View From Lodi, CA: Mexico`s Mounting Mess

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

appearance as the keynote speaker at the
Jones International University (
commencement on May 13th. Jones International
is the first fully accredited, on-line university.

The Washington Post


that Vicente Fox managed to get to New York to speak to

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
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
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
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
: 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

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

, the country`s Internet service, available
in 10,000 Mexican cities to more than 98% of the

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