For generations, world leaders looked to the United States for consent before approaching Latin American leaders. U.S. presidents James Monroe and Teddy Roosevelt threatened to make war if external powers sought to interfere in Latin America—and European powers, for the most part, followed the script. The tradition continued after World War II and throughout the Cold War, but it changed the day Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2011) became president of Brazil.
Disinterest, followed by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and financial troubles everywhere, further removed the U.S. from Latin American affairs at the beginning of this century. In a few short years, Silva managed to post the Brazilian colors atop the Latin America stage. Mexico made a similar run, but its internal struggle with organized crime, corruption, dysfunctional politics and constant disputes with the U.S. over a number of political issues limited its chances.
However, today is another day, and Mexico has yet another opportunity to enter the big leagues.
Unlike his predecessor Felipe Calderón, newly-minted Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has decided to place more emphasis on the economy and cross-party negotiation. His leads on international affairs, José Antonio Meade and Eduardo Medina Mora, are experienced practitioners who understand commerce, power, diplomatic speak and international trends. More importantly, these men have the ability to leverage Mexico’s existing relationship with the U.S. and its growing commercial relationship with Asia and Europe to project Mexico’s power and prestige.
Meade was named secretary of state when Peña Nieto assumed office as president. The lawyer and Yale-trained economist has held several positions in government since 1991 in which he developed and promoted national banking and savings policies at different commissions: his most recent public posts included secretary of energy and treasury under Calderón (2006-2012). Most notably, from 2011-2012, Meade coordinated G-20 financial policy when Mexico held the group´s presidency. He has been tested by public opinion and Congress, is well-versed in the Mexican economy and is popular in international circles.
June 1: This AQ-Efecto Naím segment looks at sustainable cities in the hemisphere.