The Latin America Affair

10 Sep

President Obama briefly mentioned a much needed free trade agreement with a couple of Latin American countries in his forceful message to Congress about jobs; such a deal with Colombia and Panama has not yet been approved by our legislature. This light reference to what used to be our primary backyard under the infamous Monroe doctrine has become a forgotten part of the world under both Bush and Obama. Yet, our exports to the countries with which we have a free trade agreement have grown faster than with other nations and with all know that exports mean more jobs here in the U.S.

After spending more than 20 years in Mexico, I can state with total certainty that life in the Aztec country revolves mostly around its relation with us. The U.S. Census bureau reports that in July 2011 we exported goods worth $16 billion to Mexico, $3 billion more than last year for the same month. True, we also bought around $20 billion, thus creating a trade deficit. In comparison, we only exported $8 billion to China in July 2011 while importing more than $35 billion, an enormous trade deficit that created a lot of jobs in the land of Confucius. Mexico imports twice as much from us than China, and yet we dedicate much more attention to Beijing than we do to our southern border allies.

Mexico Flag The Mexican Flag

Why the neglect? And what are the consequences of such attitude from our State Department?

Cartel Wars

The drug wars are not limited to Mexico; their tentacles reach into Guatemala, El Salvador, and Panama. The citizens of these nations suffer the daily violence and uncertainty caused by rival gangs which fight for the enormously profitable sale of drugs to… the United States. If by some miracle our country stopped buying these illicit substances from local dealers, these armed conflicts in Mexico would gradually cease, just as land stops being productive when rains disappear. It would take a few years of course to recover, but by then these Latin American countries would only have to deal with small groups of bandits ill-equipped and bereft of financial resources.

As things stand nowadays, the government in Mexico City is simply overwhelmed as if a powerful army had invaded that country. The Mexican military makes a valiant effort to root out the “cabecillas” or leaders of the cartels, but as soon as one is arrested and jailed, another takes his place. Why? Because the temptation to become rich and powerful is irresistible to many lower class citizens. Corruption is endemic among politicians, among policemen, and among soldiers who receive a pittance in exchange for risking their lives. It’s a lot easier to turn a blind eye as the heavily armed convoy passes by than engaging in a risky firefight. It’s a lot easier and much more profitable for a powerful politician to add a few million dollars to his offshore account than to openly defy the drug trade.

Do we have a drug policy in place in the present federal administration? Aside from giving a few helicopters and tips to the Mexican military, what do we do to seriously make a dent in the drug wars?

The simple answer is very little; an all out effort to help Mexico fight its way out of this growing conflict is needed in order to save one of our principal trade partners from falling into anarchy and thus killing thousands of jobs in our nation. And I haven’t mentioned the need for an immigration policy…

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