Nobody expected that the United States government would declare itself a fan of the electrical reform promoted by the Mexican government. But neither was the top energy official in the Biden Administration expected to be very explicit about her concerns. Until now, his colleagues had been very secretive on the subject.
It seems that President López Obrador was betting on this every time he preemptively said that the United States government was surely not going to give an opinion because it is “very respectful” – as if expressing any disagreement with him was disrespectful. And Secretary Nahle was betting on this when she said, just this week, that the US government had no problem with the reform initiative – as if the truth was never going to be known.
It didn’t work. Today we already know the position of the United States government. And the way it was broadcast, there is very little room for misunderstanding. During the visit of Secretary Jennifer Granholm, each communication decision has implicit messages that allow interpreting the level of concern.
Granholm could have mentioned that the government he belongs to has concerns. But he chose to adjective them. They are “real” concerns. The US government is really worried.
His message could have remained in the dimension of protecting the rights of individual investors. But in speaking of the interest of the United States government in collaborating with Mexico on clean energy and the environment – and immediately after explaining that the electrical reform hinders those efforts – Granholm was not only being diplomatically correct. I was passing the message that this is also a State-State issue.
This could have been said in one of the meetings. But the agencies have clarified that he said so “expressly” in “every meeting” he held. In the words of Ambassador Salazar, in addition, Secretary Granholm’s visit was “historic”: never before had a United States energy secretary met with the entire leadership of the legislature, the president of Mexico, cabinet secretaries, the private sector and civil society. Is it a coincidence that the roadshow was so extensive?
Still, he could have left it as a comment behind closed doors. But not. He used the most widely distributed vehicles. He put it in a statement, in a tweet and, in case there was any doubt that he was going beyond the tradition of a regular visit, he even recorded a video with the ambassador.
Finally, the interpretation that this was an individual position, only of the Department of Energy, could have been fed. But various measures have been taken to show just the opposite. A letter signed jointly by the heads of the energy department, the commerce department and the US Trade Representative appeared on Saturday responding to a Republican lawmaker. They tell him that they share his concerns about Mexico and are taking action. Officials and legislators, Republicans and Democrats: you are in this together.
There is no way back. Despite all the efforts of the Mexican government to hide it, today we know that the US government has real concerns about the reform. We know that López Obrador considers them relevant – if not, why all the fuss to seek to inhibit and hide them? It only remains to decide whether to ignore, attend or confront. I hope prudence wins. But the precedents are worrying.