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President George W. Bush's decision to make his first Presidential trip abroad a visit to Mexico highlights the deference the Bush Administration has been paying to Vicente Fox and his Boris Yeltsin-like glamour. Bush's desire to build a special relationship with the new Mexican government means that Fox's formidable Foreign Secretary Jorge G. Castañeda deserves closer inspection than he has so far received. "Castañeda is widely credited with advising the conservative Fox to push the United States harder for immigration preferences and monetary aid for Mexico," wrote Lisa J. Adams of the Associated Press.
into Castañeda can be found in his 1995 book The
Mexican Shock: Its Meaning For the U.S.
In it, Castañeda called on America not only to
legalize Mexican illegal immigrants, but also to
give these aliens the right to vote in
California elections. (Click here
to read his chapter containing this proposal.)
professed concern that Mexican immigration is
"directly linked to the
'de-democratization' of California
society." That a large fraction of
California's Mexican residents cannot vote
because they are not American citizens leads, he
wrote, to "electoral apartheid." He
complained, "This could be named the
Richard Riordan syndrome: How did the most
cosmopolitan, tension-ridden, socially and
racially diverse city in the United States elect
a white male Republican millionaire over the age
of fifty as its mayor in 1993?"
a very interesting question. Personally, though,
we would also want to ask these other
How did Los Angeles, a city that has never been more than 15% black, elect my old boss Tom Bradley, an African-American, to five terms as mayor?
Putting aside the question of how Richard Riordan, the grandson of an Irish Republican Army soldier, ends up constantly being called the "Anglo" mayor of Los Angeles, how did Mexico, a nation of mostly short brown people, elect as President Vicente Fox, a 6'-6" grandson of an Irish-American from Cincinnati?
And while we're at it … How has Jorge G. Castañeda consistently gotten away with the most whiplash-inducing changes of partisan allegiance since the French diplomat Talleyrand served under the Ancien Régime, the Revolution, Napoleon, the Bourbon Restoration, and the July Monarchy?
a brief history of Castañeda's partisan
Jorge G. Castañeda is the son of Jorge Castañeda, the anti-American Foreign Secretary during President Lopez Portillo's luridly corrupt reign (1976-1982). The first Foreign Secretary Castañeda was, of course, a member of the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The son acted as an informal adviser to his father.
The younger Castañeda made a career for himself as a Marxist college professor. He belonged to the Mexican Communist Party for a time during the Seventies. (Click here for an interview with him promoting his 1997 book on Che Guevara). He backed the leftwing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) in 1988 and 1994.
Yet, he continued to maintain his extremely intimate connections with the Mexican power elite. His books recount numerous private luncheons with President Salinas and other PRI caudillos.
In 2000, however, Castañeda turned his back on the PRD and its long-suffering but hopelessly dour candidate Cuauthémoc Cárdenas, and dramatically threw his support to Fox of the rightwing National Action Party (PAN). He is now "loathed" by his former allies on the left, according to reporter Susan Ferriss.
Talleyrand's blatant opportunism, he was often
an effective advocate of France's national
interests. In Castañeda's first big splash on
the world stage, a joint press conference with
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on January
30th, the flexible Mexican showed he might
indeed be a worthy successor to Talleyrand's
mantle. Castañeda asserted Mexico's demands
that America weaken its anti-illegal immigration
and anti-drug-smuggling policies with such
confidence that he made it appear as if Mexico
was the world's only superpower. In turn,
General Powell behaved as if the United States
of America was a Third World supplicant fearful
of offending its mighty neighbor. (Click
for a transcript of the remarks.)
Yet the new Foreign Secretary has a potential Achilles' heel. Ambrose Bierce defined diplomacy as "The patriotic art of lying for one's country." During his long previous career as a pundit, however, Castañeda had a habit of occasionally telling harsh truths about his country. He has left a paper and Internet trail of frank observations that offer ammunition to sophisticated American critics of the Bush policy of appeasing Mexico.
Consider these admissions by Castañeda:
- In 1995, he wrote in The Atlantic Monthly that the Mexican elites in government, business, and intellectual life are quite white and becoming whiter. He should know. The Princeton and Paris-educated Castañeda, who is considered a notorious snob by Mexican reporters, looks to be about as white as actor Judd Hirsch, whom he rather resembles. (See my article "Importing Mexico's Worsening Racial Inequality.")
- He has implied that Mexico's ruling class needs immigration as an outlet to prevent the duskier classes from trying to overthrow them. "For Mexico, emigration has also served several purposes, some of them undeniably perverse … it has provided an 'exit' for those who could have a 'voice,' … thus helping to perpetuate the authoritarian nature of the Mexican political system."
his argument that America should let aliens vote
in non-federal elections sounds to American ears
more like a strong case for immigration cutbacks.
Here are excerpts from Castañeda's essay:
- "First, the undocumented or illegal nature of much of the flow [of immigrants from Mexico] runs counter to the legalistic nature of a society [America] that has little else to hold it together beyond the belief in and devotion to the rule of law. … [T]he very idea of countenancing an ongoing, widespread, and flagrant violation of legality contradicts the myths and needs of American ideology."
- "Second, … broad-scale undocumented immigration in California functions as a progressive income tax. … Because migrant workers' incomes are lower than those of virtually the entire rest of society, Mexicans in California pay less tax in relation to their income than others."
- "Mexicans in California also use many of the services financed by taxes - such as public schools, and public transportation and housing (when it exists) - more than most other segments of society."
- "In California today, the upward mobility achieved by previous migrants may no longer be possible. … Mexican immigrants are disproportionately represented in the bottom tier of society; and because their numbers are constantly replenished from abroad, even upward mobility does not reduce the size of the poor, Mexican-born share of California's population."
- "It is true that Mexicans have been far more reluctant to seek naturalization than previous immigrants to the United States. … Moreover, Mexicans who acquire U.S. citizenship continue to be informed by their own political traditions: elections and other political endeavors are viewed with a complete sense of futility."
- "The people who vote and bear the tax burden [in California] are also those who least use or consume the goods and services funded by taxes: public education, public health care, public transportation, government-funded job training and so on."
- "Inevitably, these taxpayers want to pay less in taxes for things of little direct use to them, while those who do use them, pay little tax and don't vote in sufficient numbers to force the others to pay more tax."
Judging from these (admittedly sharply edited) excerpts, if this
Mexican Foreign Secretary gig doesn't work out
for him, there will always be a job open for
Castañeda as a columnist for VDARE!
Seriously, though … Secretary Castañeda is a Mexican patriot. That's
why the obvious solution implied by his analysis
- that America should crack down hard on illegal
immigration - was not the one he ultimately
offered. No, as an honestly partisan advocate of
Mexico's interests, he recommended:
George W. Bush, The Wall Street
Journal Editorial Page, and other GOP
enthusiasts of mass immigration should note
carefully what Castañeda expects Mexican
immigrants would do with their votes:
If fate had made Castañeda an American patriot, however, there can be
little doubt, based on his hard-headed
evaluation of Mexico, that he would be working
diligently to defeat the Fox administration's
immigration policy offensive against America's
But what excuse do Bush and Powell have?
February 15, 2001