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Consular and Public Diplomacies
The following essay was one of the Public Diplomacy online course requirements offered by the DiploFoundation that I took in the Spring of 2013.
I only made some editing for clarity and grammatical accuracy.
Mexico has had a long tradition of cultural diplomacy, and more recently, tourism and investment promotion; however, it has not developed a comprehensive approach to Public Diplomacy (PD) in a sustained way.
Besides certain times in its history, such as in the late 1890s, during the 1930s, and the negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement in early 1990s, the Government of Mexico has not tried to influence foreign publics as part of its foreign policy beyond conveying a positive image overseas.
There are three reasons why: a) its foreign policy is based on the principle of non-intervention in other countries' affairs, b) its foreign policy has mostly focused on Latin America, and c) its relationship with the United States. Nonetheless, in recent years, as a result of the security crisis and the lack of significant progress in the domestic arena, the Government of Mexico is trying to implement a PD strategy to improve its image abroad and continue to be an influential member of the international community.
This paper will briefly analyze Mexico's attempts to instrument certain aspects of Public Diplomacy, highlighting its strengths and weaknesses. In addition, there are some recommendations on how Mexico could finally instrument a comprehensive long-term PD.
Early efforts: investment promotion and cultural diplomacy.
After decades of civil unrest and financial difficulties, Mexico experienced economic development in the last quarter of the 19th Century. As part of its foreign policy, the Government actively participated in World Fairs to convey a positive image abroad to attract investment and immigrants from Europe and Asia. This period ended abruptly with the Mexican revolution in 1910, which hurt its economy and image abroad.
After the revolution, in the late 1920s and 1930s, as part of Mexico's political realignment, the Government established significant cultural institutions and sponsored great works of art, including murals and other art forms, to legitimize the country's new regime. It engage in a forceful cultural diplomacy effort in South America.
In the 1930s and 1940s, Mexico had a film bonanza, later followed by TV programs and music, spreading Mexican culture all over Latin America, thus gaining international standing in those countries.
In these two eras, Mexico had a concerted effort to gain international reputation and recognition to fulfill some of its foreign policy goals; however, these Public Diplomacy efforts were not sustained, except for an active but underfunded cultural diplomacy.
The Cold War: inward-looking development and lack of promotion abroad.
For most of the Cold War, Mexico had a reactive foreign policy, trying to avoid conflicts with the US and concentrating its diplomatic efforts in Latin America. However, in the 1960s and later, it became isolated as military dictatorships overtook democratic governments in the region, which were aligned with the US in the fight against communism. Nonetheless, Mexico continued to promote its cultural expressions abroad, encouraged educational exchanges, and engaged in international cooperation as a donor.
At the same time, the US media and entertainment industries became dominant in most of the world, which presented a distorted image of Mexico around the globe, even though the country was a success story in terms of economic development. In an analysis of Mexico's image abroad, Simon Anholt indicated that the country had deeper problems than the current violence crisis. He mentioned that the country's image overseas had primarily been defined negatively, except in Latin America, by the US media and entertainment industries.
Post-Cold War: changes and missed opportunities
With the end of the Cold War, Mexico's foreign policy experienced significant changes, being the most important one the negotiation of the Free Trade Agreement with the United States and Canada. It was one of the rare occasions when the Government of Mexico consciously tried to influence US public opinion. Through a series of activities, including major cultural exhibitions in the US, including hiring professional lobbyists, it engaged directly with US businesses, labor unions, and environmental groups, with the support of their Mexican counterparts, in a coordinated effort to successfully approve the agreement.
As in the past, there was no continuity of these activities afterward. Moreover, when the economic crisis affected Mexico in 1995 (and the US offered a rescue package), there was no effort to mitigate the country's bad publicity and loss of reputation amongst the US and international public opinion.
In 2000, when Mexico successfully had a democratic transition, the country regained international status; notwithstanding, the so-called "democratic bonus" was not cashed out because there were no major internal reforms. The country's brand stagnated versus the rapidly changing positions of nations such as China, India, Brazil, and South Africa.
In 2006 a new administration took over and stepped up the combat against drug traffickers in Mexico. As a result, there was a considerable increase in violence, which became one of the few topics that the international media reported about the country, negatively impacting its image abroad. According to the 2011 EastWest Global Index 200, Mexico occupied 192th place out of 200 nations, just above countries like Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, and Libya.
