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A rising tide… Nafta, narcos and negative reviews

5 October 2010

Mexico’s stocks, bonds and currency are beating the U.S. and Brazil for the first time since 2002, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Dollar debt issued by Mexico is returning 16 percent in 2010, more than the 14 percent for Brazil bonds and 8.8 percent for U.S. Treasuries, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Bank of America Corp.

The IPC stock index is up 5.3 percent, compared with a 2.8 percent advance for the Standard & Poor’s 500 and 2.4 percent gain for the Bovespa. The peso rallied 4.5 percent against the dollar this year, surpassing the Brazilian real’s 3.2 percent increase.

“The reality is that you will continue to see companies making long-term investments,” said Guillermo Osses, who helps oversee $50 billion in emerging-market assets at Newport Beach, California-based Pacific Investment Management Co., the world’s biggest bond fund manager. “We still have significant exposure in Mexico.”

(Tal Barak Harif and Jonathan J. Levin, Bloomberg, 4-Oct-2010)

I happened to look at the Amazon reviews of my book, Gods, Gachupines and Gringos. There is a highly negative review, which I don’t mind, since it’s obvious the reviewer was looking for some other kind of book.  The reviewer carped my book had “[l]ittle or nothing about the maquiladoras, the drug cartels, and the border issues”.

I only touched on the “drug war” in the last few pages (and maybe gave it half a sentence), since it doesn’t seem all that historically important, and I was writing a history. And — while I think the “drug war” (or, as I’ve called it “the U.S. proxy war on drugs”) is going to continue to rack up a body count, ultimately, it’s only meaning is going to be as another U.S. intervention in Mexican affairs.  Something I’ve decided to stop writing about regularly, since I want to leave the daily news to others, and look at historical and cultural trends.

So why am I talking about it now?  Bloomberg’s report was headlined “Mexico Boom Biggest in Americas as Drug Criminals Lose to Nafta”, as if everything in Mexico is a reflection of U.S. concerns.    First off, criminality is not an either/or proposition — “NAFTA v Drug dealers”:  the U.S. and Italian (to name but two) economies have flourished at various times despite major epidemics of criminality — or perhaps concurrently with growth in the crime sector:  crime, at least as a business, is no different than any other business, and — as Ronald Reagan (not someone I usually quote, though maybe it was John Kennedy, another right-winger by Latin American standards) said, “a rising tide lifts all boats”… including those carrying what seems to be a necessary Sinaloan agricultural commodities north of the border.

Secondly, I call the present military/police operations as a “proxy war” for a simple reason — it is.  The funding comes from the United States, the market is in the United States, and it is investors in the United States who are profiting both from actions against, and distribution by, the narcotics export gangs.  And, don’t forget, the reason so many Mexican work in that trade is that employment in traditional economic activities — especially in agriculture — were decimated by NAFTA.  The drug criminals wouldn’t exist without NAFTA:  if it is an either/or, it’s a wash.

My negative reviewer thought my book was “flip, glib and not up to date.”  OK, starting with the Ice Age and the crossing of the Bering Sea, it is hard to give more than a passing glance at any one time period, and perhaps I am a bit flippant about some events.  So?

In writing the history covering several millenia, one doesn’t get into more than footnotes when it comes to events which may have seemed significant at the time, but are more symptoms than conditions.  If the drug war has any meaning, with or without comparison to stock market reports, it may simply be that Mexico is enduring, and will continue to endure, the “drug war” being a temporary event and at most a footnote to a discussion of NAFTA.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Frank permalink
    5 October 2010 7:59 am

    Those damn Americans have forced the mexicans to kill, mutiltae and hang each other from bridges !!!

  2. Frank permalink
    5 October 2010 8:17 am

    I almost forgot to blame those damn Americans the political and police corruption in Mexico which has led the drug wars flourish. The Americans also to blame for mexico having an obesity problem.

    • 5 October 2010 11:40 am

      Um, actually there are those who identify one major culprit in the the obesity problem as the overuse of high-frutose corn syrup (as forced on Mexican industry by NAFTA regulations). Those people are called nutritionists and physicians…

      Of course, without the Americans buying narcotics, there wouldn’t be a narcotics industry to speak of.

  3. Dave permalink
    6 October 2010 12:44 pm

    Interesting comments. As I’m reading your detailed response to your reviewer, I find myself asking why you’re even bothering to respond to this guy. As a veteran reader of Amazon comments, I’ve seen the most insipid comments, like giving a poor rating to a product they couldn’t even open.

    Anyway, as always, good reading. I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time and enjoyed your insights into Mexico. I promise to buy and read your book as soon as I catch up with the pile I already have in front of me!

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