Mexico Steps Beyond the Labyrinth of Solitude

Where Iraq is concerned, Mexico's foreign policy doesn't seem to please anyone in Mexico. Opposition groups here applaud President Vincente Fox's recent anti-American stance in the UN Security Council, while Mexican businessmen oppose it. With the US seeking to line up nine votes in the security council in favor of declaring Iraq in "material breach" of Security Council resolution 1441, Mexico's stance toward the US will become vital in the coming days and weeks.

But Mexicans themselves are divided about what to do. Some Mexicans congratulate President Fox for not caving in to US pressure to cast a vote in the Security Council for war, while others argue that he should. The debate over Iraq in Mexico reveals a deep divide between those who seek closer ties with the US, and those wary of that possibility.

These polarized positions reflect an uncomfortable reality. Almost a decade into a free trade agreement that institutionalized integration, most Mexicans still don't know how to behave toward Americans. They don't know whether to love them or hate them, support them or denounce them, foster a close relationship or remain distant neighbors. These opposing postures--and the pressures they bring to bear on President Fox--are place the country in the dilemma of either fighting against or kowtowing to its neighbor to the North.

At the same time, it is apparent that Mexico must redefine the bilateral relationship according to the country's specific needs and interests on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes Mexico should open the door to neighborly requests and sometimes it should refuse them. As in all close relationships, there will be ups and downs, issues that unite and issues that divide. Mexico and the US don't need to be the worst of enemies or the best of friends; they can just be neighbors.