Recognizing that the country had an international image problem was an important step taken by President Calderon, even though it was long overdue. As a result, the Government created the "Marca País, Imagen de México" project to show Mexico in a more balanced way and contextualize the violence stories. However, there were some problems with the project. It was coordinated by the Ministry of Tourism; therefore, its focus was mainly on tourism promotion rather than an overall Public Diplomacy strategy. In addition, it seldom coordinated its activities with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).
A new administration, a new opportunity
Thanks to the arrival of a new administration in December 2012, a slight reduction in violent acts in 2012, and the approval of significant reforms, the dynamic of Mexico's image abroad is changing; therefore, it is an excellent opportunity to be seized by the new Government.
Currently (2013), the Office of the Presidency, the MFA, the Ministries of Tourism and Trade, and ProMexico hold bi-monthly meetings as part of an effort to improve Mexico's brand overseas. However, this interagency process is not a formal Public Diplomacy board that includes other actors, such as state and local authorities, businesses, universities, think tanks, and non-governmental organizations. In addition, it seems that the efforts of coordinating activities abroad are not incorporated in their respective actions and policies, thus limiting its implementation.
Considering that it seems there is confusion between Tourism Promotion/Cultural Diplomacy and PD, and there is a real need to try to engage foreign publics in order to counterbalance the bad image that is conveyed abroad, here are a few recommendations to instrument a genuine Public Diplomacy:
a) Establish a formal Public Diplomacy Board, such as the one in France or the United Kingdom, that will be responsible for evaluating Mexico's current situation and propose a course of action with definite goals and activities to accomplish them. The Board should incorporate important non-state actors and local and state authorities. Inside the MFA, a Public Diplomacy office should be established to coordinate and instrument the decisions made by the Board.
b) It would be wise to create a Public Diplomacy Handbook, such as the Australian one, that not only explains what PD activities should be undertaken but provides advice in planning PD programs and showcases best practices. The publication of the handbook should be part of a training program for all government officials that deal with international activities.
c) Teaching Spanish is a great tool to promote the country's culture and values and a deeper understanding of its idiosyncrasy. The new Government has proposed the creation of "Institutos Mexico" as a way to promote the nation's culture and teach Spanish overseas. The establishment of Confucius centers by China worldwide in partnership with local universities could be used as a model.
d) Mexico's PD efforts should focus on specific countries that involve a comprehensive strategy that includes tourism and investment promotion, cultural exhibitions, people-to-people contacts, and educational exchanges. The effort should be made in the host country's language, so Mexico can "talk" directly to them, diminishing the use of English media and reaching a wider audience. The chosen countries should be regional leaders, such as the BRICS, Turkey, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, the UK, Spain, and Germany.
e) The Government should take full advantage of Information Technologies to engage with foreign publics directly. Mexico should study the US embassy's experience in Indonesia, which had a very successful online presence, through the engagement of Indonesian bloggers and linking real-life events (such as President Obama's visit), with its online activities.
d) Mexico's MFA should fully incorporate to its PD strategy the activities of the Liaison Office with Civil Society Organizations, the Institute of Mexicans Abroad, and the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation. These offices manage essential programs that have not been utilized to their full potential in the country's overall Public Diplomacy efforts.
e) The Government should establish a research program focused on Public Diplomacy to further promote knowledge about this issue, emphasizing Mexico's circumstances. The "Observatorio Marca España" project at the Spanish Elcano Institute is a good example that should be considered.
Even though Mexico had substantial experience in cultural diplomacy and, more recently, tourism and trade promotion, it has only engaged in Public Diplomacy in rare instances due to its foreign policy principles.
The attention to the country's violence and its negative image abroad has renewed an effort to instrument a comprehensive Public Diplomacy strategy. In order to be successful, the Government has to have a long-term view, needs to improve its domestic situation, and requires investing sufficient funds in this endeavor. A key component for success is coordinating PD activities, collaborating with Non-State Actors, and better utilizing social media and information technology.
Rodrigo Marquez Lartigue
March 26th, 2013.
