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Morocco out of touch with the emerging left-wing Latin America

February 16, 2009

It should not come as a major surprise, but Morocco’s alignment on Washington’s foreign policy comes with a price. Two recent examples spring to mind.

The first one was Morocco’s recent decision to break off diplomatic ties with close its embassy in Venezuela (1), which I’ve highlighted in a post on my French-speaking blog – Jillian at Global Voices took the trouble of translating it into English. While it was ostentatiously linked to the defense of Morocco’s territorial integrity – Venezuela entertains diplomatic ties with the Polisario, under the cover of the “SahrawiArab Democratic Republic”. Trouble is, this recognition dates from… 1982, if one is to believe Wikipedia. Furthermore, Polisario’s leader, Abdelaziz el MarrakchiMohamed Abdelaziz has been to Caracas on an official visit in 2004, when he even met with Hugo Chavez, and the “SADR”‘s “ambassador” to Venezuela was even accredited in June 2008.

All of this mades Morocco’s decision to close its embassy seem belated – but what really made people wonder was the timing:  nine days before the decision to close Morocco’s embassy, Venezuela had decided to declare Israel’s ambassador to Venezuela persona non grata, a move which of course didn’t go down well in Tel Aviv or Washington. You needn’t be an adept of “Elvis lives” or Roswell theories to make a link between the two events, knowing Morocco’s docile foreign policy. Knowing that feelers had been made by Israel in December 2008 towards a resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries, and taking into account that Moroccan public opinion’s reaction to the Israeli atrocities in Gaza madesuch a move politically suicidal, a breaking off with Venezuela could be interpreted as a wily diplomatic gesture: Venezuela already recognises the “SADR”, so any diplomatic retaliation on Caracas’ side was bound to be purely rhetorical, taking furthermore into account the fact that the downturn in Venezuela’s economic fortunes following the collapse in the price of oil probably prevents any lavish funding of the Polisario by Hugo Chavez, if such an eventuality ever was a distinct possibility. More importantly, Hugo Chavez has turned into a political leader that the US and its European leaders – not to speak about the MSM – love to vilify, and the feelings are amply reciprocated.

Many bloggers, myself included, made the jump, and no better explanation has been given by official sources on the strange timing of Morocco’s decision, 27 years after Venezuela’s recognition of the “SADR”, five years after Mohamed Abdelaziz’ Abdelaziz el Marrakchi’s official visit to Caracas and six months after the accreditation of the “SADR”‘s “ambassador” to Venezuela to comprehensively discard that interpretation of events.

Another recent diplomatic event – or in Morocco’s case, non-event – has underlined Morocco’s alignment with the Washington camp. While looking for further pictures of the shockingly cordial meeting between Ehud Olmert and six European heads of state and of government in Jerusalem/Al Qods on January 18, I stumbled on pictures of the Argentinian president’s official tour of North Africa in November 2008 – with one glaring omission: Morocco. Look for yourself: Cristina Kirchner has been to Libya, Tunisia and Algeria – but not to Morocco (and I suppose that Mauritania was off the agenda for evident reasons).

Now, both Kirchner and Chavez are in varying degrees part of Latin American “axis of evil” – and I’m not sure whether Obamawill fundamentally alter Washington’s perspective on the Latin American left. They are also peripheral to Morocco’s foreign policy, as is Morocco to theirs. Of course, the fact that a dozen or so Latin American states recognise the “SADR” is an undeniable propaganda boon for the separatists, but it is a mere sideshow – compensated by the not so infrequent withdrawal of recognition by the same states (I think that Burundi and Chad are adept at this) – enabling the MAP, the SPS and the APS to spew out predictably hollow victory communiqués.

