civil liberties within U.S. immigrant communities and would pit the rights of one community against the others.

The binational Zacatecan Civic Front has also taken the position of "not in our name." Javier González of the Front affirms: "We're against Mexico selling its vote for a migration pact. There are other ways to negotiate migration issues--not in exchange for war." Both organizations agree that a top-down deal would not likely result in a fair and comprehensive agreement for Mexican migrants.

As pressure heightens, Mexican analysts note that Fox's statements have swung around 180 degrees over the past week. From public prayers for peace, the famously fickle chief executive has now declared that the "central and only issue at the moment is to… disarm Iraq." International political analysts have switched Mexico from the "against " column to the "abstain/for" column. Chile, meanwhile, has separated itself from both the France-Germany-Russia block and the U.S.-Spain-Great Britain position by proposing a compromise that includes more time for compliance but with strict deadlines. Neither block has concurred with the Chilean proposal.

With the U.S. playing diplomatic hardball, both countries probably wish they had never taken seats on the Security Council. On March 2, the British Observer published a memo allegedly leaked from the U.S. National Security Council calling for increased espionage against UN Security Council members. Although opinion polls are not available, the vast majority in both countries is thought to be opposed to the war. The Mexican government, especially, finds itself between a rock and a hard place since a pro-war vote would blatantly violate the founding principles of Mexican foreign policy, which include nonintervention and the use of diplomatic channels. With mid-term elections coming up on the one hand, and an unprecedented level of trade dependency with the U.S. on the other, any choice has heavy consequences.

But in the long run, Latin American history has shown that nothing could be costlier than consolidating U.S. unchecked and unregulated hegemony in the hemisphere.

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