In a move greeted with widespread incredulity in Mexico, President Enrique Peña Nieto has bestowed the Aztec Eagle Award on Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of U.S. President Donald Trump, for his role in securing a satisfactory resolution to the recent trilateral trade talks.
The Orden Mexicana del Aguila Azteca is the highest decoration this country can give to a foreigner.
The honor was expected to be presented to Kushner during this week’s G20 meeting in Buenos Aires, when the presidents of Mexico, the United States and Canada are due to sign the new trade treaty replacing the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta). The accord, however, still awaits ratification by legislators in all three nations.
The office of the Mexican president said Kushner deserved the distinction for his key part in the renegotiation of Nafta, now to be known as T-MEC in Mexico and USMAC in the United States.
In a press statement, Peña Nieto’s office said, “Mr. Kushner played a fundamental role throughout the process, assisting decisively in the development of trade talks between both countries.”
According to Mexican law, the honor is given to foreign nationals who “realizaron servicios prominentes prestados al país o a la humanidad” (carry out prominent services to the country or humanity). Previous recipients of the honor have included Walt Disney, the kings and queens of Spain and the United Kingdom, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Fidel Castro, Evita Peron, Mario Vargas Llosa, Nelson Mandela, Bono, Placido Domingo and Bill Gates.
After the announcement was made earlier this week, dozens of distinguished Mexican figures took to social media to express their surprise and displeasure at the recognition.
Historian Enrique Krauze called it “a supreme act of humiliation and cowardice.” La Jornada columnist Julio Hernandez Lopez described it as “another offense to Mexico,” while actor Gael Garcia Bernal said it was a “tremendous embarrassment.”
Although many Mexicans fumed at Peña Nieto’s apparent kowtowing to the much-disliked Trump administration, other media sources painted a different perspective on Kushner’s involvement in the trade negotiation process. According to a Bloomberg article in October, the president’s son-in-law played a vital role in “smoothing things along” during a “frenzied 72-hour push that capped 13 months of glacial negotiations” at the end of September, when it appeared that the United States and Canada would not reach an agreement in the specified time. Mexico was pressing hard for a trilateral deal, and did not want to sign a two-way accord with the United States.
Kushner also made many trips to Mexico during the process. The Mexican Foreign Relations Ministry said his “constant and effective involvement was key to achieving a successful conclusion to the negotiations.”