Mexico begins to bridge policy gap with US on Salvador, other issues

''There really is little dispute between Mexico and the United States - even over Central America.'' The words are those of a senior Mexican official, one who is very close to President Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado, as he outlined Mexican foreign policy in 1983 in an extensive interview here.

The new President, who took office Dec. 1, intends to soften tensions in Mexican-US relations, lessen areas of disagreement with the US, and look for ways to ease the trauma of Central America, the official indicated.

Particularly on El Salvador, Mexico and the US do not appear as far apart as they were last year when Mexico was calling for a negotiated settlement. At that time Mexico saw the leftist guerrillas as representatives of the will of the Salvadorean people, and the government of then-President Jose Lopez Portillo warned Washington against military adventurism, such as supplying the Salvadorean Army with arms.

The government of de la Madrid seems friendlier toward the US than its predecessor.

''We have got to work together (with the US) to find ways to bring peace to Central America and to prevent extremists from winning on the battlefields or by brute force,'' the high Mexican official told the Monitor. ''Moderate governments probably would be best for all concerned.''

Not all Mexicans, perhaps not even all the members of the de la Madrid administration, would agree with this official's views, but there could be no mistaking his message.

There already have been changes in Mexican foreign policy since de la Madrid came to office. In some cases, the changes may be less of substance than of style and approach.

Mexico still is opposed to US military adventurism in El Salvador, but it now appears less enthusiastic about the guerrillas - to the point of talking, as the official did, about ''needing to listen to the government of El Salvador and its views.''

The reasons for this apparent shift:

* Foremost, de la Madrid is not cut from the same cloth as Lopez Portillo. Both are inheritors of a political tradition that is often critical of the US, but de la Madrid, who studied at Harvard University, is clearly friendlier with the US than many other Mexicans and wants to mute past antagonisms.

* Mexico's worsening economic plight, with high foreign debts and declining purchasing power, has turned much Mexican attention away from foreign issues to the home front. There is also a deepening worry that nearby foreign problems could have adverse effects on Mexico's domestic economy.

* Also worrisome to many Mexicans is the possible spinoff effect that a victory for leftist guerrillas in El Salvador might have on Mexico. There is some acceptance in Mexico of a domino theory in Central America. If El Salvador fell to the leftist guerrillas, some worry that the scales could be tipped in the same direction in neighboring Guatemala.

Guatemala and Mexico share a long, undefended frontier of moutainous rain forest through which the Indians of both countries move without much detection. So can others: guerrillas, perhaps, say Mexican officials.

On other issues of Mexican-US relations - illegal immigration, fishing disputes, trade problems - ''there is nothing of overriding importance that stands in the way of friendly ties,'' the Mexican official said.

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