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Condition aid to Mexico on democratization

Pundita, with an interesting view on the damn border fence: It's not about drugs, but labor:

Make no mistake, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who still insists that the 2006 presidential election was stolen from him, has the winds of the economic downturn at his back. And in a letter last week to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (see below), he made it clear that he believes that U.S. assistance to help President Calderón fight the drug cartels is an interventionist move intended to prop up Mexico's elite -- or 'oligarchy,' as Mark more correctly terms them.

Mr Obrador is right. In Mexico, the United States never abandoned its Cold War policy of propping up the ruling class to stave off a Leftist takeover; Vicente Fox's selection was simply a fig leaf for the policy.

Funny how everything's starting to look like the same battle, isn't it?

This hopelessly outmoded and destructive U.S. policy continued even after it was patently obvious that Mexico had become a tinderbox -- and that Fox was unwilling or unable to prod the oligarchs to accept substantial tax increases.

Instead of taking the hard path, he went along with the obscene policy toward the poor that Prime Minister Tony Blair, China's leaders and the World Bank-IMF pushed, and which President Bush accepted: The policy boiled down to 'Let Mexico's Poor Eat Remittances.' ...

The upshot was a populist movement that nearly swept Obrador into power. Less than two years later, a tsunami of violence fueled by widespread corruption is threatening to topple Mexico's government. ...

What must NOT be done, and which Hillary Clinton is already offering to do, is for the U.S. to hurl more aid at Mexico to help the government build up the middle class and needed infrastructure.

No; that's the job of Mexico's elite. If the U.S. keeps doing their job for them, they'll never find the impetus to change.

From his letter, clearly Obrador wants more U.S. development aid for Mexico, but surely he's aware that this business of the U.S. throwing Mexico aid, combined with remittances, has only helped to keep the elite off the hook. So any additional U.S. aid -- no matter how worthy the project -- should be tied to real political change in Mexico. ...

I understand that given all the recent publicity about violence near the border, the U.S. government now feels under tremendous public pressure to Look Busy in Mexico. But if it were my call I would not allow the violence to rush me into making a move that's going to fall back on the USA because it's not good for Mexico.

Instead, I would beef up security stateside. And just to show the oligarchs that I meant business, I'd make sure that the blasted border fence is completed and fortified.

And if this hasn't been done already, which I hope it has, I would open backchannel discussions with Obrador. Of course the discussions would be leaked but that would be the point. If that gossip wouldn't light a fire under Mexico's oligarchs, nothing would.

If no one wants to go that far, why not speed dial The Washington Post and ask if they'd consider inviting Obrador to write an op-ed? ...

The problem, however, is that Washington following common-sense policy with regard to Mexico threatens to upset a big U.S. applecart. Agri-business industries in America's southwest have been raised up on the back of dirt-cheap Mexican labor, as has the upperclass lifestyle that the middle class in those states have been able afford because of Mexican cooks, maids, nannies and gardeners.

Obrador has said 'No' to all that; he doesn't want Mexicans immigrating to the U.S. or being day laborers here. He wants Mexico to have enough decent-paying jobs so Mexicans will stay in Mexico.


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