Mexico's diplomatic shuffle in US reflects new strategy

AP News
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Posted: Apr 07, 2016 7:21 PM

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A senior Mexican official said Thursday that a shuffle of top diplomats dealing with the United States reflected a new strategy to respond to false portrayals of Mexico that have spread during the U.S. presidential campaign.

"They are simply changes to put in place a new strategy in the environment we are living," Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Claudia Ruiz Massieu told The Associated Press. "It's a different environment than we had a year ago and one that obligates us, like anyone, to reconsider what we are doing and how we are doing it to have more effective, better results."

On Tuesday, the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto named Carlos Sada, a longtime diplomat with deep experience in the U.S., to be ambassador in Washington, replacing an academic who was on the job only seven months. Paulo Carreno, who has extensive background in public relations, was named undersecretary for North American affairs.

Ruiz Massieu said both men are best suited to execute the new strategy, which aims to promote economic and cultural benefits of strong cross-border ties. The announcements came as Mexico has adopted a more aggressive response to negative depictions during the U.S. presidential campaign.

The secretary didn't single out any candidate, but she said the U.S. campaign has featured false and distorted views of Mexico. Her remarks came shortly after Republican front-runner Donald Trump proposed cutting off remittances from Mexicans living in the U.S. to help force Mexico to pay for a border wall.

"The Mexican government has firmly rejected views that have surfaced in the last few months against our community in the United States, against our country, against bilateral relations," she said when asked about the tone of the campaign.

Ruiz Massieu spoke after an inaugural ceremony for one of the world's few cross-border airports. A group of U.S. and Mexican investors that includes Chicago billionaire Sam Zell built a sleek terminal in San Diego and a bridge that connects to Tijuana's existing airport.

Since it opened in December, Cross Border Xpress says the cross-border terminal has averaged about 2,000 passengers a day and exceeded 5,000 on its busiest days. Passengers pay $12 to cross the bridge to the Tijuana airport, which flies to about 30 destinations in Mexico.

"In the 21st century, the United States is sure to be a nation of bridges, as it has always been in its finest hours," Ruiz Massieu told the audience.

Christopher Wilson, deputy director of the Woodrow Wilson Institute for International Scholars' Mexico Institute, said Mexico usually gets bashed in U.S. presidential campaigns but this year is worse. "They're moving into crisis mode," Wilson said.

Sada, the ambassador-designate, has been Mexico's consul general in Los Angeles since April 2013 and previously had the same position at consulates in New York, Chicago and San Antonio. From 2007 to 2011, he managed congressional affairs at the Mexican Embassy in Washington. He replaces Miguel Basanez, an expert on opinion polling.

Carreno, who will be based in Mexico City, previously worked for President Pena Nieto on shaping Mexico's image abroad and working with foreign journalists.