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Responsibility for Latin America's economic condition: Mexico

Raul Escalante of Mexico presents his view of the responsibilities for the problems of Mexico: "US influence was far from the strongest determinant during the XIX century, except for the wars we had and the seizure of half our territory (we had plenty of wars on our own, however, and the territory was mostly unexploited). Responsibility would thus lie almost entirely on our side during this period.

During the past century, however, the US did play an important role in local politics and contributed strongly to the ambience of corruption. The wealthy families have done little but play by the rules set by people who enjoyed the support of our northern neighbor, and whose accession to power in some of the most unsavory cases was actually engineered by the CIA. Moreover, in many cases US companies and government agencies have paid off local officials and politicians for various purposes. This is hardly constructive to economic development, and even less to equitable distribution of wealth.

It is hardly credible to most Latin Americans that the state which turned a blind eye to the excesses of its pet despots, whose multinationals profited from the system they set in place, and which even organized military expeditions to protect the economic interests of its corporations, would plead complete innocence to contributing to our relative poverty.

In the past twenty years or so, and especially since the end of the Cold War, US foreign policy seems to have become much less tolerant of these practices and has led the way among the industrialized nations in fighting corruption in less developed countries. The Economist is running a very interesting editorial this week and Andrés Oppenheimer of the Miami Herald wrote a well-researched book on the subject (title in Spanish is Ojos Vendados: Estados Unidos y el Negocio de la Corrupción en América Latina).

To summarize, I believe US foreign policy played a determinant role in establishing and supporting the regimes which have allowed the rich to continue to become richer. The behavior displayed by all three groups of players (US, local despots and local establishment) have all been necessary conditions to reach the point where we are now. It is now up to us to clean up our own acts and up to multinational organisms and the governments of industrialized countries to provide incentives for their own multinationals to cooperate with us. It is fruitless and even counter-productive to bicker over who had the most blame... and downright laughable that anyone would claim to have clean hands".

My comment: As for the "wealthy families" of Mexico, I would like to know how many are the heirs of the large landowners who controlled the country during the Spanish period. As for the American corporations who made deals with dictators, they say that they could not reach agreements with bickering politicians and that dictators were much more sensible in making reasonable deals. There is some truth in this.

Ronald Hilton - 3/9/02