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Jorge Guajardo spent nearly a decade in Mexico’s diplomatic corps, serving as consul general in Austin, Texas, from 2005 to 2007 before moving to China, where he became one of Mexico’s longest-serving ambassadors to that country, leaving in 2013.
Outside of his diplomatic positions, both of which he was appointed to by presidents from the conservative National Action Party, he has worked in Mexican domestic politics, as press secretary and communications director for the Nuevo Leon state governor, also of the PAN, from 1997 to 2000, and in public affairs in the US. He remains active in Mexican politics.
Business Insider sat down with Guajardo in Washington, DC, in mid-March to discuss the first year under President Donald Trump, from his perspectives as both a Mexican and a former diplomat. The conversation below has been edited for length and clarity.
‘There is still uncertainty’
Christopher Woody: There was a story back in August, a McClatchy story, it came out just after the transcript of Trump’s phone call with [Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto] leaked, and apparently the contents of the call were the source of some amusement for the diplomatic community. The conversation in question was within Trump’s first couple weeks in office. We’re now over a year into his term. What’s the mood among diplomats about Donald Trump and about his administration?
Jorge Guajardo: I would say it’s less concerning in some areas, inasmuch as people have, I would say the diplomatic community has gotten to understand that they should indeed ignore most of his Twitter as white noise — distractions, if you will.
On the other hand there’s uncertainty, and as diplomats you try to do away with the uncertainty and try to find ways of working out. So I think there is still confusion — for instance, you may come as foreign-government envoy or as a diplomat and you engage with your counterparts here, only to have it unravel because the president may tweet in another direction or just undo everything you had worked [for].
So even though there is less uncertainty with regards to everything blowing up in your face, there is still uncertainty into how much your counterparts are actually speaking for the administration, and you see a secretary of state who goes out and says something only to be disavowed by the president, and the same applies to most other areas. So that’s complicated.
‘If martians come down and take Jared Kushner away …’
Woody: How would you assess the Mexican government’s handling of its interactions and relations with the US government?
Guajardo: I’m not a big fan of the way they’ve been handling these things.
Now mind you, they’ve been dealt a difficult card, but … I would highlight two things. Their insistence in bringing the two presidents together. I don’t see what the point is. I think the president of the United States is dead-set on insulting the Mexican president at every opportunity he has. It’s just going to create problems for Mexico if they get together. So I don’t see why they keep insisting on having this. I don’t see what legitimacy they’re aiming for in this summit.
On the other hand, they’ve put all their eggs in Jared Kushner’s basket. I guess because it has worked for them, but I tend to think it’s better to institutionalize the relationship, and if you go through the State Department or the respective institutions, you’re better positioned to withstand any shocks.
For instance, if Jared Kushner leaves tomorrow, for whatever reason — or as we used to say, if martians come down and take Jared Kushner away — you’re safe because you have your institutional relationship, and I think the Mexican government has not been very good at keeping the institutional relationship, in order to favor Jared Kushner as a channel.
‘Whatever the case, Mexico will have a new government come December 1’
Mexican Foreign Ministry
Woody: People I’ve spoken to, political scientists, they’ve said the same thing: If you rely on these personal connections to establish diplomatic relations, you put yourself at the mercy of the longevity of those people in office.
Guajardo: Exactly, and that’s a problem. Not only is it a problem for you, as a counterpart to the United States, but for your successor as well.
Because whatever the case, Mexico will have a new government come December 1, and it is this current administration’s responsibility to ensure that there is a good transition, a working transition, and when you have done everything through your personal connections with Jared Kushner, well it doesn’t necessarily provide for an institutional transition of power, since the incoming administration may not have that personal relationship with Kushner.
If you have done everything institutionally through the respective channels, it will be easier for the incoming administration, of whichever party it may be.
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