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Calderon and matters Mexican

A guest post by Verity

Conservative forty-two year old Felipe Calderon won the presidency of Mexico last year with the slenderest of majorities – just under 1% in a heavily supervised recount. His opponent, Andres Obrador, the Evita Peron des nos jours who has built his career working for “social justice” - meaning wealth transfers for Mexico’s admittedly millions of uneducated disadvantaged - reacted by threatening to set up an alternate government. He also swore to disrupt the Inauguration ceremonies on 1 December last year, and indeed, he could have mobilized at least one million people, many of them armed, to do so.

Calderon, the outgoing conservative President Fox and other senior members of the PAN (National Action Party), knowing the damage such disruption of the swearing-in could do to Mexico’s image overseas, and the damage it could do domestically in light of the tiny majority, arranged for President Calderon to be sworn in, in a secret ceremony, at one minute past midnight on 1 December, 2006. It was a legitimate ceremony, with well-respected witnesses, the most important of whom was President George W Bush’s father, President Herbert Walker Bush. The presence of Mr Bush signalled a drive to greater unity with Mexico and, obviously, he was there with his son’s blessing.

This ceremony meant that if Obrador tried to pull anything during the official Inauguration later that day, Calderon was already chief executive of the country and could order out the military. And would. The man is not a ditherer.

President Fox, Mexico’s first ever conservative chief executive, had adopted a softly, softly approach to civil disorder, devoting himself to developing a capitalist infrastructure in a country that had none. He was criticized for not being confrontational enough, but I think he didn’t want to frighten the voters, new to conservative theory, off. So Mexico had six years of stunning growth, but with civil disorder, mainly due to powerful drug interests, in a few areas.

Calderon, who has two Master’s degrees, one from the Instituto Tecnologico Autonomo de Mexico and the other from Harvard University, and who speaks fluent English, is not as conciliatory as President Fox and has already ordered the military out on several occasions – the most notable being to Oaxaca, where unions and drug interests had paralysed the city’s sanitary department. There had been no garbage pick-up for three months. The effect of this in the tropical zone is unimaginable. Calderon wasted no time in ordering the military in with orders to shoot union officials if necessary, which indicates an astute grasp of the tenets of trade unionism.

Since Canada finally elected a conservative prime minister last year, the entire N American continent – around 440m people – is now governed by conservative principles. Calderon has pledged to President Bush that he will be an ally in the war on drug dealers, and he has already proved it.

Mexico and the US have problems on the border, but they are working together to solve these. (It doesn’t hurt, by the way, that President Bush’s sister-in-law – Florida governor Jeb’s wife – is Mexican and that his nephews and nieces are Mexican-Americans.)

NAFTA – the North American Free Trade Association brought in under President Fox – has been a powerful engine for economic development. Drive into a Wal-Mart, or Home Depot parking lot in a Mexican city and you would think you were in the United States with row upon row of shiny new cars and full shopping trolleys.

Capitalism and conservative management are working. A friend tells me that as little as 10 years ago, it was against the law to criticise the Mexican government, and anyone heard doing so would be arrested. Today, anyone can voice any opinion they like about the government.

Who would have dreamed, seven years ago, that a Mexican president would win an election in 2006 by promising “to take Mexico further into the global economy”? When President Calderon leaves office, that will be 12 years of conservative government. That means an entire generation of young Mexicans who have never known anything but capitalism and conservative government.


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Blogger Croydonian said... 8:29 pm

Verity has my sincere thanks for her thoughtful and informative review of the Mexican political scene.  

Anonymous David Allen said... 9:09 pm

C, your output is always excellent, but this 'guest post' idea is a great one (and 'No', I am not angling for my own slot!). There must be people out there who do not have the time/ material to maintain their own blog, but who can muster the occasional well-informed and insightful post, which really deserves the exposure that an established and popular blog like your own can give.
V, Mexican politics is too-little covered in the UK _ except where it serves a Guardianista agenda, like the bleatings of Mr Obrador. Fascinating post _ and it makes me glad that I have taken up learning Spanish! (thw world needs more sane capitalist bolt-holes lined up for those of us chafing under the yoke of New Labour and the EU).  

