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View From Lodi, CA: Mexico`s Mounting Mess
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May 10, 2002, 05:00 AM
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Mexico`s President Vicente Fox is under house arrest.

In early April, the Mexican Senate denied Fox`s request to make yet another trip to the United States. The opposition party, the PRI, controls Congress and voted to keep Fox home. The PRI reasoned, accurately, that Fox`s 15 trips abroad in 2001 were excessive. And the further sentiment was that Fox has plenty to do at home.

For the time being, Fox`s appearances in the U.S. will be limited to his Webcast appearance as the keynote speaker at the Jones International University (www.jonesinternational.edu) commencement on May 13th. Jones International is the first fully accredited, on-line university.

[VDARE.COM NOTE: The Washington Post reports 5/10/02 that Vicente Fox managed to get to New York to speak to the Council of the Americas, but notes that Mexican congress is keeping him on a short leash, and quotes Jay Leno`s crack – Fox is the only Mexican who can`t get into the United States. Fox complained that Bush and Congress won`t legalize illegals, that Congress hasn`t authorized a "guest-worker" program, and that unless he can control the President of the United States, he will lose face in Latin America. But the main point about Fox and Mexico today is this: immigration (emigration to them) is their preferred policy. We`d prefer Fox make Mexico a better place to live, rather than an easier place to leave.]

No question that Fox has a full domestic plate. New York Times business reporter Graham Gori, in his April 12 story, "Latest Data Dampens Mexico`s Hopes", outlined the grim picture.

Industrial production in Mexico has declined for the 13th consecutive month. Over the same period, more than 450,000 jobs have been lost.

The lost jobs were mostly from the manufacturing segment. In mid-2001, Mexico had 1.2 million maquiladora workers. Those jobs—in plants that import duty-free components and assemble them for export— were once considered Mexico`s future. But 250,000 of those workers have been displaced.

Worse, analysts don`t expect any shift in the economic wind. Ironically Mexico, once a highly desirable location for multinational corporations because of cheap labor, is today considered cost ineffective versus Guatemala or China.

Fox is touting southern Mexico as wage competitive with Central America or the Far East. So far, though, there have been no takers.

All this is very bad news for Fox, of course. Fox campaigned on a pledge to create 1. 3 million jobs in Mexico. Instead Mexicans lost 450,000 jobs. Fox is left with the ticklish charge of explaining the difference between what he promised and what he delivered—in this case a net differential of over 1.75 million jobs.

Fox also pledged a 7% economic growth rate for Mexico. Instead, Mexico recorded the first negative growth rate, -0.3%, since its1995 economic crisis.

The bottom line: Fox`s popularity has sunk to 50%. Only 30% of Mexicans feel that the country is on the right track. The Mexican weekly "Proceso" summarized Fox`s first year as "useless."

Suddenly, no one is talking about Fox`s cowboy boots or his former career as a Coca-Cola executive.

Instead Fox finds himself, temporarily at least, in the company of his two predecessors, Carlos Salinas de Gortari and Ernesto Zedillo, who also fell short on their campaign promises.

Salinas`s economic reforms—tighter money, less government intervention, privatizing national industries and increased foreign investment—took off into clear skies but crashed and burned by the time he left office.

In-coming president Ernesto Zedillo was met by a tumbling stock market, a peso that had lost 50% of its value and a collapsed banking system. Only a $100 billion bailout led by the U.S. kept Mexico from a total collapse. [VDARE.COM note: Peter Brimelow had a Modest Proposal: why not buy Baja instead?]

While coping with the aftermath of the Salinas administration, Zedillo promised to curb drug traffic between the U.S. and Mexico. As things turned out, Zedillo couldn`t clean up the mess he inherited nor could he make a dent in the flow of narcotics from Mexico to the U.S.

Fox still has time to right the ship. He is only 18 months into his six-year term. But Congress is correct. Fox needs to turn his attention inward. His vigorous campaign waged on U.S. soil for amnesty for millions of illegal aliens has hit a brick wall.

In the meantime, Mexico`s high unemployment rate, income disparities, abject poverty, the Chiapas conflict, and the dismal education system remain firmly entrenched.

President George Bush, in his annual Cinco de Mayo address to the nation, referred to Fox as "a great Mexican patriot, a man of honest talk and convictions who is passionately concerned for his people`s welfare."

A good place to start with the people`s business is education. During his address to Jones International, Fox is expected to discuss his plan to make e-Mexico, the country`s Internet service, available in 10,000 Mexican cities to more than 98% of the populace.

And the Fox administration has been touting a five-year program to have School Net, Mexico`s educational on-line service, offered in all 130,000 schools throughout the country.

To attain those aggressive but noble goals, Fox will have to regain the Mexican Congress`s confidence.

That`s a large order - and one that Fox can only carry out at home.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.