BOOK REVIEW 6: “The synergies with other communities: the case of TRICAMEX” (Chp. 7) of La Diplomacia Consular Mexicana en Tiempos de Trump.
This post will review the chapter “The synergies with other communities: The case of TRICAMEX,” written by Jorge A. Schiavon and Guillermo Ordorica R. of the book Mexican Consular Diplomacy in Trump´s Era.
TRICAMEX stands for mecanismo de concertación Triángulo del Norte de Centroamérica y México or “Central America Northern Triangle and Mexico consular consultation program.”
It is an innovative way to implement the Consular Diplomacy of the four countries involved (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico), which started in McAllen, Texas, in December 2015.
According to Maaike Okano-Heijmans, a scholar of the Clingadndale Institute, one form of Consular Diplomacy is when “Governments attach increasing important to and are becoming more involved in consular affairs at the practical as well as policy levels”[i] that entails from the negotiation of agreements about consular affairs to the exchange of best consular practices and cooperation on the ground. TRICAMEX fulfills completely this description of what Consular Diplomacy is, as you will see.
I believe that the negotiation of an agreement between the consulates of Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico in McAllen, Texas, was a critical step forward for broader collaboration and the exchange of best practices. However, what stands out was the four governments' interest to expand this mechanism across the U.S. and include the topic in their formal bilateral and regional diplomatic agendas. It is a clear example of Consular Diplomacy.
I estimate that Schiavon and Ordorica's work is the first academic analysis of TRICAMEX, as I could not find any other besides official press releases and some news about the group's activities in different cities (See the list at the bottom of the post). This is one of the reasons why this paper is a valuable contribution to the study of Consular Diplomacy.
In this chapter, Schiavon and Ordorica describe the origins of TRICAMEX and its activities, focusing on two areas: consular protection and community engagement. Besides, they propose new collaboration areas, such as the “Coordinated Consular Protection (Protección Consular Coordinada).
The two authors incorporate a novel idea: “minilateralism”, described as a new way of collaboration between a reduced number of countries to solve shared challenges that can turn into crises.[ii]
Schiavon and Ordorica view TRICAMEX as an excellent example of minilateralism on immigration issues by consular offices in the United States.[iii]
The chapter is divided into five parts. In the first section, they explain the immigration context that resulted in the establishment of new consulates of Honduras and El Salvador in McAllen.[iv]
In December 2015, the four consulates signed a joint declaration establishing the consular consultation program “to exchange best practices and promote Consular Diplomacy initiatives, to strengthen the dialogue with public and private stakeholders involved in the care of their immigrant communities.”[v]
This local initiative got the attention of the capitals of the four countries. In December 2016,[vi] the four countries' ministries of foreign affairs decided to expand TRICAMEX to other U.S. cities.[vii]
In the chapter´s second segment, the authors describe that TRICAMEX McAllen “held frequently meeting with social and community organizations, academic institutions, leaders, and authorities interested in immigration issues. Because of it, all involved actors better understand the consular work and display their interest in improving outreach mechanisms, collaborations, and the information exchanges…”[viii]
Schiavon and Ordorica present an example of the greater collaboration the consular activities related to the Missing Migrant Initiative. The four consulates elaborated a single survey to encourage the localization of missing persons. Additionally, Mexico offered the other consulates the use of its consular protection calling center (Centro de Información y Atención a Mexicanos -CIAM-) to search for lost people.[ix]
For the Central American consulates, TRICAMEX McAllen was also a conduit with Mexican authorities, including the State of Tamaulipas and the city of Reynosa.[x]
Internally, the mechanism provided opportunities for training and exchanges of best practices.[xi] For example, the Inter-American Development Bank organized a training seminar in Mexico City that later was replicated in many consular offices of the Northern Triangle across the U.S.[xii]
Besides, they work together in supporting vulnerable populations such as migrant women and unaccompanied minors. As part of this collaboration, Mexico shared the Protocol for the consular care of unaccompanied migrant children and adolescents, created with the support of UNICEF Mexico.[xiii]
The authors also list other examples of collaboration, including meetings with the President of Guatemala in April 2016 and a U.S. office representative of the International Organization of the Red Cross.[xiv]
In the area of community affairs, TRICAMEX McAllen opened channels of communication with different organizations and leaders. Mexico shared with the Central American consulates some community affairs programs instrumented by the Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior (IME), including the Ventanilla de Atención Integral para la Mujer or “Initiative for the Comprehensive Care of Women” -VAIM-.[xv]
In the chapter`s fourth part, Schiavon and Ordorica identify that TRICAMEX McAllen is gradually expanding into the political and social spheres. The first focused on local authorities and the second on the business community. The goal is to multiple channels of communication with key players in favor of the immigrant community and promote development in the home countries.[xvi]
The authors conclude their chapter stating that there is room for TRICAMEX to grow into a Proteccion Consular Conjunta (Joint Consular Protection).[xvii] They analyze International and Regional Laws, saying that there are no legal obstacles to provide consular assistance to persons of other nationalities.