Blogger Croydonian said... 9:16 pm

David - I was thinking that I might extend the idea and offer guest slots to those of my regular posters who choose to be blogless, being the literate, insightful - and sound - people that they are. Your good self would naturally be in that number, along with Nick Drew and Hatfield Girl.  

Blogger Peter Hitchens said... 9:36 pm

Verity you neglected to mention that Canada , Mexico and The USA have been dragged into a north American version of the EU without the consent of the people.
The Bushes are gangsters/bag carriers for an elite.
I disagree with you , however , thanks for taking the trouble, you are one of the most entertaining and erudite "bloggers" online.
It amuses me to see all this talent out there going to waste when I compare it to the MSM dross.
If only the Hitch were intelligent enough to bring some of that talent together to build a profitable online forum for the exchange of conservative ideas.
With some smutty "jokes" provided by myself.  

Anonymous verity said... 10:05 pm

PHitch - I don't believe the NAFTA will go the way of EFTA. The Americans are not into empire building. Look at their history. They could have conquered the world by now had they had the drive. But they are not imperialists.

What NAFTA has done is take the pressure off the border. Yes, there are still unskilled illegals getting into the US, but skilled workers can now find work in Mexico, thanks to all the American factories manufacturing down here at a fraction of the wage cost in the US. And these goods can be shipped across the border without tariffs, meaning the American consumer gets high quality goods at a comparatively low price. NAFTA has been a very good deal for both sides.

In addition, I don't think the Mexicans would have the faintest interest in becoming part of the US. In fact, there are groups dead set on taking bits of the US "back" into Mexico. (They have a strange fantasy that the US was populated with Mexicans before the Americans came.) By and large, Mexicans are very pleased to be Mexicans.

I could be wrong, of course, but I think NAFTA will stay NAFTA and not evolve into anything sinister, like the EUSSR.

In fact, President Calderon does not speak English in public engagements, even when entertaining an American. He has said very firmly that although Mexico's located in N America, it is firmly part of Latin America.
You are mistaken PHitch, but thanks for the gruesome idea. It quite turned my stomach.  

Blogger Newmania said... 10:15 pm

Thats a great piece of writing Verity ,and all of it an education for me.

"If only the Hitch were intelligent enough to bring some of that talent together to build a profitable online forum for the exchange of conservative ideas."

HITCH you are a subtle as a tank.I have wondered about a sort of hive mind but such a thing would essentialy be a web magazine which is indeed a good area or at least current one.Web Material that people will willingly pay for is not an easy puzzle to solve though.  

Blogger Newmania said... 10:15 pm

Thats a great piece of writing Verity ,and all of it an education for me.

"If only the Hitch were intelligent enough to bring some of that talent together to build a profitable online forum for the exchange of conservative ideas."

HITCH you are a subtle as a tank.I have wondered about a sort of hive mind but such a thing would essentialy be a web magazine which is indeed a good area or at least current one.Web Material that people will willingly pay for is not an easy puzzle to solve though.  

Blogger Peter Hitchens said... 10:17 pm

Verity what was so "gruesome" about my idea?
Please enlighten me before I expose you as a man !
clifford (+:  

Blogger Praguetory said... 10:43 pm

Thanks very much for this Verity. I've only heard snippets up to now. This was a very useful overview.  

Anonymous verity said... 11:17 pm

PHitch: Who is Clifford and why is he smiling at me?

You don't think the EU is gruesome? I do!

Mexico is getting rich. Yes, of course, it has a long way to go, but joining NAFTA was a canny decision and it was economic and only tangentially political. Yes, there are very poor people - even poor people who put a begging cup out to your window at a downtown traffic light (but not as many as you might imagine). Away from the downtown area, you get the kids hired for the weekend, togged out in company logos, to force feed leaflets for the latest TelMex or cable TV deal through your window.

Noe school attendance is compulsory. Within a generation, all will eventually have skills that are marketable, even if they're low level skills. Again, this will take the pressure off the border.

NAFTA has also helped inculcate capitalist machinery into local services. Garbage collection, for example, is tendered for by private companies and they spend the entire year demonstrating that they are doing a good job in order to get their contact renewed. The city has no role other than to pay the agreed-upon bill. If a crew or a truck is down on any team, you'll hear them come round late in the evening, or even around 5:30 a.m. to keep the pick-up schedule.

