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George Bush - The Hoover Connection
The Hoover Institution at Stanford University has traditionally been oriented toward Europe, and its Latin American program was cut back sharply. As is evident from the memos sent to the WAIS list, I have been paying a great deal of attention to U.S.-Mexican relations, which I view as a prime concern for the United States. I therefore initiated two Mexican programs, both linking Stanford to the University of the Americas in Puebla (UDLA). The first takes a group of Hooverites to UDLA each year, the second is the Stanford campus at UDLA.
While Hoover was thus turning its attention to Mexico, the Republican Party was looking to Texas Governor George Bush, Jr. as its probable Republican candidate. His special interested in neighboring Mexico has coincided with that now evident at Hoover. A number of Hoover Fellows have gone to Austin for talks with him. There may not be a complete meeting of minds, since Hoover is the intellectual home of those promoting a flat tax, a radical proposal which Bush has not favored publicly. They may agree on Mexico, but this creates an odd situation, since the new Democratic Governor Gray led a delegation to Mexico; it made a trip to Monterrey with the obvious intention of deflecting trade from Texas to California.
In any case, there is widespread conjecture that, should Bush become President, Hooverites will figure prominently in his administration. Mexico is naturally interested. James Whelan has called my attention to the front-page interview with Bush in El Norte of Monterrey (3/14/99). The same newspaper reproduced next day the important New York Times article on the seminars which have been organized for the Governor to bring him up to speed on international and economic issues. The story states: "Participants have been chosen from all over the United States, but there is a particularly strong tie to the Hoover Institution." Among the Hoover people name are the economists Martin Anderson and Michael Boskin, and, heading his foreign policy staff, Condoleeza Rice.
The Mexican Government is following the Bush candidacy very carefully. President Zedillo hosted a dinner for American investors in which he assured them that his government would give them every encouragement. This hospitality may not be encouraged by many Mexicans, notably by those of the left-wing PRD, who some claim is a majority in the country. The long line of PRD marchers from Guerrero arrived in Mexico City to protest against the alleged fraud in the Guerrero elections, "won" by the official PRI. The PRD leader, Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, is the son of Lazaro Cardenas, the hero of Mexican critics of U.S. capitalism.
The question of the Mexican border is crucial. There are three main issues. The first is the maquiladoras, low-cost Mexican plants which U.S. manufacturers use and which do not respect U.S. labor or sanitation standards. Republican populist candidate Patrick Buchanan is harshly critical of them since they undermine the bargaining power of American workers. Bush seems to have avoided the issue.
Another big problem on the Mexican side of the border, from one end to the other, is crime. It should be remembered that over half of the border faces Texas. At the western end, in Ciudad Juarez (just opposite El Paso), there has been an incredible wave of murders of women, over 127 of these poor creatures. The Mexican government claims not to know who is responsible. The deaths are said to be tied to drug smugglers, but that does not make sense. Why all women? One possibility is that the women were protesting against conditions in the maquiladoras. Any one condemning criminal or dubious activities along the Mexican border puts his life at risk. The editor of the leading newspaper of Tijuana, has again been honored for his courage in thus risking his life. All American politicians say they are fighting the war against drugs, but the sensitive issues are such matters as certification. What is the attitude of Bush toward this?
Finally there is the issue of illegal immigration. Politically this is a complex issue. In general the Republicans whom Pat Buchanan detests do not take a hard line on this since it is a source of cheap labor. The Democrats fear losing the votes of Mexican Americans. As the exchange among WAIS members has illustrated, Mexicans would love to have free unlimited migration into the United States. Any objection to this is damned as racism. Both American parties are walking on this tightrope. What is the policy of Bush on this? These are all precise questions which generalities about good relations with Mexico do not answer. I hope the Hoover trio will answer them, or refer me to those who can.
Ronald Hilton - 03/18/99