President López Obrador has defended United States Ambassador Ken Salazar after the New York Times published an article that critically examined the diplomat’s close relationship with him.
Published in the Times‘ print edition under the headline “Biden Envoy’s Cozy Ties to Mexican Leader Worry U.S. Officials,” the article cited “what several U.S. officials say is a worrying pattern, in which America’s top diplomat in Mexico has appeared to contradict his own government’s policies in the interest of aligning himself with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.”
The Times, which interviewed the ambassador for its story, examined Salazar’s views on issues such as possible fraud at the 2006 Mexican presidential election, which López Obrador narrowly lost to Felipe Calderón, and reforms to Mexico’s energy sector.
It also considered the diplomat’s opinions about Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity, a nongovernmental organization that receives funding from the U.S. government and which has been critical of the López Obrador administration.
At his regular news conference on Tuesday, AMLO said that his administration has a good relationship with the U.S. government before observing that the Times had launched an attack on Salazar.
“He’s my friend and a good, sensible man, a friend of President Biden, a very responsible politician,” he said of the ambassador, who succeeded Donald Trump appointee Christopher Landau last September. “He’s from Colorado, he’s from below, of Mexican origin, … and he’s a good person, and we have an extraordinary relationship.”
The president charged that the “reactionary conservatives” — his political opponents and critics — would prefer to have a “hawk” as ambassador.
López Obrador and Salazar have met frequently since the latter was posted to Mexico, and — in contrast with other U.S. officials who spoke with the Times — the ambassador believes that his “direct relationship” with the president benefits the United States.
According to one media report, Salazar has met with Mexico’s president at the National Palace 21 times since he assumed the post 10 months ago.
For his part, AMLO told reporters that Salazar “defends his country” before noting that the ambassador spent almost a week with him at the National Palace to meet with “18 owners of United States companies” with whom “we dealt case by case.”
“He’s one of the best people, but those from The New York Times have the idea that the United States should subjugate us; they think we’re a colony,” he said.
“Mexico is an independent, free sovereign country. It’s not subordinate to any power, any hegemony, any government of the world, whether it’s our neighbors in the United States, China or Russia. We’re respectful of all countries of the world; that’s why [we have] our policy of nonintervention and of self-determination of people. So, our support is for Ken,” López Obrador said. Instead of writing about Salazar, the Times should be defending Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, the president said. “That’s defense of freedom, but they don’t touch [the issue]. It’s not a story, [as] they would say here.”
Writing in the newspaper El Universal, journalist and columnist Ana Paula Ordorica said the former U.S. deputy chief of mission in Mexico, John Feeley, told her that the criticism of Salazar published by the Times has been an open secret in Washington for some time.
“The article has the appearance of endorsement from the White House because, among other things, they cite Juan González, Biden’s Latin America adviser,” she wrote. “… The White House seems to be sending a very clear message to Ken Salazar: this is the prudent time to leave the embassy in Mexico.”
Tony Payan, director of the Baker Institute Center for the United States and Mexico, said on Twitter that the U.S. needs a “savvier, more experienced ambassador in Mexico,” while Mexico expert Duncan Wood, vice president for strategy at the Wilson Center, told the Times that the Biden administration is “being played by AMLO” with Salazar as its top diplomat here.
“The ambassador believes he’s close to AMLO,” Wood said. “Is there anything to show for it? I can’t find anything.”
Mexico News Daily