WASHINGTON — Mexican Ambassador Jesus Silva Herzog said Thursday that U.S.-Mexican relations had reached a historic high point of good feelings two months ago but have since deteriorated so much that they must be repaired before President Clinton visits Mexico in early May.
The ambassador insisted that the president is still considered a friend of Mexico and will be welcomed there. But he will face a wave of nationalistic feelings, Herzog said, because "nationalism has come out in Mexico with a presence that we haven't had in a number of years."
Blaming the tension on the new U.S. immigration law that took effect this week and the American anti-drug certification process, the ambassador said both governments "have a very deep responsibility to cool down this atmosphere before Clinton arrives."
Once he is there, Mexican officials will ask Clinton for a "rational, adequate approach to immigration and drugs," Herzog said. Speaking to Latin American specialists here at a luncheon sponsored by two Washington think tanks, the Brookings Institution and the Inter-American Dialogue, the ambassador did not divulge any details of these impending requests.
Herzog said the immigration law, which took effect Tuesday, "has sent a message that has caused the Mexican society deep concern." There is worry that there will be mass deportations of illegal immigrants from the United States, suppression of human rights and harm to the stability of families that may have to separate under the new law, the ambassador said.
Although the White House decided to certify Mexico at the end of February as fully cooperative in the war against drugs, the incessant criticism of that decision by members of Congress hurt the relationship between the two countries, he said. "The overall impression was that we were exposed to a very unjust process."
Sounding a familiar Mexican complaint, the ambassador noted sarcastically that Americans like to blame Mexicans alone for the drug problem. "Have you ever heard of a drug lord with an Anglo name?" he asked. "All the drug lords are called Gutierrez and Oriana and so on. . . . Where is the name Smith? We need a message that this is a serious problem with shared responsibilities."