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Mexican consul: ‘Better to build bridges than to build walls’

By Sydney Smith/Holland Sentinel • Sep 10, 2018 at 7:00 AM

HOLLAND — In a visit to Holland last week, the Midwest’s Mexican consul general had some unifying words.

“It’s better to build bridges than to build walls,” said Fernando Gonzalez Saiffe during a presentation on U.S./Mexico relations at Holland City Hall on Sept. 6. The nearly 40 people at the event applauded.

Saiffe visited as part of a tour of West Michigan, hosted by the city’s International Relations Commission and World Affairs Council of West Michigan. A reception welcomed him to City Hall with live music from Cafe Con Leche and refreshments.

Saiffe has been consul general since September 2017. Previously, he served the Mexican Foreign Ministry in executive positions in Canada, Vietnam, the United Nations and as a liaison for congressional affairs to the U.S. House of Representatives. Consul generals build international relations and promote the interests of their home countries and the country in which they’re residing.

According to Esther Fifelski, who helped coordinate the visit, the event was meant for attendees have a “better understanding and appreciation for the people and culture of Mexico.”

Saiffe stuck to the facts during his presentation, discussing Mexico’s economy, U.S./Mexico relations and the challenges of the new Mexican presidency.

On his comment about building bridges, he was saying Mexico is committed to free trade. And Michigan plays a part in trade; the state ranks third in trade with Mexico, behind Texas and California, because of the auto and agricultural sectors, Saiffe said.

He discussed the election of Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and what his relationship might be with President Donald Trump.

“The relationships between presidents have been very polite,” Saiffe said. “Trump was one of the first presidents to congratulate (Lopez Obrador). We’ll see how it goes. There’s going to be political pressures to respond when Trump talks about building the wall.”

Saiffe added that he hopes disagreements are handled with facts.

At the end of his presentation, Fifelski gave Saiffe a serving tray as a gift from the city. In return, Saiffe presented a bottle of tequila.

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