Whether Morocco has taken a hard-headed approach to the matter, concentrating on the Security Council permanent members (none of whom has ever recognised the “SADR”), Western Europe (no country of which has ever recognised the “SADR”) and the Arab states (as far as can be ascertained, only Algeria and Mauritania recognise the “SADR” – Syria has apparently ceased doing so, whereas Libya’s status is unclear) – or whether its position among left-leaning African and Latin American states is inherently weak, is difficult to say, with a combination of both most likely. It would seem however that Morocco has not given up all efforts in Latin America – witness the royal visits to Peru and Chile in 2004 , and it is even sending out feelers for a comeback of sorts to the African Union (2). It simply has ceased all efforts to woo countries with a markedly leftist profile. Whether or not this is a wise choice, in view of the recent events in the Middle East – which have seen close allies of the US fare badly – is another matter (3), but it is hard to suppress a derisive snigger when confronted with the fairly entertaining but equally sterile spectacle of Morocco and Algeria competing in inducing Madagascar or Venezuela to confirm or retract their recognition of the “SADR”. Keeps them off the streets, I suppose.

(1) I assumed initially that the diplomatic ties between Morocco and Venezuela had been broken off, but I was apparently wrong: “Contactée par l’AFP, une source gouvernementale marocaine a précisé qu’il s’agissait seulement d’une fermeture de l’ambassade et non d’une rupture des relations diplomatiques avec le Venezuela“.

(2) Morocco left the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the African Union’s ancestor, in 1980, over the issue of the SADR’s admission.

(3) But the Russian option doesn’t seem de tout repos either…

9 Comments leave one →
  1. February 18, 2009 07:26

    I think it’s the SADR thing more than Israel that provoked this response. The timing was simply the result of bureaucratic delays – I don’t see the sense of closing the embassy in Venezuela simply because of solidarity with Israel!

    Besides, I have it on good source (from the Arab League) that what caused the Doha pro-Hamas meeting in mid-Jan not to be a full summit (because it did not meet the quorum) was the withdrawal of Morocco. Subsequently SaMajetski announced he would not be attending any of the summits, but Morocco’s boycott of Doha was crucial at that point to help out Egypt and Saudi. The Moroccans must have been torn – Qatar is a big investor too – but the geopolitics of the Doha meeting trumped other considerations in the end.

    So M6 already did his bit for Israel, Fatah and Egypt.

  2. February 18, 2009 14:34

    it is hard to suppress a derisive snigger when confronted with the fairly entertaining but equally sterile spectacle of Morocco and Algeria competing in inducing Madagascar or Venezuela to confirm or retract their recognition of the “SADR”. Keeps them off the streets, I suppose.

    Reading that, I giggled like a girl. Good post.

    as far as can be ascertained, only Algeria and Mauritania recognise the “SADR” – Syria has apparently ceased doing so, whereas Libya’s status is unclear

    I think both are unclear, and prefer to stay that way. Syria still has a POLISARIO office, which is apparently legal enough not to be raided by police, and they still accept Sahrawi students (but very few). In Libya, I don’t know if it’s an embassy or a POLISARIO office, but they do still accept a (larger) number of students. On the other hand, there’s been some statements leaning to the Moroccan side on visits and such (which is to be expected), and I haven’t seen anything similar from the Algerian side.

  3. Adil Radoini permalink
    February 22, 2009 18:34

    Dear Mr Ibn Kafka,
    my name is Adil Radoini and I am an Italian researcher involved in a euro-mediterranean survey project of the web funded by the European Commission wich the aim is to analyse all the web sources in the Mediterranean space that improve the reciprocal understanding of the mediterranean societies.

    I consider your site one of the most interesting experiences in the Maghreb area and I would like kindly ask you for an interview (a phone or a skype call) on your site.

    Please contact me as soon as you can to my email address

    I will be happy to answer to any further question.

    Thank You

    Best Regards


  4. March 29, 2009 10:05

    Hi. I read a few of your other posts and wanted to know if you would be interested in exchanging blogroll links?


  1. Ibn Kafka in English « Ibn Kafka’s obiter dicta - divagations d’un juriste marocain en liberté surveillée
  2. Morocco breaks off with Iran - some background and speculation « Maghreb Politics Review
  3. Morocco don’t worry, Palau stands behind you « Maghreb Politics Review
  4. Tripoli trip-up « Maghreb Politics Review
  5. O. Abdel Aziz in Tehran: More thoughts « The Moor Next Door

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