Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Sometimes the right message is delivered by the wrong messenger (and instead of being heeded, incites open resistance).

Fifteen years ago, Carlos Salinas de Gortari was the darling of the international business community. He was haled as one who understood the multinational, private enterprise, international finance dimensions of third world development. Indeed, there would be no impetus toward free trade today if CSG had not championed NAFTA (as Americans call it).

Unfortunately, toward the end of his sexenio, it became obvious that the Salinas' regime was rife with corruption, and that his free trade and privitization moves had transformed some millionaires into billionaires, but made subsistence farmers, workers, and even certain segments of the middle class more vulnerable. When he left office in 1994, Salinas became an icon of scorn, with cartoon drawings of a chupacabras figure with the head of Salinas, and a caption "se busca" (a sort of wanted poster).

Now, Salinas is warning his countrymen (well, if he still lived in this country they would be his countrymen) that Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador could undo two decades of progress on the international economic front.

If AMLO actually followed through on his promises, that would be the result.
However, Salinas is the wrong messenger. Many poor Mexicans regard this ex-president as a mouthpiece for international bankers, and when Salinas critises AMLO, this may vindicate his standing ("Wow, AMLO is really going to sock it to the bankers, Yeh!").

There is another ex-president of Mexico, at least as well respected by economists worldwide. Ernesto Zedillo lacks much of the Salinas baggage. Zedillo writes a quarterly column for Forbes, but has otherwise chosen a largely academic life during retirement. Perhaps it is time for Zedillo to speak out on the shape of Mexican politics in 2006.


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