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What Mexico Really Needs…

14 April 2009

I may disagree with him, but John Ackerman, a Processo and Jornada columnist feels comfortable telling Barack Obama what Mexico really needs in the Los Angeles Times:

… Calderon’s most important failing has been his political isolation. Instead of reaching out to former allies on the political left — whom he joined with only a decade ago to end the rule of the old-guard Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI — he has depleted his political capital by relying exclusively on loyalists from his right-wing National Action Party. The result has been a dangerous resurgence of the PRI, as Calderon increasingly depends on cutting political deals with the old authoritarian party to get laws through Congress and assure stable governance. This is a worrisome trend because the neglect and complicity of PRI governments of the past are directly responsible for the current strength of Mexico’s drug cartels.

The Obama administration seems to be unaware of these deeper institutional issues. During her recent trip to Mexico, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton didn’t push Calderon on corruption control, human rights, freedom of the press, institutional reform or political reconciliation. She also went out of her way to cater to conservative constituencies. Her visit to Mexico’s principal basilica implied a nod to Calderon’s efforts to narrow the traditional separation between church and state. Her choice to travel to the city of Monterrey, home to the most powerful members of Mexico’s corporate oligarchy, also sent a clear signal about the priorities of the U.S. government.

Two thoughts:

1.  I’m not sure I would say it was “dangerous” to see a resurgence of the PRI, nor do I think the PRI was responsible for the growth of the cartels (which had a lot more to do with consumption north of the border,and pressure on Colombian cartels than the PRI). I expect the largest party (the PRI and PRI-Green coalition*) will sweep the 2010 Congressional elections, and I’m not sure that’s so bad. The left-left (as opposed to the sorta-left PRI) dismisses PRI and PAN as two sides of the same neo-liberal coin, with the same tendency to rely on clientage and calling them PRIAN. Be that as it may, the transfer of power between two relatively similar political parties is normal in democratic states.

2.  It’s worthwhile to remind the U.S. administration that Mexico is not “all drugs, all the time” and that there are several more pressing concerns in Mexico, and that Mexican policy issues are more than those expressed by Felipe Calderon.  But, Ackerman still seems to be of the mindset that its the U.S. perogative to drive the Mexican agenda, which it certainly isn’t.  If I were to give advice to the Obama Administration (and free advice is worth what you pay for it), it would be to listen to what is going on, and respond according to the U.S.’s own best interests — which includes a stable, prosperous trading partner which can buy U.S. goods, and next door neighbor.

— Keeping Mexican trucks out of the United States does not allow for the easy importation of U.S. goods, and is not in the U.S. interest.

— Agricultural subsidies prevent Mexican farmers from competing with corporate interests in the U.S., both forcing Mexican agricultural laborers to emigrate to the United States which is seen as a social and political problem for the U.S., and hurts U.S. consumers who pay twice for their fruit and vegetables… once through tax breaks and subsidies for the corporate farmers, and again through higher supermarket prices.

— Continued arms sales (both informally and through State Department license) fuel criminal activity which is said to “spill over” into the United States, fostering not social and political stability in the United States, creating a need for non-productive expenditures on prisons and policemen, instead of productive ones like schools and health care.

— Energy misuse creates a need for the United States to spend a fortune worrying about places like Iraq when there is still oil to be bought from Mexico and Canada.  Lowering oil consumption will, over time, mean less Mexican oil sales, but if Mexico needs “help” with anything, it’s with developing its alternative energy industries, which will, in turn, also supply the United States.  AND… more Mexican energy sources will mean more consumer use in Mexico, which will mean more U.S. imports.  In the short run, the Mexican auto industy builds more energy efficient cars than the same companies north of the border.  Mexican plants can, as U.S. plants retool and redesign, fill an important U.S. need.

— Staying out of Mexican political and social movements will also benefit the United States in the long term.  There are always going to be dissident movements in Mexico (and in any normal country), but favoring one side over another (as in the 2006 Presidential election) delays changes, but doesn’t stop them.  WHEN (not if) change comes, people will remember who stood in the way.  Mexicans have long memories, and a mistrustful, resentful neighbor is not in the U.S. interest.

* David’s right… the PRI itself is the largest single party, but counts on the Greens as partners in the Chamber, and often runs a fusion ticket with them.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 17 April 2009 12:30 am

    The PRI-Green coalition – which is limited to only about 60 districts – will most likely win the most seats in the July 5 midterm elections, at the expense of the PRD. But the PAN has surged in recent polls thanks to the party president German Martinez assailing the PRI – mainly PRI local governments – for being supposedly soft on crime and not willing to fully embrace the war on organized crime. His campaign is perhaps underhanded, but it’s working. (Think PAN negativity kneecapping AMLO in 2006. That’s what’s happening now – and the PRI has not launched an effective counterattack.)

  2. Habika permalink
    18 May 2010 9:45 pm

    the PAN has surged in recent polls thanks to the party president German Martinez assailing the PRI – mainly PRI local governments – for being supposedly soft on crime and not willing to fully embrace the war on organized crime.

    • 18 May 2010 10:45 pm

      Was this comment somehow lost in the space-time continuum? German Martinez hasn’t been PAN party president since August 2009… and no one thinks PAN is doing well at present. Witness it’s losses in the Yucatan elections last Sunday.

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