October 29, 2004

The future of Mexico-United States relations:

Interview with Dr. Victor Espinoza Valle

By Luis Alonso Perez

The presidential elections are near. This is very important for Mexico, especially in migration issues, because of its economic dependence to the United States.

In an interview with Victor Espinoza Valle, Academic secretary of Colegio de la Frontera Norte and a specialist in regional political processes, he talks about what Mexico can expect after the elections.

“There really isn’t any hope of an improvement in the relations or an advance in the agreements between both countries” Said Espinoza. “If there’s a democrat or a republican government, the situation isn’t going to change unless the United States benefits from it”.

The candidate’s proposals

On one side, on the second presidential debate, Bush backed his proposal to create a temporary employment program for Mexican workers. But for Espinoza this promise contradicts the politic postures held during this period.

Espinoza considers that in this period the relations have reached their peak and aren’t going to improve. Proof is that Mexico’s secretary of exterior relations just announced that Mexico is abandoning every attempt to reach an immigration agreement with the United States, and is going to join other countries in an effort to reach a global agreement.

This is very disappointing for Mexico, and its efforts to regularize the migratory status of Mexican residents, who have been living illegally in the United States. This makes them more vulnerable to deportations.

“For our country it’s very important that Mexicans get their status regularized. Their return could have catastrophic consequences in terms of unemployment, and it would affect the economy too, because the money that immigrants send to Mexico constitutes the country’s main income”.

Something that was well accepted in Mexico was Kerry’s idea of a possible amnesty to Mexicans living illegally in the United States.

“This could be interpreted, at least in theory, as a sign that John Kerry’s victory could be beneficial to Mexico”.

History has proved that democrats have a much more liberal stance. So there is a chance that their posture might take an unexpected turn and try to find a way to improve the relations.

The situation in the border region

For the economic relations between the border cities, Bush’s or Kerry’s victory isn’t going to be very relevant, because there is a mutual dependency among both cities, with very specific needs, that sometimes disagree with Washington’s interests.

“Every day 40,000 Mexicans cross the border from Tijuana to San Diego to go to work or school. So this regional situation puts pressure on state and national governments so they improve the relations”

Because of their autonomy, state’s politics make a bigger difference on local decisions.

The beginning of the Bush-Fox relation

It all began with great expectations.

The presidential victory of Vicente Fox in México and George Bush in the United States in 2000 brought new possibilities to improve the relations between both countries, especially in migration issues.

“You could even feel a festive atmosphere, because it was believed that the presidents where going to understand each other. They where both cowboys, and very straight forward men”.

But these where only Mexican expectations.

For the United States the relations with their southern neighbor and the migration problems didn’t have a place within their top priorities.

After September 11 national security was top priority. There is a direct relation between national security and migratory policies, so the borders where reinforced against terrorist threats.

“Because of this, Mexicans where directly affected. The results can be seen here in Mexico’s northern borderline states. Operation Gatekeeper has been extended and reinforced, so the death toll keeps growing and it doesn’t look like it’s going to change soon”.

The results

One of the problems that have caused tension among both countries is the use of rubber bullets by the border patrol.

But Mexico’s reaction has been very shy, because its use was previously approved by the secretary of exterior relations in Mexico, Jorge Castaneda.

At the same time, the Mexican government has been pressured to seal their borders with their neighbors to the south, the same way the United States seals its borders with Mexico. As consequence, the border with Guatemala and Belize have been strongly militarized.

“In economic terms Mexico is very dependent, and the relation between both countries is very asymmetric, so if the economy in the United States goes bad, Mexico’s economy goes bad too”.

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