Trump Attacks Spur Mexico to Borrow From Israel Lobby's Playbook

  • Carlos Manuel Sada wants to elevate nation's promotion efforts
  • Private sector, Mexican-American community are key: Sada

Mexico’s new ambassador to the U.S. is vowing to fight back against Donald Trump’s attacks with a lobbying and promotional strategy that would mirror the efforts of Israel’s supporters and the influence of the Cuban-American community.

Carlos Manuel Sada, in his first interview after being confirmed by the Mexican Senate on Thursday, said the nation needs stronger efforts to promote its interests and the welfare of its citizens in the U.S. As a model, he pointed to lobbying efforts on behalf of Israel and the visibility of groups like AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Sada, who has served in consulates from New York to Los Angeles and as Mexico’s envoy to Capitol Hill over the past two decades, said Mexican Americans and U.S. companies with operations in Mexico need to more effectively highlight the benefits of trade, a strong bilateral relationship and Mexico’s contributions to the U.S. The North American Free Trade Agreement has been a target of presidential candidates ever since Ross Perot warned of a "giant sucking sound" pulling jobs south across the Rio Grande river.

"Every four years, it is very frustrating to see how Mexico is being attacked," said Sada, 63. The promotional effort "has to be sustained," he said. "Other communities and other countries are doing much better."

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Sada’s appointment represents the latest effort by the Mexican government to counteract the anti-immigrant and anti-trade messages of Trump, the reality TV star and businessman leading the Republican nomination race. Mexico’s diplomatic network is mounting an unprecedented effort to turn the country’s permanent residents in the U.S. into citizens, a status that would enable them to vote -- presumably against Trump.

‘Work With Whoever’

Officially, Mexico says it respects U.S. sovereignty and has no strategy to influence the result of the presidential race. Yet consulates are mobilizing to assist immigrants in gaining U.S. citizenship, hosting free workshops on naturalization.

Sada replaces Miguel Basanez, an academic who taught at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. In addition, Paulo Carreno, a former Mexico spokesman for Citigroup Inc. who last year became head of the nation’s national branding strategy, was tapped this month to become deputy foreign minister for North America.

The shift comes as Trump has made a border wall with Mexico a cornerstone of his foreign policy, saying he would force his southern neighbors to pay for it by barring money transfers. He’s also pledged to renegotiate or terminate NAFTA, saying that it’s been a disaster for the U.S.

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who trails Trump in the Republican presidential primary race, has also called for a border wall with Mexico.

About 12 million Mexicans live in the U.S. and almost half lack legal status, according to a study released in November by the Pew Research Center. Still, more Mexicans left the U.S. than arrived from 2009 to 2014, according to the nonpartisan research group. Trump kicked off his White House bid in June with invective directed at Mexican immigrants.

Sada repeated on Thursday that Mexico isn’t taking sides in the U.S. presidential race.

"We have to work with whoever is the president of the United States," he said.

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