Congressman Eliot Engel;
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are gathered here to honor a highly distinguished individual and friend of Mexico, and to bestow upon him the Orden Mexicana del Aguila Azteca, the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle in Degree of Insignia, the highest decoration awarded by the Mexican Government to foreign nationals whose work or actions have benefited Mexico and Mexicans.
Tonight we recognize Congressman Eliot Engel, a singular member of Congress who in recent years has become a key actor in building upon the unprecedented levels of cooperation that Mexico and the U.S. enjoy today, as well as our budding dialogue on regional and global issues.
In our “intermestic” bilateral agenda, the lines between the foreign and domestic policies of both our countries are fading, and Members of Congress now have a major say on the way our two countries interact and confront mutual domestic and foreign policy challenges and opportunities. The active engagement of Congress and its commitment to issues of the Mexico-United States agenda is therefore essential to further strengthen our relationship for the well-being of both of our peoples.
In our interaction with Congress, and particularly with the House of Representatives, we have found a true ally in Congressman Engel. In January 2007, Representative Engel became the Chairman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. In his growing engagement with our region, he quickly understood that given the prevailing interdependence between Mexico and the U.S., working together is the best approach to face common challenges. I am convinced that the seachange that has taken place in the security cooperation between Mexico and the U.S. would have been impossible without individuals like Congressman Engel, who recognize that our two countries can forge a win-win equation when we collaborate under the principle of shared responsibility.
Congressman Engel has put words into action, becoming a key ally in the approval process of the Merida Initiative. His leadership and statesmanship in favor of this program were decisive to generate awareness among members of Congress of the importance of supporting this paradigmatic shift in our relationship, and he played a pivotal role during the negotiation, authorization and appropriation processes of this security cooperation framework. The Merida Initiative is far more than just the allocation of resources to support our countries’ joint efforts to fight transnational organized crime. It is an explicit recognition that we face challenges that demand the engaged participation and co-responsibility of both nations to ensure the security, well-being, and prosperity of our peoples.
Congressman Engel is also a major supporter of policies to curb the illegal flow of weapons from the U.S. into Mexico. He has repeatedly underscored the need to reinstate the Assault Weapons Ban, and he has also been urging the Senate to expeditiously ratify CIFTA, the all-important Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and other Related Materials. Congressman Engel’s voice reminds others in Congress, in the Administration and in America that acting on this issue is vital not just for Mexico, but for the security and prosperity of both nations as we fight together against transnational organized crime.
But Congressman Engel’s role has also been well-rounded and holistic. As the former Consul General in New York City, I am well-aware of the considerable Latino community that lives in the Congressman Engel’s 17th district. Recognizing the contributions Latino immigrants make to this great nation, he has been a key voice promoting a comprehensive immigration reform. His support will continue to be critical for getting immigration reform right. This is no minor issue as migration flows between our countries will largely determine whether North America is ready to take the bull by the horns and become, once again, a beacon of economic competitiveness and innovation in the world. There is much that needs yet to be accomplished in Congress, but as Victor Hugo once said, "nothing can stop an idea whose time has come."
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our two countries have developed a strategic relationship that includes a dialogue beyond strictly bilateral issues. As a member of the House Committee of Foreign Affairs, Congressman Engel has been very supportive of initiatives that promote democracy and human rights across regions, including Latin America.
Together with Congressman Engel, we agree that what we need in Latin America is to strengthen liberal democracy; where not only competitive elections become the only game in town to access power, but one in which there are also checks and balances to who attains power. Any attempt to do without these limits will lead to the sort of demagogic democracy that history has shown us not only to be unstable, but also a serious threat to human rights, plurality and justice. And yes, we must ensure that it delivers the goods. This is precisely the challenge that this model faces in Latin America. What is at stake is whether majority rule with minority rights —that is liberal democracy— can deliver sustained economic growth and social justice while ensuring human rights, tolerance, accountability and transparency in the region. With Congressman Engel’s leadership I am convinced that U.S. policy can be a beneficial tool to ensure that the region and the relationship between the U.S. and the rest of the Hemisphere continues to move in that direction.
On behalf of President Felipe Calderón, and of the people of Mexico, it is therefore a distinct honor and privilege, as Mexican Ambassador to the United States, to bestow upon Elliot Engel the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle.
Congressman Engel: please step forward.
For the great service you have performed in deepening and fostering the understanding between our two nations, the Government of Mexico decorates you with the Insignia of the Aztec Eagle:
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Ladies and Gentlemen,
As Ambassador to the United States, it is a privilege to honor a friend of Mexico; but the recognition of a friend and ally such as Representative Engel, whose leadership, vision, and personal commitment has done so much for the bilateral relationship, is particularly satisfying for me.
Tweaking Mario Puzo’s off-quoted advice in the “Godfather”, and with the risk of becoming a cliché in the process, decorating Congressman Engle tonight, is about business, but it’s also personal. President Lincoln once said that “vision without action is a dream. Action without vision is simply passing the time. Action with vision is making a positive difference.” In Congressman Engel, a member of both the U.S.-Mexico Friendship Caucus, and the Latino-Jewish Caucus, I am sure we will continue to have a superb interlocutor in Congress, someone who will continue to make a difference in favor of our two peoples.