WASHINGTON – He fought in the Vietnam War, worked for the last five Republican presidents and now Al Zapanta has returned to politics as one of the Hispanic advisers closest to President-elect Donald Trump and wants to be his ambassador to Mexico.
With more than 30 medals, including a Purple Heart, Zapanta is famous for saying what he thinks and being unafraid of criticizing Trump's team for not including any Hispanics in top government posts and he also doesn't hesitate to defend the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement, which the mogul has promised to revise or cancel.
Zapanta is, in fact, being discussed to replace the current US envoy to Mexico, Roberta Jacobson, a position for which Alberto Gonzales, who served as President George W. Bush's attorney general, is also in the running.
"That is the position, that of US ambassador in Mexico, in which I feel I can have a positive influence," Zapanta told EFE in an interview.
He said that's the only post that would interest him because he has already had the experience of working inside the governments of five Republican presidents, including as head of the Reserve Forces Policy Board from 2002-2004 under George W. Bush.
He was one of the first last summer to join the Hispanic committee tasked with advising Trump and in September he went onstage with a group of war veterans to lend his support to the magnate at his Washington hotel in the old post office building.
"My priorities will be those of the president," said Zapanta when asked about what his objectives would be as US envoy to Mexico.
He defends NAFTA, although he believes that he could help to modify some of its elements thanks to his good relationship with Mexico's economy secretary, Ildefonso Guajardo, with whom he cooperated when the latter worked at the free trade treaty office in the Mexican embassy in Washington.
Regarding Trump's proposal to build a wall along the US-Mexico border to halt illegal immigration, Zapanta said that it would be "very difficult" to put such a structure along the banks of the Rio Grande.
Therefore, he proposes using drone overflights along the border river, while maintaining the portions of the existing wall along parts of the border.
As envoy, Zapanta would also have to deal with cancellation of the Deferred Action program, which has halted the deportations of some 750,000 undocumented migrants who arrived in this country as young children.
During the election campaign, Trump said that they would be deported, along with the 11 million other undocumented migrants living in the United States, but after he won the Nov. 8 election he adopted a more ambiguous tone and said that his decision on the matter would make people "happy and proud."
"Those young people have lived here, gone to school, graduated, are working, paying their taxes. They're not going to be sent back. I'm not going to defend that and (Trump) is not going to do it ... It's physically impossible," Zapanta said.