Most of this is due to NAFTA and the introduction of capitalist thinking. Obrador is a dinosaur and should get over himself.  

Anonymous Geoff said... 12:06 am

Thank you Verity. This was a very interesting article about an area of the world I'm not as familiar with as I should be.

Let's see more of these 'guest posts' - great idea.  

Blogger Peter Hitchens said... 12:26 am

verity I do think that the EU is gruesome , same with the NAFTA and the Bush crime family.
I hope Clifford really is Mr Verity.  

Anonymous Colin said... 1:01 am


Thank you for providing us with new information about Mexico. I agree with you that the USA is more benign than other powerful states in human history. I happen to believe that the American people are responsible for the inhibitions of aggressive politics.

However, I am not so sure in regard to the political elite. For example, Zbigniew Brzezinski has published an interesting little book explaining the strategy of the US for world hegemony: The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives. He wrote that the US is the most powerful empire the world has ever seen, that the states in Europe and elsewhere are its vassals, that Eurasia is the largest landmass of the globe able to dominate the world, and that the US will remain the dominante power of the world as long as it is possible to prevent any other power from dominating the Eurasian continent. In other words, the US strategy is to rule the world by dividing Eurasia. Clearly, the EU has the opposite objective which explains the constant confrontations between the EU and the US.

According to libertarian American historians, the building of the US empire started with Lincoln's civil war and continued with expansions abroad engineered by Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and others.

Many conservatives in the US have similar views about immigration from Mexico than British conservatives about migrants from the Islamic world, e.g. Alien Nation: Common Sense About America's Immigration Disaster or VDARE or Pat Buchanan's The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization and his State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America, and finally The Minuteman - National Citizens Neighborhood Watch - Securing the American Border.  

Anonymous verity said... 1:29 am

PHitch - Who the hell is this Clifford and why is he/it posing as me? I already have my nomme de guerre. You are bonkers. Thank God you have a cat!

Colin - There is no "American empire" unless you are counting Guam. The Americans are not imperialists, otherwise they could have been so in spades. Canada's still Canada, a friendly neighbour to the north. Mexico's still Mexico, a friendly neighbour to the south. Both could have been conquered so easily if the Americans were so minded, but they are simply not.

That is what some people find difficult. The Americans don't want an empire. They just want the United States to have friendly and financially secure neighbours.

Hawaii and Alaska fought for years to get in. Alaska's oil is very handy, but I don't know how many pineapples Americans need.  

Anonymous Geoff said... 5:22 am

Verity, do you think that Obrador will fade from the scene and be replaced by a new generation or is he set to be the long-term opposition for the next few elections?  

Blogger Serf said... 8:42 am

Isn't capitalism in action and awesome thing to behold. It has the power to change everything. I am happy to hear that Mexico is at last benefiting from the invisible hand, after so long under the clunking fist.  

Anonymous verity said... 1:41 pm

Serf - Yes, I agree. Capitalism in action is awesome and changes lives for the better. Capitalism is the bedrock of civilised societies.

People(s) don't get rich through charity but through their own efforts. A capitalist-skewed government is not prescriptive, but creates the environment where people with ideas and/or energy can prosper.

This leads to Geoff's question: will Obrador fade away? As long as their are poor masses, there will be a politician busy exploiting them. His stature is diminished because he not only lost, but made such a fool of himself with his grandiose, stupid announcements that he was going to set up an alternate government. Nevertheless, he is still head of the poverty industry.

But his constituency will fall away from him little by little. Mexico has mandatory universal education now. As the very poor become literate and numerate, they become employable. I think - my personal opinion - this is the last couple of decades of the real poor. Mexico is booming and its economy will expand. There will be jobs of one type or another for all who can read and write.

So Obrador's constituency will have declined by the end of this decade and will continue to do so. In this sense, he will fade as a national politician, but not immediately. (In my opinion.)  

Anonymous hg said... 9:05 pm

The benefits of globalisation are unevenly distributed among the gainers though that's not an argument against globalisation, that's a discussion about distribution.

