March 28, 2006


Mexico, A Sleeping Giant Next Door (Pedro G. Cavallero, Safe Democracy)

As America’s attention follows the expansion of democracy to far-off corners of the world, somehow it disconnects from political developments unfolding much closer to home. Highly-scrutinized elections in the Middle East are constantly visible and nonstop reporting exposes the Byzantine play of alliances, fast-evolving scenarios, and candidates’ shifting allegiances. In contrast, electoral processes in Latin America receive sporadic coverage. However, most of the region’s democracies are far from fully consolidated. It was not long ago that almost all Spanish-speaking Americas were ruled by non-elected governments. From Mexico to Argentina, a broad spectrum of regimes colored the hemisphere, including highly-repressive juntas, cleptocratic dynasties, Stalinist-oriented guerrilla-clad cliques, and fraudulent one-Party semi-Gods.

During 2006, several Latin American countries will go to the polls to elect presidents, including America’s closest neighbor to the south. Six years after passing a major political test by dumping the Institutional Revolutionary Party’s (PRI) regime, Mexican voters will chose President Fox’s successor. In 2000, Mexico joined the fold of emerging democracies when discarding a system that Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa labeled as the “perfect dictatorship.” This time a politically exhausted president will be relieved from the burdens imposed by a long sexenio in office. The July 2 election may also provide closure to the democratic process’ “opening-up” phase initiated in 2000. In fact, the outgoing administration highlights one of its (otherwise scarce) achievements as having led the nation through a major political transformation, namely power alternation. However, whomever succeeds Fox will need to exhibit other accomplishments. And building a realistic, inter-dependent relationship with the United States should be at the top of the agenda. For this to happen, Washington should start sending the right signals. [...]

Since the passage of the NAFTA agreement, Mexico positioned itself as America’s second-largest trading partner (Canada being the first), unquestionably a major leap forward in the bilateral context. However, opinion-makers and policymakers alike fail to place American-Mexican relationships on a higher platform. This partnership also proves wrong those alarming voices advocating the building of fences in the border. In fact, there is no other nation whose internal dynamics (political, social and economic) would have such a direct and lasting impact on America’s daily life. This long-standing disconnect seems to be a resilient and deeply-rooted factor in U.S. foreign policymaking. Persistently, it forces Washington to look across the Atlantic (and far beyond) in search of tomorrow’s opportunities. Meanwhile, it prevents the U.S. from looking south and engaging with the hemisphere’s largest Spanish-speaking nation, where both undeniable challenges and enormous opportunities lay. In the meantime, a sleeping giant lays next door.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 28, 2006 10:14 AM

A Robert Cray reference. I'm impressed.

Posted by: Mike Morley at March 28, 2006 11:28 AM

One of the great American experiences is to walk from San Diego to Tijuana. All the more or less fictional things we obsess about on this blog (the national mythos, borders, the rule of law, the protestant ethic, G-d's special providence) become tangible.

Posted by: David Cohen at March 28, 2006 11:35 AM

Yes, David, and the San Diego Trolley will take you right to the sidewalk connecting the two cities:)

Take note, OJ: This is the only light-rail system in America that serves any real purpose.

Posted by: Brad S at March 28, 2006 12:26 PM

Why not just argue "preemption of a national Security Threat", invade, and make them a 51st state.

We can install Miguel Estrada as the first CPA head.

It would certainly clean up their government (a little bit, anyway)

Posted by: Bruno at March 28, 2006 1:11 PM

bill them (the mexican govt) for the costs of illegal immigrants.

Posted by: toe at March 28, 2006 1:24 PM

We drove into Mexico from Laredo to Nuevo Laredo west across the Mexican badlands to Guadalajara and south to Acapulco, east to Mexico City and back north again through Brownsville. There was grinding poverty everywhere. Within sight of the luxury hotels of Acapulco, there were people washing clothes in the brown waters of an almost dry river.

Along the highway from San Luis Potosi to the border, it's a moonscape, north of the border are giant irrigation units slowing watering vast acres of green farms. It must look like the Garden of Eden to the poor Mexicans who get that far.

The question that begs answering: How can Bush be blamed for this?

Posted by: erp at March 28, 2006 2:56 PM