This chapter is worth reading because, as I mentioned before, it is the first academic paper about this consular initiative. It is also interesting since the authors demonstrate that Consular Diplomacy can also be a multilateral effort by different countries with shared challenges.
TRICAMEX proves that minilateral Consular Diplomacy can be developed, and furthermore, can have successful outcomes benefiting their communities and the participating countries. Examples of concrete collaborations, as the Missing Migrant Initiative, shows the benefits of working together.
Besides, it reiterates some of Mexico´s Consular Diplomacy characteristics, such as establishing partnerships with like-minded organizations, institutions, and persons; its adaptability and innovative approaches; and its willingness to share experiences, policies, and best practices with other countries.
For more information about TRICAMEX, see (organized by date)
Estrada, Priscilla, “Consulate group Tricamex celebrates one year of success”, Valley Central, December 6, 2016. (In English)
Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, Press Release, December 14, 2016. (In Spanish)
Consulado General de México en Chicago, Press Release, December 20, 2016. (In Spanish)
Consulado de México en McAllen, TRICAMEX McAllen 2017 Quarterly Bulletin (4). (In Spanish)
Dirección de Asuntos Consulares, “Experiencia del espacio de coordinación local TRICAMEX, para la Protección Consular”, Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de El Salvador, June 2018. (In Spanish)
Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, Press Release, July 10, 2018. (In English)
“Border Patrol operations, TRICAMEX fly over Rio Grande Valley” in Homeland Preparedness News, July 24, 2018. (In English)
Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, Remarks by Foreign Affairs Ministry, October 11, 2018. (In English)
Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, Press Release, October 30, 2018. (In English)
Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores y Cooperación Internacional de Honduras, Press Release, October 8, 2018. (In Spanish)
Smith, Molly, “Formed in the wake of 2014 migrant crisis, consular group faces familiar challenges”, in The Monitor, November 29, 2018. (In English)
Inter-American Development Bank, “IDB trains officials from Central America Northern Triangle”, December 20, 2018. (In English)
Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Guatemala, Press Release, September 2, 2020. (In Spanish)
[i] Okano-Heijmans, Maaike, “Change in Consular Assistance and the Emergence of Consular Diplomacy”, Netherlands Institute of International Relations ´Clingendael´, February 2010, p. 2.
[ii] Schiavon, Jorge A., and Ordorica R., Guillermo, “Las sinergias con otras comunidades: el caso de TRICAMEX” in La Diplomacia Consular Mexicana en los tiempos de Trump, 2018, p. 185.
[iii] Ibid. p. 185.
[iv] Ibid. p. 189-192.
[v] Ibid. p. 186.
[vi] This action took place in December 2016, a month after the election of Donald Trump as president. See Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, Press Release, December 14, 2016. (In Spanish)
[vii] Ibid. p. 186.
[viii] Ibid. p. 189.
[ix] Ibid. p. 190.
[x] Ibid. p. 190.
[xi] Ibid. p. 191.
[xii] Inter-American Development Bank, “IDB trains officials from Central America Northern Triangle”, December 20, 2018.
[xiii] For a brief description of protocol´s origins and its benefits, see Gallo, Karla, “En el camino hacia la protección integral de la niñez migrante, UNICEF México Blog, August 21, 2019.
[xiv] Ibid. p. 192.
[xv] I will write a post about the VAIM later. For a brief description of the program click here, or read Gómez Maganda Guadalupe, and Kerber Palma, Alicia, “Atención con perspectiva de género para las comunidades mexicanas en el exterior” in Revista Mexicana de Política Exterior, No. 107, May-August 2016, pp 185-202, and the doctoral dissertation of Martha Eréndira Montejano Hernández of 2018.
[xvi] Ibid. p. 194.
[xvii] Ibid. p. 199.
DISCLAIMER: All views expressed on this blog are that of the author and do not represent the opinions of any other authority, agency, organization, employer or company.
Rodrigo Márquez Lartigue
Diplomat interested in the development of Consular and Public Diplomacies.