The absolute losers are the unskilled populations in developed countries who face entire populations of rising-skilled lower wage earners (like Mexicans) so '...promising “to take Mexico further into the global economy”?...' is precisely what will win elections in Mexico, as Verity remarks.

And Mexico is right next door to a developed economy with lots of poorly skilled/current high living standard globalisation losers. What is their government's best stance?

Globalisation cannot be stopped - it was only slowed by the cataclysms of the last century; competing with lower and lower wage rates fails because some workers even if they worked for nothing still would not be worth employing, it is as effective as competitve devaluation; which leaves reskilling as the only course because it will lift productivity over all, and make all better off.

Fascinating, Verity, we will see directed state investment to build educational and other social infrastructures in the US, to match capitalist globalisation policies next door.  

Anonymous verity said... 10:16 pm

Hatfield Girl, forgive me, but I'm not following your argument.

As more skilled workers become employed, they have more money to patronise local businesses and to hire other skilled help - as in labourers to renovate their houses. Everyone's boat goes up. Obviously, you already know this.

But this would take the pressure off the border.

There are around 30m illegals in the US - although that may be a conservative estimate. The US economy has absorbed them, but obviously the point will come when they don't need any more. (Or perhaps it won't. Americans are fiercely ambitious. Perhaps as each generation vacates the labouring class, they create a vacancy for more illegals.

By that time, the Mexican and American governments are planning that Mexico will have become a fairly developed economy in its own right and its workers won't have to leave - at least in the same numbers.

In the city where I live, small shops and restaurants have signs in their windows for sales assistants, cashiers, messengers. You get some beggars downtown,but as they haunt the tourist areas, I suspect they are professional beggars. But there are beggars who walk up and down streets ringing doorbells asking for money, and I think

Even in the villages way outside the city, there is work because many contractors get their labour from there and send their trucks out to pick them up each morning. Their children go to school by law and will move up the ladder. Some will go on to college.

What will be left will be the absolute losers. Obrador's support comes from the lower end - although I do know one man who works on computers and his wife works in a factory,who supports Obrador.

The lower end in Mexico is ... LOW. Here we are talking about the millions who have migrated to the edges of Mexico City (and Guadalajara) who have absolutely no hope of finding work. These are people who have never been inside even a corner shop in their lives, because those places are too expensive for them. They go (walk) to the market to buy one potato and two string beans and perhaps one small piece of meat on the turn.

This is the current tangle. These people's children, as far as I know, don't go to school. Probably their birth was never registered, unless the priest made sure that it was.

There is a huge Mexican middle and professional class now, and a working class that enjoys a regular income and has social security. As I wrote, the streets are full of late model cars - and some old bangers; Mexican mechanics are ingenius - lovely stores and international supermarkets. The very poor around the smaller big cities are getting absorbed one way or another. But about the millions in Mexico - I don't know. And I don't know that they have anything the Americans want.

Please let me hear your thinking.

Incidentally, Mexico has its own problems with illegals from Guatamala, who see Mexico as a land of milk and honey.  

Anonymous verity said... 12:42 am

PS - When I wrote in my third-last paragraph, "But about the millions in Mexico - I don't know.", I was referring to Mexico City.  

Anonymous hatfield girl said... 9:31 pm

Everything I know about modern Mexico I have learned from your posts. They interest me both particularly for their special understanding of a developing economy in a democracy and, more generally, because you note that it is globalisation that has been democratically endorsed in a country with very high levels of absolute and relative poverty, rather than a managed, ameliorative policy towards the economy administered by a 'left' government.

Globalisation is perverse in its effects on political choice in under-developed, developing, and fully developed economies. The first two groups embrace it whenever choice is offered to them; the last defends large sectors of the national economy by various protectionist means. Economic blocks do this too, the EU, the Russian Federation, the USA, while south and southeast Asia tend to favour fast globalisation as, it seems , does Mexico.
Any form of barrier set up against the tide of globalisation is a hidden welfare cost for the nation state (look at the UK) or economic block that erects it. If not met out of direct subsidy from the state budget, then it is a hidden consumer tax. Besides the expenditure on social welfare that appears in the state or block budget, there is a hidden welfare expenditure in the form of protectionism. Financed out of higher prices paid by consumers, this is the ultimate stealth tax that does not go into the state budget but is as if it were paid directly to producers by consumers.

