It is fashionable to blame President Vicente Fox for Mexico's season of discontent, but Mexico Under Fox, a slim but smart evaluation of his presidency at midterm, is right to cast blame for Mexico's current political stalemate on a host of co-conspirators as well. True, Fox, a former Coca-Cola executive, has proven more adept at marketing than at administration, but his life has been made hellish by political parties, state governors, unions, mafias, and the media. Some Mexican institutions (notably the Central Bank and the Supreme Court) are functioning well, but others (the archaic legislature, ineffective regulatory bodies, outmoded public schools) need overhauling if Mexican democracy is to progress. The mostly Mexican contributors have reason to worry: while the Mexican political elites fiddle and economic productivity stagnates, competitor nations in Asia and eastern Europe are galloping ahead in the globalization sweepstakes. Mexico Under Fox also offers trenchant criticism of recent miscalculations in foreign policy. In a perceptive essay on the brief reign as foreign minister of Jorge Casta-eda, ex-diplomat Andres Rozental (Casta-eda's half-brother) chronicles the revolutionary shift in Mexican foreign policy from a defensive crouch to an innovative engagement. Sadly, the man who bravely demonstrated that Mexico can drive the bilateral agenda resigned after only two years, and Mexican foreign policy is now headless and adrift.
Casta-eda's famous and ultimately unrequited call for comprehensive immigration reform--"the whole enchilada"--has found echo in a sensible, far-sighted report by midwestern business, civic, and union leaders assembled by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations. Noting that immigrants account for half of the growth in the U.S. labor force, their report bases its case for systemic reform not on Mexican interests but on U.S. competitiveness and growth. Proposed measures include earned legalization, temporary worker programs, citizenship integration, and border-security programs that facilitate rather than disrupt trade and travel. Missing is the price tag for such enlightened programs. Perhaps large savings are possible if we acknowledge, as the report argues, that 100 percent security is a costly mirage.
Get the best of Foreign Affairs' book reviews delivered to you.
More Reviews on Western Hemisphere From This Issue