In Mexican slang, a metiche is a meddlesome troublemaker or busybody. Metiche is probably the kindest word being used in Mexico City these days to describe Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), who orchestrated hearings on Capitol Hill last week that put relations between Mexico and the United States--often testy under the best of circumstances--at their lowest point in years.
As chairman of the Senate's subcommitee on Western Hemisphere Affairs, Helms is often as frustrated with Mexico, as any U.S. official who deals with that country gets. Mexicans have a fierce national pride, and one way their political leaders show it is to stake out different foreign policy positions from those taken by their powerful neighbor to the north. A case in point, that grates on Helms right-wing sensibilities, is Mexico's refusal to support the Reagan Administration's policies in Central America. So Helms used his hearings to get back at the Mexicans by focusing on every difference between Mexico and the United States--drug smuggling, the debt Mexico owes U.S. banks, illegal aliens, official corruption, Central America. Helms has been lambasting Mexico to his heart's content and some Reagan Administration officials have played along.
U.S. Customs Commissioner William von Raab was the worst example. In a discussion of drug trafficking and official corruption in Mexico, Von Raab accused a Mexican governor of growing marijuana and opium poppies on his private farms, and said these dope plantations are guarded by the Mexican army. While no one doubts that serious official corruption can be found in Mexico, the manner in which Von Raab's made his allegations was irresponsible. Only a week before Von Raab spoke out, U.S. Atty. Gen. Edwin Messe met with his Mexican counterpart to discuss the international drug problem. The meetings were frank to the point of being blunt, but Mexican officials say that U.S. suspicions about the Mexican governor never came up.