Monday, October 16, 2006
Mexico’s Future President Tours Latin America
By Allan Wall
During the first week of October, from the 2nd to
the 6th, Mexican President-elect Felipe Calderon made a whirlwind tour of Latin America.
It was an impressive itinerary. Calderon visited
Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Colombia, Chile, Argentina and Brazil.
The tour enabled the president-elect to develop regional contacts, which should stand him in good stead after taking
With Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, Calderon discussed
the problem of the drug trade, and with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva a possible joint venture between state
oil companies, Mexico’s Pemex and Brazil’s Petrobras.
And way down south in Santiago, Chile, Calderon encountered
two Mexicans who had shown up to protest him.
U.S. immigration policy was a constant topic of the
tour. In several of the countries Calderon bashed the proposed wall planned for the U.S.-Mexican border. At a summit in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Calderon and representatives of seven countries in the region condemned
This is typical of Mexican politicians however,
for whom bashing U.S. immigration policy is always a favorite topic. But Calderon
also discussed Mexican immigration policy, usually ignored by Mexican politicians.
In 2005, Mexico detained and deported over 240,000
illegal aliens from its own territory. Most of these deportees were from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, all three of
which are poorer than Mexico. (In Tegucigalpa, all three of those countries joined with Calderon to criticize the border wall).
In Guatemala, Calderon presented his vision for the
future of the Mexico-Guatemala border: “I want a border that unites Guatemala with Mexico, to open the way to brotherhood
between both countries, to categorically close it to drugs, weapons, and criminality – which is in the interests of
It’s an interesting proposal, but of course
there would be a lot of details to work out. The very concept of a “united
border” is problematic, since by definition a border divides nations. Therefore, any sort of “united border”
implies some sort of international union.
But at least Calderon deserves credit for taking
up the subject, usually ignored by Mexican politicians. But not being president
yet, it’s impossible to know how he will enact these proposals.
Does Calderon’s Latin American coming out tour
reveal a tilt toward the region in Mexican foreign policy?
In Guatemala, Calderon stated that, “My government
clearly understands that the human, cultural and historical calling of Mexico is with Latin America. We will be a government
that looks to all parts of the world, not a government trapped in the gaze toward the north [the U.S.A.], but a government
that looks clearly and decidedly toward the south [the rest of Latin America], which is our region, our identity, our root
and a good part of our future.”
And in Chile Calderon said that, “my government
will look clearly toward the south [i.e. the rest of Latin America], because I am a president (sic) with a profound Latin
American conviction and I know that Mexico, independently of its economic links and its position and history with the U.S.,
is a Latin American country and has to exercise and assume its responsibility in the regional equilibrium of Latin America.”
Calderon seems to be signaling here some kind
of tilt toward Latin America. But is this just public relations rhetoric or a
Culturally Mexico is part of Latin America, but economically
it is closely linked to the United States. Mexican trade with the United States
dwarfs that of Mexican trade with the rest of the world (including Latin America) put together. The North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, intensifies this trade relationship.
The mass immigration of the past few decades (and
the political maneuvering that goes with it) has produced a situation in which the majority of the Mexican population has
relatives living in the U.S.A.
If you look at a map you can easily see the geographical
challenge. Mexico has a long border with the U.S., almost 2,000 miles, but a short border with Guatemala and an even shorter
one with Belize (which is an officially English-speaking nation anyway).
Nevertheless, none of these factors prevent Mexico
from strengthening its relations with the rest of Latin America. And if that is truly an objective of Felipe Calderon, then
as president he ought to pursue it.
Allan Wall, a MexiData.info columnist, recently
returned from a tour of duty in Iraq. He currently resides in Mexico, where he
has lived since 1991. He can be reached
via e-mail at email@example.com.