May 17, 2006
Only six weeks remain until the elections in Mexico, and the anxiety levels are rising sharply on all sides. The rising level of violence and disorder south of the border may hurt the candidate of the National Action Party, Felipe Calderon. He had enjoyed a slight lead until now. It seems odd that Mexicans would elect a president from one party while choosing a Congress from a different party, but that has happened many times in the United States. The perception that the government is losing control under Fox may help the candidacy of Roberto Madrazo, of the Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI) that used to dominate Mexico. See CNN.com. The PRI could attract support by reminding voters of the comfort and stability they enjoyed the old days, an appeal much like the Communists tried to do as the Soviet Union was collapsing.
Leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (a.k.a. "AMLO") declared that illegal immigration to the United States is "Mexico's disgrace," blaming President Fox for failing to create enough job opportunities in Mexico. See Reuters. Well, he's got it half right. The shortage of job openings could be rectified in the short term by old-time government jobs programs always favored by socialists and New Dealers, but those kinds of jobs could not be sustained for long. Creating stable jobs in the private business sector would require much more free market policies than even the conservative Fox has dared to push. What they need in Mexico is some real bipartisanship, or even tripartisanship, to reform their decaying, stagnant system. As long as Mexicans remain "addicted" to jobs in America, however, there won't be much incentive for politicians to face the truth. At any rate, AMLO's statement is a welcome breakthrough in political discourse in Mexico, daring to admit that the problem is of their own making.
I repeat my contention that the problem in U.S.-Mexican relations is not that we are too strict or too loose with immigration, but that our national policy is too incoherent, with glaring inconsistencies between Federal and state law enforcement. That leaves Mexicans and others from Latin America in a state of confusion, not sure whether to fear us or heap derisive scorn upon us. Lately, the latter tendency has prevailed.
"Pro Cynic" (via Instapundit) speculates that Hugo Chavez is behind the candidacy of AMLO, and if he wins on July 2 Chavez will be in control of a huge portion of U.S. oil supplies, and in position to wreak even greater havoc on our borders. It's hard to imagine that a great, proud country like Mexico would permit itself to become a puppet of Venezuela, but cooperation between AMLO and Chavez would creat huge problems for us. He connects this to ANSWER's high-profile role in the illegal alien protests, which he believes is aimed at provoking an anti-immigrant backlash that would galvanize their supporters and unleash something like a civil war in our cities.
The death toll from that virtual insurrection that shook Sao Paulo for several days has risen past 150, most of whom were gang members. Human rights activists are complaining that the police engaged in revenge, killing suspects indiscriminately, but most of the public seems to be on the side of law and order. As elsewhere in Latin America, police and prison guards aren't paid very well, which leads to cynicism and corruption. There are suspicions that the governor cut a deal with the First Capital Command gang, because the violence ended abruptly not long after negotiations ended. See CNN.com.
Going through my slides from Guatemala yesterday reminded me of an incident that left a big impression on me, and I thought I should share it. The Indian people in that country are noted for their wonderfully colored apparel, and one day I was about to take a picture of a young woman who was wearing a beautiful dress and serape. Before I could click, however, a male friend or relative of hers held up his arms to block the view, expressing resentment toward me. I think I offered them some money, but that wasn't it. In some cultures, taking a photograph is considered a rude invasion of someone's privacy, and ever since that day I have been very reluctant to take pictures of people when I travel to Latin America. That explains all the photos I take of buildings, birds, and scenery, but relatively few closeups of human beings.