Sunday, September 03, 2006

All posts were moved (11/2006) to

V. Fox -- seen the "right" way

I know I'll get some criticism for this, but not everyone at the is a raving lunatic reactionary. I make fun of all the time -- which is sometimes like shooting fish in a barrel. It attracts more than it's share of religious cranks, homophobes, racists and know-nothings. But, then, so do most ideological message boards -- and all message boards, for that matter. But cranks have their uses -- anybody with a real hangup on one or another issue is going to take the time to mine everything -- and anything -- for information. I skim through about one a week (sometimes once a day) looking for articles on immigration and/or Mexico... usually some "illegal alien" somewhere had a car accident and no insurance, but sometimes something more useful, or interesting. Hey, I'm a crank that way too. I've read more than my share of "fight the capitalist hegonemy, go AMLO!" posts from cranks in small (and not so small) ideological left-wing blogs -- written generally by folks who may know their Trostksy, but never have been anywhere near Mexico, or know anything about the Mexican political or economic system. I admit I was suprised to find in a forum I usually only visit for vicarious thrills -- or to find out what "the other side" is up to -- to run across the reasonable, logical "St. Jacques". Of course, we'll never agree on politics -- nor, I suspect -- on anything else. We had a fruitful "private message" exchange about the Zapatistas, when he mistakenly included them in the "Por el bien de todos" coalition of AMLO. "St. Jacques" experience has been in Columbia, where there has been an oddball "leftist" rebel group that sometimes sounds like the Zapatistas, but the issues are very different -- and, I don't see the Zapatistas as the "left", but as indigenous anti-modernists (i.e., reactionaries). "St. Jacques" sees AMLO as anti-democratic, I don't. I agree that Fox's 2000 election was a democratic success -- but think the transition has been a step backwards. And, I agree that Fox's economic program was semi-successful. I might disagree on the particulars (I think bringing in foriegn oil companies would be a disaster, for example), but he makes some good points, and gives Fox the credit for things I sometimes forget. Hey, I'm liberal enough to give a conservative a voice in here! With some slight editing (I ran together three message threads, moving the second above the first, and incorporating some explications he made in his third), "St. Jacques" produces a well-written, conservative's assessment of the Fox administation that's a rarity in the U.S., from the left or the right -- managing to accept Mexico on Mexican terms.
The administration of Vicente Fox has been far more honest in its intent and in its accomplishments than any of the PRI regimes which preceded it, and were all genuinely corrupt to their core. Vicente Fox was the first truly democratically-elected President of Mexico since the PRI organized Mexican politics into a one-party system in the 1930's. Fox has made some progress, especially in the handling of national government finances and the exercise of federal power over state and local governments. Not a lot of people know about the economic and fiscal successes of Fox's administration. Mexico had 0.2% negative growth in its GDP his first year in office, the most recent statistics say this year's growth to date is 5.5%. They had an inflation rate of 6.3% that has now been reduced to something just above 3%. Their national debt, not the annual deficit, has been reduced 20%, from about $50 billion (U.S.) to $40 billion. Poverty rates have declined, particularly in the rural countryside. Interest rates have dropped significantly. The purchasing power of the peso has grown in step with all of the aforementioned. When you compare these accomplishments with the absolute and near criminal mismanagement of Mexico under the PRI for the previous twenty years or so, the record is a very good one. And as for foreign investment, it has been flowing into Mexico for the last few years. Citigroup just bought out a Mexican bank, several other large foreign consortiums have opened up shop in Mexico, and the Mexican stock market, the Bolsa, which was put on a very tight leash by the Fox administration, has begun attracting capital at a very high rate over the past three years or so. Money sent to Mexico by immigrants to the U.S., whether the small number of legals or the great number of illegals, is the second largest source of foreign exchange for the country after oil revenues. But that flow of money has been constant, though growing slightly, over the past twenty-plus years which begs the question "why didn't the PRI governments do better when it constituted a greater percentage of their GDP than it does today?" And the money is a smaller percentage of Mexico's GDP today given the higher price for oil, which is actually more important in explaining Fox's success. The real story here is that for the first time in memory and increase in the price of oil was actually returned to the Mexican government, rather than being stolen by those in the PRI. However, Fox has been unable to tame Mexico's "crony capitalism," which is still a holdover from the years of PRI dominance. Mexico's banking and financial system is still top-heavy, with wealth concentrated in a small number of institutions. Access to capital is still very much dependent upon "who you know" rather than an independent assessment of your credit-worthiness. And then there are the state-run monopolies in the Oil and Electricity industries that are still a source of significant corruption among the state bureaucrats who run them. Kickbacks for job placement and promotions, bribes funneled into the right hands result in the awarding of contracts, and the outright purchasing of union agreements by their leaders, at times under terms contrary to the interests of their own rank and file, are all still a part of the way "business is done" in Mexico today. It is no longer possible to raid the treasury directly or to deposit public funds in private accounts, even if just to keep the interest, as was done under the PRI, which was due to Fox' – but it is not enough. Fox tried to address so many of these issues with the Mexican Congress (and I do give him credit for trying), but it was dominated by the PRI, bent upon sabotaging his reform program, and permitting them to approach the Mexican people in the elections this year as "the party who can get things done." It backfired on the PRI, because they were the really big losers this past July 2 and now find themselves demoted from the number one power in the Mexican national legislature, to the number three. I must confess that I am disappointed in the fact that Fox, the PAN and PRI Deputies and Senators, and others who could have made a difference did not stand up to the intimidation of the PRD last night when they occupied the rostrum in the Mexican Congress and prevented Fox from delivering his official Informe, or the "Government Report," which is similar to our "State of the Union Address" in this country. But as I read Fox's address, I detected a tone of conciliation and a larger call to Mexicans to step up and keep the social and political peace before the protests over the election and other conflicts take the country off the deep end. So in light of that observation I think I at least understand Fox's thinking in that a conciliatory message would not be well-received if its very delivery was predicated upon a physical confrontation on Mexican national television. I must say to everyone that the way all of this went down yesterday has caused me to sit down and reflect upon what may have been some miscalculation on my own part as to what is really driving events from the viewpoint of Fox and the federal government. And what I mean by this is that I may have underestimated the threat Fox and his administration perceive in conflicts outside of the presidential election controversy, creating a nightmare scenario that they may all come together as one. I refer specifically to the near-chaos that now exists in the southern Mexican states of Oaxaca and Chiapas, where two separate controversies raise the possibility of what is repeatedly referred to in the Mexican press as La Ingobernabilidad del Pais (The Ingovernability of the Country). In Oaxaca a teachers strike that began last May has morphed into a popular demand, which is approaching a popular uprising, for the ouster of the PRI Governor Ulises Ruiz, whose corruption and mismanagement of the state coupled with a strong police crackdown on demonstrators, has brought public life there to a complete halt. In neighboring Chiapas the recent gubernatorial election a few weeks back appears to be an obvious instance of election fraud -- real election fraud -- in that the PRD seem to have stolen the seat and their state electoral institute has validated it. I expect to see this election "annulled" (a possibility under Mexican electoral law) in the not too distant future and, whether this happens or not, someone is going to be very angry. There have already been some instances of para-military actions against the landless poor in Chiapas and the whole situation there is a veritable powder keg waiting to explode in my opinion. So right now I'm mulling all of this over in my head, because my mind is not entirely made up as to whether I should view the post-election presidential controversy in and of itself, or whether I should place it within the larger context of a possible and coming "ingovernability" of Mexico. I really need to think this one over.
"St. Jacques", in Free Republic


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