No official welcome for Dalai Lama in Mexico

Decision not to salute the exiled Tibetan leader reflects closer bonds with Beijing

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 October, 2013, 9:26pm


Mexican leader Enrique Pena Nieto did not meet the Dalai Lama when the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader began a tour of the country yesterday.

It is the first time in four visits that no representative of government has met the Dalai Lama, and reflects Mexico's aims to boost ties with China.

"The president of Mexico does not intend to meet the Dalai Lama, and we have not requested a meeting," Casa Tibet Mexico founder and president Marco Antonio Karam said.

"We do not feel that the environment is favourable for this and we do not want to create political controversy that would hurt the visit."

Karam's group represents the Tibetan people throughout Latin America.

He said no government official had requested to meet the Dalai Lama.

During his first visit to Mexico in 1989, the Tibetan spiritual leader, accused by China of encouraging separatism, was received by then president Carlos Salinas.

When he returned in 2004, he met a senior immigration department official, while in September 2011, he had a private meeting with then president Felipe Calderon.

The Calderon meeting triggered discomfort in Beijing, and contributed to the relationship between Mexico and China becoming "the most tense in the past 40 years", according to Enrique Dussel Peters, of the Centre for Chinese-Mexican Studies at the Autonomous University of Mexico.

But this time the Dalai Lama would find a Mexican state that had taken a "quantum leap" in relation to its ties with Beijing, Dussel added.

Pena Nieto has already met his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping , three times this year. During Xi's Mexico visit in June, Pena Nieto's government reiterated its support for Beijing's "one China" policy, recognising Taiwan and Tibet as part of the nation.

The spiritual leader plans to give Buddhist teachings at an entertainment centre over the weekend.

Mexican Catholic Church authorities will host him today, and on Monday he will give a free lecture for students.

On Tuesday, he will travel to the central state of Guanajuato to meet former president Vicente Fox and give a lecture on "compassion in action".

The Dalai Lama will head to neighbouring Zacatecas state to talk about the "art of happiness" and make a prayer for peace on Wednesday.