 Luz Elena Banos Rivas, “Reflexiones sobre la diplomacia pública en México. Una mirada prospectiva” Revista Mexicana de Política Exterior, No. 85, November 2008-February 2009, Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores. p. 154
 Pamela K. Starr, “Mexican Public Diplomacy: Hobbled by History, Interdependence, and Asymmetric Power” Public Diplomacy Magazine, University of Southern California Issue 2, Summer 2009 pp. 49-53. Available at http://publicdiplomacymagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/summer_2009.pdf [accessed March 15, 2013]
 Roberta Lajous Vargas, Las relaciones exteriores de México (1821-2000), El Colegio de México, 2012, pp 128-129.
 Andrés Ordoñez, “Diplomacia y cultura: Contenidos básicos para un reflexión pertinente”, Este País, June 3rd, 2012. Available at http://estepais.com/site/?p=38890 [accessed on March 24th, 2013]
 This is the time that Mexico started to organized important exhibitions abroad, and created the office of cultural exchanges at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Rafael Tovar y de Teresa, p. 192.
 For example, it was the first developing nation to hold the Olympic Games in 1968, and two years later was the host of the World Cup.
 Simon Anholt “Mito y realidad: la imagen internacional de México”, Revista Mexicana de Política Exterior, No. 96, October 2012, Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores. p. 124
 Tovar y de Teresa, p. 188.
 Starr, p. 51.
 For a brief analysis of México’s media coverage in US newspapers see Guillermo Maynez Gil, “El Espejo roto: percepciones de México entre los extranjeros” Este País, No. 261, January 2013, pp. 8-12
 East West Communications, 2011 EastWest Global Index 200, Available at http://www.eastwestcoms.com/global.htm [accessed March 21st, 2013].
 To learn more about the project see Jaime Díaz and Mónica Pérez, “Marca México: una estrategia para reducir la brecha entre la percepción y la realidad”, Revista Mexicana de Política Exterior, No. 96, October 2012, Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores. pp. 169-186.
 Recently, there have been important reports about Mexico’s economic achievements in mayor news outlets such as the Financial Times, the New York Times and the Economist.
 Mexico´s Export and Investment Promotion Agency.
 Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Public diplomacy and advocacy handbook, August 2011. Available at http://www.dfat.gov.au/publications/public-diplomacy-handbook/ [accessed 18 March 2013]
 Mexico currently has 10 cultural centers: 4 in the USA (Miami, New York, San Antonio and Washington), 4 in Latin America (Belize, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Guatemala) and 2 in Europe (Spain and France). Cesar Guerrero, “La cultura en la imagen de México” Este País, January 2013, p. 21.
 Zhe Ren, The Confucius Institutes and China´s Soft Power, Institute of Developing Economies, JETRO, March 2012. Available at http://ir.ide.go.jp/dspace/bitstream/2344/1119/1/ARRIDE_Discussion_No.330_ren.pdf [accessed March 19, 2013]
 Matthew Wallin, The Challenges of the Internet and Social Media in Public Diplomacy, American Security Project. February 2013. Pp. 9-10. Available at http://americansecurityproject.org/featured-items/2013/the-challenges-of-the-internet-and-social-media-in-public-diplomacy/ [accessed March 20, 2012].
 The Liaison Office with Civil Society Organizations was created on January 8, 2009. For more information about the office in English see http://participacionsocial.sre.gob.mx/docs/dgvosc/brochure_sre_dgvosc.pdf
 The Institute of Mexicans Abroad was created in 2003. For more information see http://www.ime.gob.mx/
 The Agency was created in 2011. For more information see http://amexcid.gob.mx/
 For more information visit http://www.realinstitutoelcano.org/wps/portal/!ut/p/c5/04_SB8K8xLLM9MSSzPy8xBz9CP0os3jjYB8fnxBnR19TE2e_kECjACdDAwjQ9_PIz03VL8h2VAQAidTU0Q!!/dl3/d3/L2dJQSEvUUt3QS9ZQnZ3LzZfM1RER1FLRzEwT1BVMTBJUjQ3TjJVUzBDVjI!/ [accessed March 23, 2013]
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Rodrigo Márquez Lartigue
Diplomat interested in the development of Consular and Public Diplomacies.