There are high income, highly educated, ostensibly employed, but wholly unproductive welfare beneficiaries of this system who may hold their place in this generation but their children will not because of the anti-capitalist, anti-globalisation results of the political choices made in developed economies to defend privileged interests.

These democratically expressed choices in long-established advanced economies lead to low growth, low investment and widespread immiserization, both relative and absolute in the non-globalised hinterlands of economically developed states.  

Anonymous verity said... 1:58 am

HG - Yes, the fact that a conservative Mexican presidential candidate won an election - with however a slender majority - with a pledge to take Mexico further into the global economy interested me, too.

How did they, brought up on virulent socialism and a grudge mentality (before Prez Fox), get so sophisticated, in six short years?

I suggest the evidence of their own eyes.

The man who sold me my air-conditioning system and who supervised its installation was, in effect, installing a Chinese air-conditioner manufactured in Mexico in a Mexican home owned by an expatriate.

What's not to relate to?

The Mexican voted to continue relate.

Evidence is all around us in the big cities of Mexico. They see that McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Jaguar, BMW, Chrysler, Dodge, Honda, Subaru fuel employment and well-being. (No British retail companies except, surreally, C&A.)

Again, in Wal-Mart as an example, although there are other expat supermarket companies here, where employees get discount cards, which is good, they learn the drill for keeping customers.

The Mexican supermarket chains, which are OK and well-run, copy these techniques in order to survive.

The Mexicans have taken to capitalism like ducks to water.

I ask this genuinely, Hatfield Girl: is this good or are there negative effects? I'm not an economist. What is to be done about those left behind behind ... having migrated on foot to Mexico City and other large cities, swelled their populations and have a negative contribution, who can't read or write and are not numerate and live by begging?

Mexico is powering ahead, with intelligent management, but Obrador's constituency is huge. Of course, he is powerless to force change and as I wrote earlier, he's an Evita Peron. History.  

Anonymous hatfield girl said... 11:25 am

You say you're not an economist at your peril on here Verity. Was it City Unslicker, Prague Tory or Croydonian himself who remarked that those without economic understanding are condemned to understand nothing (or words to that effect)? Perhaps it could be said that understanding has an integral economic dimension, then I can slip under the wire.

Is globalisation unstoppable? In any reasonably stable world, yes. Consider that in the last century it took the Russian revolution, the 1929 crash and subsequent Depression,hyperinflation in Germany, the rise of fascism and nationalism, the second world war (and perhaps the first), even to bring the share of world exports on world income down from 8% to 4% and by 1970 it was back where it was in 1914, and has been growing steadily ever since to a current 27% .

I'm taking globalisation as a given.

Is it a good thing? Blair should have said : Distribution, Distribution, Distribution. It's good for efficiency, but the distribution conferred by economic factors is unacceptable to the losers first of all, and then to those who, while gaining, feel they have not gained enough.

Absolute losers are in surprising categories, and gainers (as you have shown) are very quick on the uptake about their current and potential position.

Would you mind if we moved onto a rather more familiar (to me) economy if you wanted to think about this more? I can offer the transition economies of Europe (positively bursting with insights for globalisation and its consequences), or the UK (positively oozing with loathing over the last 10 years of ignorant incompetence and self-seeking, statist damage inflicted on the lives of us all).  

Anonymous verity said... 3:42 pm

HG - Yes, by all means let's widen it to talk about the emerging European economies as well. I know nothing about them, but would be interested in learning something.

In the context of globalisation, I would like to add one thought: Globalisation is a good thing and I look forward to the world enjoying its benefits. But it will only ever be driven by three regions. These are regions with a long history of inventiveness - both in real things, like gun powder and nuclear submarines, etc, and methodology. These regions are, the Anglosphere, China and India.

My grand idea is that Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada apply to become states of the United States. This will give us the bulk to counterbalance China and India, both of whom I believe will enjoy a benevolent partnership with us and each other.

Over to you - and anyone else who wants to join in - Hatfield Girl. I'll be interested in your thinking.  

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