447. Letter From the Ambassador in Mexico (McBride) to Secretary of State Rogers, Mexico City, December 31, 1969.1 2

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Mexico D.F., Mexico

December 31, 1969

The Honorable
William P. Rogers
Secretary of State
Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Mr. Secretary:

As 1969 draws to a close, I thought I should give you a brief personal assessment of the current state of our relations with Mexico.

I look back on 1969 and my own first six months as Ambassador here as an exceptionally interesting period in United States-Mexican relations, one in which the Mexicans were testing and assessing our new Administration in Washington. They seemed to act early in the year as though they believed things would go on about as before and seemed prepared, on the surface at least, to allow their contacts with Washington to develop and mature in an unhurried manner. The high point in our relations with Mexico in 1969 was undoubtedly reached in the meeting between the two Presidents at Amistad on Monday, September 8.

When “Operation Intercept” began September 21, it severely jolted our relations and quickly plunged them to the lowest level in recent years. The Mexican reaction was sudden, sharp, hurt and indignant, and when I wrote you on October 6, I was deeply concerned about this problem and the consequences it would have for us in Mexico.

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Your reply of October 27 and your assistance and support in Washington were most helpful to me in dealing with the problem at this end. In that letter, you instructed me to try and dissipate as quickly as possible the bitterness toward the United States brought about by “Operation Intercept.” This I have tried to do and I am glad to report that the situation has improved markedly in the last sixty days.

As a result of high level bi-lateral talks in Mexico City October 27–30, ably led by Deputy Attorney General Kleindienst, a Joint Working Group on narcotics, marijuana and dangerous drugs was set up. This Group met almost daily through November and most of December and has prepared a joint report recommending a far reaching program of increased cooperation between the two countries. The Mexicans appear to be pleased with the outcome of these talks and I have reason to hope that 1970 will see the implementation of many of the Group’s recommendations, substantially increased success in our joint campaign against narcotics, and a further abatement of the tensions and frictions that arose from “Operation Intercept.”

Nonetheless, we should recognize that the scars from “Intercept” will remain for some time to come; and I have no doubt that when the Mexicans become annoyed with us about something else, they will not hesitate to bring up “Intercept” again to reinforce any list they may have of our current sins.

Indeed, as I write this letter, I see hovering over us storm clouds related to our meat import program for 1970, our restrictions on the imports of tomatoes, and the problems of border industries. Any of these could erupt quickly into another major anti-American outburst in Mexico. Needless to say, I am paying the closest attention to them.

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In sum, as we start the New Year, with such reservations as I have indicated above, I believe that our relations with Mexico are good and improving. The policy lines toward Latin America that have recently been set forth in Washington and which were discussed at some length here in early December at the Meeting of Chiefs of Mission for Latin America appear to me to offer a sound basis for our relationships in this hemisphere. I was very glad to have the opportunity to host that Meeting and to discuss with Under Secretary Richardson and Assistant Secretary Meyer the current situation in Mexico and the main policy lines which I believe we should follow here for the coming year.

Please accept my warmest thanks for the support you have given me during 1969 and accept my best wishes to you and Mrs. Rogers for the New Year.


[signed Bob]
Robert H. McBride

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL MEX–US. Confidential. McBride signed Bob above his typeset signature. In a January 20, 1970 letter, Rogers assured McBride that the Department of State would strike a proper balance between the conflicting claims of important domestic interests and friends abroad.” (Ibid.)
  2. Ambassador McBride offered an assessment of United States-Mexican relations during 1969 and speculated on potential for anti-American sentiment brought on by U.S. import restrictions on Mexican tomatoes and differences over border industries.