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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Problem with Mexico

I just returned last night from an 8 day vacation in Puerto Vallarta. For me, it was the right time to get back to Mexico, not only to enjoy the great resorts, beaches, food and everything else, but to re-establish myself with the positive side of Mexico after all the negativity of recent years with illegal immigration, amnesty rallies, drug trafficking, criminal aliens and the issue of Mexican trucks having free access to US roads. In many respects, it is easy to say that Mexico has not been a good neighbor to the US, and I share that opinion. But, on the other hand, I am married to a Mexican woman, speak Spanish and genuinely like the Mexicans and Latin people in general. So this trip reinforced those feelings, but at the same time, reinforced some negative feelings I hold-not for the people- but to the country's leadership.

To anyone who has vacationed at any one of Mexico's beach resorts, I don't need to explain how great they are. New and luxurious hotels continue to sprout up along the country's coastlines, offering great services and comfort to tourists. Of course, the reminders of Mexico's poverty are always around, from the street vendors to the slums and villages lying outside of the resorts. A first-time visitor might ask how such luxury can exist side by side with such poverty.

To me, I decided many years ago that the popular perception of Mexico as a poor country was a myth. Mexico actually is a very wealthy country. Consider this: Mexico has always been endowed with many resources, such as oil, minerals (gold, silver, opals, copper, tin, etc). It is also blessed with a long magnificent coast line with the Pacific on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other-not to mention the coasts of Baja California- 4 in all, that draw in millions of tourists every year. It's people are hard-working, trainable and industrious. So, with all these advantages, how can Mexico have so many poor people? To sum it up in one word-corruption.

The problem is basically this: Mexico's ruling elite has always succeeded in enriching itself-financially and politically-while refusing to address the needs of its masses. Thus, the wealth of Mexico is held in the hands of the few. Meanwhile, the masses of the people in the countryside and small towns are not provided with a decent education and the means to make a decent living. Well, you say, why don't they have another revolution like the old days? Where is the new Pancho Villa? Answer- Pancho Villa is in the US. As long as Mexicans can go the US, sneak across the border and earn a living there, then Mexico does not have to fear another revolution. It is called "The Great Safety Valve". Plus, Mexico's economy benefits from the billions of dollars that Mexicans in the US send home to their families. It is one of the country's top sources of revenue.

A case in point: At the resort we stayed at outside of Puerto Vallarta, we enjoyed first class accomodations plus extras we had not seen at any other hotel previously. We were there as part of a time share reservation, but the normal daily rate was in the hundreds of dollars. Meanwhile we learned from one of the maids that they were earning 70 pesos a day ($7US) for 8 hours work. Now, I can understand if one owns a taco stand and pays a cook or other employee 70 pesos a day-but a grand hotel?

I hear a lot of leftist Americans complain that in our country, the rich get rich while the poor get poorer. I don't agree with that assessment since one can be born poor in America and rise into wealth through education and honest work. Sadly, that is not the case in Mexico. If you are born poor in Mexico, pretty much the only way you can become rich is through crime-drugs for example. (Many of Mexico's top hotels were built on drug money.) This is true in most of the Third World as well.

Personally, I get a little angry every time I hear a Mexican politician in Mexico City complain that the US needs to "reform its immigration system." It is Mexico that needs to reform itself and start providing a decent education and job opportunities to its citizens so that they will not need to flee their own nation to make a living.

Many times it is said that people get the government they deserve. In the case of Mexico, I don't agree. The Mexican people certainly deserve more. The ladies who cleaned the rooms in our hotel deserve more.

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