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Mexico 'really mad' at Canada

The Mexican ambassador to Canada says his country is "really mad" at the Harper government for the continued imposition of a visa on its travellers here.

Ambassador Francisco Suarez told The Canadian Press in an exclusive interview that Mexico is so upset that if the issue isn't resolved by next year, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto might have to postpone a planned visit to Canada.

That would cast a shadow over the festivities that Mexico and Canada are planning for 2014 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the 70th anniversary of bilateral relations.

"We're now saying it's a major irritant," said Suarez, who assumed his new post in Ottawa three months ago.

"We're now really mad. … Canada has the most stringent visa system for Mexicans of any country in the world."

While Mexico's relations with Canada are generally very good, the visa issue could become an obstacle to deepening economic co-operation in areas such as energy and natural resources, the envoy said.

Canada imposed a visa on Mexican travellers in 2009 to curb abuses by a growing number of bogus refugee claimants. Prime Minister Stephen Harper himself has said he would like to see it lifted but says Canada has to reform its own backlogged refugee system first.

The visiting Mexican foreign minister, Jose Antonio Meade Kuribrena, said little in Ottawa this summer standing next to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird when Baird was unable to give a timeline for lifting the visa.

Suarez said the time has come to carve out a "roadmap" that will keep the issue from dragging on for months and years.

If that's not in place by the time Harper is expected to travel to Mexico in the late months of this year or in January, the visit will not be productive, the envoy said.

"If Harper goes to Mexico, and there's no solution, either a clear solution or a clear path, a roadmap, with a solution that does not take two years — that's the point — he's going to get a very bad atmosphere."

The chairman of the board of a large Mexican museum cancelled plans last year to expand an art exhibit beyond Toronto to several Canadian cities because he had to reapply after being issued only a single-entry visa. He was angry because the museum's curator received a multiple-entry visa, said Suarez.

Another former politician gave up his time-share apartment in Whistler, BC, because he didn't want to be subjected to the "indignities" of long visa forms that asked the date his parents died 20 years ago.

Suarez said he found the Canadian visa forms personally offensive when he filled them out for a visit to Canada in recent years, prior to his return to the foreign service, when he was the vice-president of a Mexican foreign relations think-tank.

"I had to put the date that my mother and father died, 15 and 20 years ago. What's the use of putting the date of your mother and father (who) died 15 and 20 years ago?"



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