- HASSAN MASIKY
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The Caracas embassy closure is just a small chapter in the larger saga of the Moroccan diplomacy in Latin America. During the Eighties and early Nineties, Moroccan diplomats were on the sideline in major Latin American capitals. With few exceptions, Polisario representatives, backed and financed by Algeria, had the upper hand on the issue of Morocco's territorial integrity. The Algerian version of the Western Sahara conflict was widely accepted in the Latin continent. In short, Moroccan diplomats were in retreat for more than two decades. Rabat started to counter attack in the late nineties and more recently with an aggressive, sharp and focused diplomatic push with new emphasis on shared values and common concerns between Moroccans and Latinos. Yet, years of incompetence and neglect still cast a long shadow on the Kingdom's diplomatic efforts to persuade several Latin countries of the legality if the Moroccan cause.
During the cold war, most of Central and South America's countries (including Mexico) were divided in two camps as was the rest of the world. Naturally, left leaning countries were sympathetic to the Algerian position on the Western Sahara conflict; and most of them, in fact, recognized the so-called Sahrawi Republic (RASD). However, the countries that were more centrist or right leaning did not necessarily support Morocco's claims on its Sahara. It was a massive failure of the Moroccan diplomacy and a big boost to its adversaries.
Staking more odds against an already weak Moroccan diplomacy, all of the Polisario representatives dispatched to Latin America were trained in the mean lean `Havana's diplomatic "School". Cuba's aid to the Algerian's endeavor in Latin America is priceless and has been the back bone of Algiers anti-Moroccan efforts in the region. Actually, it is the Cuban connection that is behind the Algerian success in Latin America. Castro's vast network of well staffed diplomatic stations throughout Latin America helped design and execute Algeria's plans to discredit Morocco's positions.
While Algeria used Havana to launch its diplomatic attacks against Morocco, Rabat played catch up; and in other instances gave up and just decided to coexist with a RASD representation in the same capital. The case of Mexico is a blunt example of the Moroccan Failure to fight back. During the Eighties and parts of the Nineties, Mexico was governed by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), a center right political party that has good relations with the West and the USA, thus should be more sympathetic to Morocco's position. Furthermore, Polisario opened an "embassy" in Mexico City in 1988 during the presidency of Carlos Salinas de Gortari who was known of his pro-western policies. So, why did Mexico recognized the RASD under this less than favorable condition to the Algerian position? Schooled in Castro's foreign policy machine, Algerian operatives, familiar with the Mexican political culture, targeted the ruling PRI apparatus instead of the Mexican foreign ministry. Well aware of the existence and influence of a small but powerful pro-Cuba cluster within the Nationalist wing of the PRI, Polisario representatives cultivated a relationship with this group to push their agenda bypassing the foreign minister who would had been less responsive to their concerns. The Algerian efforts were rewarded by the opening of a RASD "embassy" next to the Moroccan one.
The Mexico case is a typical example of the shortcomings of the Moroccan diplomacy. To regain its diplomatic prestige, the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs must make serious efforts to attract the best and the brightest Moroccan youth. The many young Moroccan men and women who master foreign languages, understand cultural sensitivities, grasp local political realities' and are willing to serve their country should be drafted to represent and defend their homeland overseas. As important, the talent that already exists in current Moroccan diplomatic representations around the word should be cultivated, encouraged and rewarded. It is time for our high ranking diplomats to put the national interest ahead of the personal one.
An ambassadorship is a job and not a hobby.