Friday, April 08, 2005

Obrador faces trial

Mexico's Congress has stripped Mexico City's mayor of immunity from prosecution. I've previously mentioned Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who will now face contempt of court charges. My previous post was apparently in error: Obrador can be barred from running for office merely for facing criminal charges. He doesn't have to be convicted.

I'm not an "the end always justifies the means" or "whatever it takes" sort of person. However, I cannot voice any displeasure that Obrador may be disqualified from running for president. That's one less "populist" in the elections, one less socialist candidate who'd likely wreck the Mexican economy. It wouldn't surprise me if the charges are true, that he ignored a court order to halt construction of a road on private land; he just doesn't believe in private property rights. That includes the right to one's own money -- indeed, his support relies so much on cash handouts to Mexico City's poor. He wants to "renegotiate" NAFTA and other trade agreements that are key to Mexico's economic growth. And when Obrador talks about a "state-supported economy," I can see him turning Mexico toward collectivism, as Chavez has done with Venezuela. I could see tremendous capital flight (and another peso crisis) as Mexicans with savings forsake the collectivism for foreign investments.

Obrador opposes the foreign investment that would save Pemex, Mexico's nationalized oil company. Mexico just doesn't have the money or equipment for Pemex to survive, let alone for Pemex to realize its true potential. From Bloomberg, "Pemex needs $100 billion in capital in the next 10 years to sustain production, Energy Minister Felipe Calderon says." But there's a problem: "Mexico's constitution bans foreign investment in the nation's oil industry. Exxon Mobil and ChevronTexaco Corp., the second-largest U.S. oil company, have technology for deep-water drilling to open Mexico's untapped oil deposits; Pemex doesn't." Even if Mexico's constitution permitted the investment, Obrador as a quintessential socialist would oppose it. It is unacceptable to him that wealthy foreign investors would benefit, though the investment is critical to all of Mexico because it would save an important industry and all its jobs.

Isolationists say we shouldn't interfere in other countries' politics. Perhaps, perhaps not, but we still must be gravely concerned of a neighbor's potential political shifts like this. Mexicans are frustrated with the slow return to the rule of law after decades of PRI rule, and Obrador is feeding off it. If he or another populist-socialist won, the ramifications to our trade with Mexico could be catastrophic. I also worry how a President Obrador might affect our border security. Would he turn a blind eye to Mexicans who illegally enter the U.S.?

Until 9/11, I had a very open view of immigration: ease immigration restrictions while still requiring documentation, but also immediately and permanently deport any foreign nationals (legal or not) convicted of crimes here, once they've served time in our jails. But with 9/11 came a new threat that's exacerbated by open borders, which Michelle Malkin and others talk about. It's not "competition" from Mexican laborers, or the drug trade: it's Muslim terrorists getting into Central America or Mexico, and entering the U.S. by crossing our southern border.

Obrador sees Mexicans' emigration to the U.S. as something that eases Mexico's "social unrest." Of course, fixing Mexico's problems would make it less necessary for Mexicans to leave. But when he said this is "depopulating" Mexico, as president, would he take steps to force Mexicans to stay so that they can sustain his new economy? Or does he favor very liberalized immigration? I can't find anything definitive, but the latter would be the more populist stance.

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