The Emissary from Washington

Jennifer Granholm’s portfolio included a comprehensive profile of Ricardo Monreal Avila, described as an adviser and middleman for political interests in connection with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s “fourth transformation.”

Those who have interacted with her refer to a warm smile, but also a steely gaze. Many are unfamiliar with her background as an activist, a sharp-tongued debater, a relentless former prosecutor who forged her skills at Harvard. After meeting with her, people get the sense that she is at the beginning of long battle, that she knows who her opponents are and that she has carved out alliances.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm knows how to dominate a situation. She got her start as an actor in Hollywood; was an editor and analyst at CNN; and campaigned for three presidential candidates in a career marked by two successive terms as the first woman governor of Michigan. On her trip to Mexico, she met with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, as well as three major candidates seeking to succeed him: Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard; Senate Majority Leader Ricardo Monreal Avila and Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo.

According to reports circulating among the U.S. diplomatic corps, one of the showpieces of the trip was a meeting with legislative leaders in both houses of the Mexican Congress. The Mexican Senate leader will have the ultimate word on approval of the energy sector reforms being pushed by the López Obrador government. Sources said that Granholm’s portfolio included a comprehensive profile of Monreal Avila, describing him as a political adviser and middleman for López Obrador’s “ fourth transformation.” Officials in the U.S. Embassy led by Ambassador Ken Salazar called Monreal Avila “the Broker.”

More than a few people say the smart bet is that little more than a bland press release will come of these meetings. Mexico will have to absorb the blow from the official U.S. statement alluding to “real concerns with the potential negative impact” that Mexican energy reform will have on U.S. investments.

They would have been able to understand Granholm better if they had studied her background. Her grandparents were Scandinavian; she was born in Canada; and she is a naturalized U.S. citizen, now living in California. While she was a student in Paris, she worked with a student network secretly providing warm clothing to Jewish communities in the Soviet Union. She has campaigned against the loss of U.S. jobs abroad and is an outspoken advocate for renewable energy. The new mission of this emissary from Washington has to do with the last issue; her mission as a hard-line negotiator for the Biden administration but also for her country’s energy companies.

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