At the tail end of last week the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico caused a stir by telling the Mexican government to its face that Mexico cannot ever be close to Russia. In remarks to Mexico’s lower house of Congress on Thursday Ambassador Ken Salazar said:
“I have here (indicating lapels on his jacket) the flags of Mexico, the United States and Ukraine. The Russian ambassador was here yesterday making a lot of noise about how Mexico and Russia are so close. This, sorry, can never happen. It can never happen.
“We have to be in solidarity with Ukraine and against Russia. I remember very well that during the Second World War there was no distance between Mexico and the United States, both were united against what Hitler was doing.”
Salazar’s comments came a day after a group of congressmen and women belonging to the ruling coalition parties Morena, PT and PRI created a pro-Russian group in the Congress. They also invited Russia’s ambassador to Mexico, Víktor Koronelli, to give a speech in which he said the formation of the group “is a sign of support, of friendship, of solidarity in these complicated times in which my country is not just facing a special military operation in Ukraine, but a tremendous media war. Russia didn’t start this war, it is finishing it.”
A few hours after Salazar’s speech, the chief of U.S. North Command Glen VanHerck testified to the U.S. Senate that Mexico is currently home to more Russian spies than any other country on planet Earth: “ “I would like to point out that most of the GRU members in the world are in Mexico at the moment. That’s Russian intelligence personnel. And they keep a very close eye on their chances of influencing the opportunities and access that the United States has.”
As El Pais points out, the four-star general was answering questions from senators on the Committee on Armed Services. He also claimed that both China and Russia are “very aggressive and active” in the whole area of the Northern Command’s area of responsibility, including the Bahamas and Mexico.
Most countries in Latin America including Mexico, while condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine, oppose the US-NATO-led push to isolate Russia from the global economy. Most importantly, they include the two heavyweight economies of Latin America, Brazil and Mexico, which together account for roughly 60% of the region’s GDP.
In response to the comments of Salazar, Koronelli and VanHerck Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, also known by his initials AMLO, reinstated Mexico’s position of neutrality on the conflict:
“We need to send them telegrams informing them that Mexico is not a colony of any foreign country; Mexico is a free, independent, sovereign country. We are not a colony of Russi, China or the United States.”
AMLO also acknowledged that he does not know if there are Russian spies on Mexican soil. In December 2020 the Mexican Senate approved, at the president’s behest, a reform to the National Security Law aimed at limiting the presence of foreign agents in Mexico. The measure forces all foreign agents to request authorization to enter Mexico and report to the authorities. Although the reform was aimed specifically at US DEA and CIA agents, the Mexican government says it applies to all countries.