HispanicVista Columnists

Watching Damage Control In Mexico

By Richard N. Baldwin T.

27 February 2005

    We went through the flap over the travel warning from the US State department concerning public security advice for US tourists in the northern border area. And the Mexican foreign ministry screeched loudly.

     Then came the revelation that the drug cartels had penetrated the travel office of the Mexican presidency. While the administration tried to downplay this, President Fox himself admitted that there was an official who had been removed and arrested for being on the take from the drug people. Now why would the drug people be interested in the travel plans of Fox?

     In the middle of the week of 13 Feb, 17 people had been found that had been executed in the state of Sinoloa. These seemed to be all drug related killings, and the war seems to be moving further south. Six weeks into this year, the toll of drug killings reached 127.

     After the federal government used the army to take control of México's drug cartel controlled federal prisons President Fox said that he would unleash the "Mother of all wars" against the drug cartels. In the meantime, human rights observers state that the drug people run over half of the state prisons.

     On 17 Feb the commissioner of the northern border affairs, Arturo Gonzalez, resigned. The reason? Out of frustration because of lack of support from the federal administration to address the region's problems.

     And we wonder why many in the US want a triple 30-foot high fence totally sealing off the border?

     Now another flap is starting. Speaking to the US congress, CIA director Porter Goss said that a number of Latin American nations present potential areas for "instability" and called them "potential flashpoints". México was one of them. One of the daily newspapers here ran a headline "México unstable, according to the CIA!" This time the Secretary of the Interior, Santiago Creel, joins the fray. He comments "We know that (the CIA) is frequently mistaken and makes erroneous decisions. . . ".

     While we all know about the botched analysis that the CIA (and others) made in the lead up to the Iraq war, I am not sure that "frequently mistaken" is correct.

     The CIA was saying that the already started presidential political campaign for 2006 is "likely to stall progress on fiscal, labor and energy reforms". My comment? What took the CIA so long to figure this out? And they forgot to mention the rest of the list of promised reforms (legal, law enforcement and public safety) that concern the people of México. We all know that these issues are now dead in the water for the remainder of this administration. The administration is now in a terminal case of denial. We should point out to Mr. Creel that the CIA was reporting to the US congress on international situations of concern to that congress. He was not "interfering in Mexican affairs". Just bringing the US congress up to date as is his job.

     Now we are seeing the death of another reform, labor reform. Labor reform is needed for both sectors (employers and the workers). But it seems like this one is doomed too. According to Human Rights Watch (an independent non-governmental organization specializing in human rights abuses) while adding protection to the employers, the proposal, known as the Abascal project, weakens worker protection rights. While the UN report of 2003 covering Mexican human rights recommends increasing the "freedom of association in the workplace", the Abascal project does just the reverse. This points to a return of the former government supported single corrupt union that Mexican workers were forced to join. Many of the "secret vote" provisions now in force would be scrapped.

     This proposal will go the same way as the double attempt of the administration to do fiscal reform on the backs of the poorest by adding the 15% IVA (national sales tax) on food and medicine. This one won't fly either.

     I feel the CIA's analysis of the near future of México is correct. Demonstration time is coming up (and in fact has started). While the government is in a steadily deepening state of paralysis. And more and more people feel that their needs are being ignored.

     Instead of trying to move real reform, Fox recently spent time abroad in a series of North African countries, smiling and signing free trade agreements. (México has more free trade agreements than any country in the world already.) This is on a par with the recent FTA with Iran (for Persian rugs?). Or was he hiding from the druggies?

     Modern México does permit the people to peacefully demonstrate. At least they have that alternative. But it sure is sheer hell on the traffic here.
Richard N. Baldwin T., a HispanicVista.com (http://www.hispanicvista.com/) contributing columnist, lives in
Tlalnepantla, Edo de México. E-mail at: R1041643422@aol.com