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The US and Foreign Aid: Mexico and General Electric

Raśl Escalante of Mexico has a balanced view of the US. He criticizes what he views as its mistaken policy, but he has high praise for the public generosity of Americans. He concludes his eulogy with this observation about Mexico: "From what I've seen, mid and upper level executives in Mexico are nowhere near as generous in general terms (there are, obviously, exceptions). It is interesting how this culture of giving back to the community rubs off. Many first-generation immigrants who are successful become extremely generous community leaders. Some multinational corporations also have this sort of influence. Take General Electric's Mexican affiliate: its CEO and practically all senior staff are Mexican, and the company is actively launching many new initiatives for community improvement (e.g. mentoring primary and secondary school students in at-risk populations). They still have a long way to go before catching up with community involvement in US locations, but as far as I can see the company is much more active than any Mexican large company I know of or the affiliates of other countries' multinationals".

My comment: This interests me personally because GE owned KGEI, over which I ran the University of the Air. I regret that I did not take the opportunity to study at close range the workings of a large corporation. The problem was that the corporation's approach to Latin America then was very crude. For example, when in Caracas I covered an inter-American summit, the public relations person sent to accompany me told me that when I interviewed Latin American presidents, I must get them to tell over the air what their countries owed to GE. The local American managers in the various countries were decent people, but the head of the Mexican operation, who befriended me as none of the others did, had many Mexican friends and was especially well- liked and respected. For some reason he was recalled to GE headquarters, where he committed suicide. He was succeeded by a crude aggressive individual, who complained that I did not allow him to "beat the drums about GE products"--this on the University of the Air! I suppose there was an argument about sales. I do not know how the switch to local management has worked out in that regard.

Ronald Hilton - 3/24/02