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Politician discusses Mexico

Marcela Berrios | Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The man who ran for the Mexican presidency three times and served as head of the government of Mexico City, as a senator and as a governor brought more than 30 years of insider experience to the Hesburgh Center Auditorium Tuesday where he talked to students and professors about Mexico’s present political climate.

One of the country’s most prominent political figures, Cuauhtémoc Cardenas, delivered the lecture “A Progressive Agenda for Mexico,” touching on the coalition of left-wingers in Mexico, the relationship between the country and the United States and its role in Latin America.

In the aftermath of the contested presidential elections in 2006, Cardenas said politicians need to put aside differences and personal agendas to cooperate with each other and improve the landscape of Mexican politics.

“Now is the turn of politics, of conscious and serious politics, to forget our differences and injured prides,” he said. “Our interests must now focus on Mexico’s future.”

As one of the founders of Mexico’s Party of the Democratic Revolution (PDR) – one of the country’s three dominant political parties – Cardenas said PDR politicians need to collaborate with the administration of President Felipe Calderón, despite claims his electoral victory was fraudulent.

The PDR presidential candidate, Andrés López Obrador, lost the elections to Calderón by approximately one percent of the votes, according to the PDR Web site.

Only through cooperation among dissenting congressmen and elected officials, Cardenas said, can Mexico effectively battle its problems with unemployment, the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots and mass emigration to the United States.

He called the inflow of Mexican immigrants to the United States “the most important migrant flow on the planet.”

More than three million Mexican workers crossed the northern border without authorization in 2006, Cardenas said, and more than 26 million are already established in the United States.

Higher walls along the southern Texan stateline, increased border patrols and labeling the immigration situation a matter of national security will not result in a solution for either side, he said.

“We have to understand that border security and the war on terrorism are not the same thing, and they should be faced with different means,” Cardenas said. “Terrorism problems in the United States have nothing [to do] with Mexican relations.”

He said he hopes American citizens will recognize the contributions of Mexican immigrants to the United States economy and will see the two countries’ desires to arrive at immigration policies that consider both sides.

Cardenas said that while the United States should not slam its door to the immigrants, Mexico should work to improve the unemployment conditions that tend to drive people away.

He refuted claims that Mexico may not be interested in improving its own atmosphere because the substantial amount of remittances that arrive from workers in the United States are a steady source of national income.

“Remittances are important to the Mexican economy, but we would prefer that income to be generated within Mexico,” Cardenas said.

Freshmen Justin Perez said he was impressed such a prominent Mexican politician had visited Notre Dame but said he wished Cardenas had spoken more about the relevance of remittances to the immigration debate.

“He almost left remittances out of the equation until someone asked him about them,” Perez said. “I understand that this lecture was only intended to give a brief overview of the different challenges facing Mexican politics, but I still hoped he would offer more specific insights as opposed to generalized observations regarding the road ahead.”

The road ahead for the PDR, a left-of-center liberalist organization, could include plans to boost the Mexican economy through the integration of indigenous groups to the country’s trade networks and the expansion of the North American Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to resemble the model implemented by the European Union, Cardenas said. He recognized, however, the party’s limitations and flaws before these plans are implemented.

“There are many Lefts in Mexico and therefore, there are many PDRs,” he said, referring to the internal disagreements and opposing viewpoints that hinder the party’s efforts.

Senior Gustavo Rivera pointed out the support a faction of the PDR has lent gubernatorial candidate Ana Rosa Payan, a right-winger, during her ongoing campaign as one of the PDR’s multiple incongruities.

Cardenas then reiterated his earlier point, saying the Mexican Left needed to put its own differences asides and work together to guarantee a better future for the country.

The future of the country, he added, should not forget to include the rest of Latin America in its agenda. In the past decades, Mexico’s relationships to the countries south of its border have deteriorated considerably, Cardenas said.

“The last administrations have paid no attention to the maintenance of the relationship between Mexico and the rest of Latin America,” he said.

“In South America, many countries think Mexico is integrated to the north and doesn’t have any responsibilities to its southern neighbors. We need to work on our economic and political relations with the Latin American countries. It’s a task that will require time and work but we cannot stay detached from the south.”