Mexico’s President Defends Mexicanos in the U.S.

Felipe Calderón, president of Mexico, is in the U.S. this week on behalf of the trade relationships between the two nations.

While his visit is making the news in Texas and Louisiana, where he has given speeches and met with government officials, it hasn’t been much of a lead story in the national media. Lou Dobbs, in typical xenophobic style, had a reactionary “panic piece” on his show the other day. [Watch it here.] Some of the other media outlets are discussing the trade issues Calderón is here to represent, but it remains a smaller story.

It’s too bad because Calderón’s visit has included some interesting public remarks on his part. First (as Dobbs reports above) he confirmed in an indirect way that he has relatives who reside in the U.S. illegally. Further, he delivered comments reiterating Mexico’s interests in protecting the rights of its citizens whether at home or abroad. While he was not overt, he also made clear suggestions that it is important for the U.S. to pass some form of immigration reform to provide a pathway to legality for the nation’s 12 million illegal migrants. “The American economy,” he said, “cannot run without Mexican labor, which contributes to the prosperity of this country”

Contrary to Dobb’s report, Calderón also spoke about the necessity of reforms and improvements in Mexico. “It’s not my dream to spend the rest of my life seeing how Mexicans risk their lives crossing the river or the desert to find opportunities,” he said.

See a recent story on his visit here.

Of course, part of the way he and his party define their vision for an improved Mexican economy is “free trade.” That is why Calderón and Bush are meeting this week, after all. But so-called “free trade” has historically (and recently) opened Mexico up to foreign corporations which have done little in terms of improving the lives of everyday Mexicans. They’ve done a lot to imrpove the bottom-line of these corporations and their stock holders, however.  Much like the case of these same corporations in the U.S., when labor can be found cheaper elsewhere, they move, leaving behind unemployed folks and, often, pollution.

In and of itself, this is not surprising.  Maximizing profit is the bedrock of any capitalist system.  But policies of “free trade” and international finance take this assumption one step further.  They rationalize that any and almost all measures taken by a government should work to increase those profits.  If so, who do governments represent?

But here’s the saddest part. Here we are, a nation obsessed with the issues of immigration and globalization, two processes which are intimately connected, and here is the President of the nation we are most intertwined with on both counts visiting the U.S.  And he’s here to discuss “free trade” with our president and other hemispheric interests. And do people here even care?  And is our media even helping us, as an affected public, understand what is at stake?

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