148. Memorandum From the Counselor of the Department of State (Nimetz) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Vaky)1


  • Mexico PRM

I appreciated the opportunity to participate in the PRM exercise and was sorry that I could only stay for half of this morning’s meeting. I do have several comments that you might find useful.

I am somewhat concerned about the way in which we are structuring the PRM.2 I believe the key problem in the U.S.-Mexican relationship [Page 322] is one of management. We have “special” or “unique” relationships of varying degree with many countries throughout the world, UK, FRG, Canada, Iran, Israel, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Yugoslavia—the list is long. However, there is an essential difference between our relationship with those countries and with Mexico. The former set of relationships developed because of strong mutual interests in certain key areas. In the Mexican case, however, the issues highlighted in the PRM—energy, trade, migration, border—are precisely those issues where our interests either conflict or, at a minimum, do not coincide. We and Mexico do not share basic views—either in these areas or in how we view the essential nature of our relationship. I have doubts about the usefulness of imposing an essentially verbal construct—“partnership” or even a “special relationship”—on the relationship when it is based on differences, rather than similarities, of interests.

The issue of the “Tijuana Curtain” is simply one example supporting my thesis.3 Upgrading and slightly expanding a fence along the border is, to us, an essentially trivial event, with no policy implications. To the Mexicans, it is indicative of the nature of our relationship and portends further significant U.S. measures in developing an electronic border. Although it may be true that the Mexican media distorted the facts, there certainly was a fertile Mexican populace and leadership ready to react strongly and emotionally to this issue. A mechanism within the U.S. Government to coordinate the Mexican relationship could have handled this issue more smoothly.

I believe the PRM exercise would be most productive if it focussed on the important specific issues between the U.S. and Mexico and in turn led to a meaningful discussion of possible methods to manage our side of the bilateral relationship. Talk of “special relationship” or “partnership” simply raises a philosophical issue that will blur the real and practical decisions we must make in the next few years.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Office of the Counselor (Nimetz), Lot 81D85, Box 2, Mexico. Confidential.
  2. See Document 146.
  3. The proposed expansion of border fences near Tijuana was heavily criticized in the Mexican media. The U.S. press dubbed the proposed fences near El Paso the “Tortilla Curtain.” (The Washington Post, October 24, p. A6)