The U.S. government is moving ahead with plans to construct a large new embassy in Mexico City. Slated for the upscale Polanco section of the Mexican capital, the planned complex is envisioned to cover about 13 acres on a plot of land that was purchased from the Colgate-Palmolive company.
Estimated to cost between $350 and $450 million, the new quarters for U.S. government agencies operating in Mexico are expected to be fully completed by 2019. In opening bids for the construction, Washington specified that the architecture had to conform with LEED Platinum green building designs.
The Mexico City project is among the latest in a series of building renovations for U.S. diplomatic and foreign policy functions in Mexico and other parts of the world. Last summer, for example, a new consular building covering 100,000 square feet and costing $120 million opened for business in the border city of Tijuana, Baja California. Besides processing 190,000 visas annually, the U.S. Consulate is an important outpost in counter-narcotics work and houses agencies such as ICE, the DEA, the FBI and others.
“We are basically a mini-embassy representing the U.S. government in this part of the world,” Steven Kashkett, U.S. counsel general in Tijuana, said at the time of his new office’s opening last year.
In good measure, the investment in and upgrade of U.S. diplomatic offices in Mexico reflects the growing importance of law enforcement, military assistance and private defense contracting in the
bilateral relationship between Washington and Mexico City. Mexico is second only to Afghanistan/Pakistan as the nation of priority for US national security planners.
In December, the Obama administration dispatched Captain Colin J. Kilrain to oversee military affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. Nominated for rear admiral, Kilrain was previously responsible for counter-terrorism in the National Security Council. A veteran of the Persian Gulf, Balkan, Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Kilrain was associated with the elite U.S. Navy SEAL team prior to taking on other responsibilities in the War on Terror.
Kilrain’s Mexico City appointment could signal a renewed push by the Obama and Calderon administrations to attack and decapitate the leadership of organized crime organizations before the Mexican president’s (and possibly Obama’s) term in office ends later this year. The apprehension or elimination of 15 remaining capos on a most wanted list is of special interest to the two allied governments.
Since the launch of the bilateral, anti-drug Merida Initiative, U.S. security-related activities have expanded enormously in Mexico, as has the need for secure space. According to Mexican media reports, a building near the current U.S. Embassy houses Pentagon staff and personnel from an alphabet’s soup of other agencies dedicated to implementing the Merida strategy. The company that is awarded the contract for building the new embassy will have to pass a U.S. national security clearance.
Sources: Milenio, January 20, 2012. Agencia Reforma, January 18, 2012. Article by Victor Flores. Proceso, January 8, 2012. Article by Jorge Carrasco Araizaga. Baja Good Life News/Signonssandiego.com, July 22, 2011.
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Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico
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