Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Fox, Castro and Bush

Compassionate Conservatism Fades South of the Border?

By Eneas Biglione

The recent decision of the public relations firm Allyn & Company to take charge of the task of improving Mexico's image in the United States and Canada has angered some conservatives. They have labeled Rob Allyn -- Allyn & Company's president and CEO -- a traitor and have threatened to boycott the firm.

In a stern response, Allyn declared: "I have gotten so tired of the way people treat Mexico. I believe in the cause, so I love the opportunity to share my views. I've held these views for a long time. I relish the opportunity to help in some small way." He added stingingly, "The conservative movement I signed up for stood for tearing walls down, not building them."

Indeed, Allyn & Company's website boasts that Allyn's public relations team worked with great success on President George W. Bush's 2000 primary campaign. The firm later aided Vicente Fox in his successful bid for the Mexican presidency, the same Vicente Fox who is the first conservative president elected in Mexico after an unbroken 72 years of socialist governments controlled by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

Mexican voters entrusted Fox with the responsibility of overseeing great change: to tackle corruption, insecurity, and poverty and to promote improved relations with Mexico's neighbors. Fox perceived the broadening of NAFTA with the United States and Canada as a way to strengthen Mexico and confront the country's weaknesses. He never plundered or begged, but saw in the exportation of Mexican products and workers a possible solution to Mexico's woes. Fox's government stimulated the production and exportation of high-technology manufactured goods and used diplomacy to try to negotiate a temporary visa program that is more generous to low-skilled Mexican workers. Of course, the chronic corruption, wild public spending, and poverty that Fox's government inherited from the PRI are not easy conditions to reverse after only five years in office.

Fox has been at the United States' side during several international scandals: the first occurred when the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro revealed statements made during a private telephone conversation he had with Fox in March of 2002. During the call, the Mexican president requested discretion from Castro during the UN Summit in Monterrey and, more specifically, asked that he not insult President Bush or the United States during his stay in Mexico.

The second scandal is more recent. At the Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata, Argentina, Fox proudly declared that Castro and the Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez had not succeeded in their attempts to dissuade a majority of Latin American countries from signing bilateral free trade agreements with the United States. After hearing this remark, Chavez repeatedly insulted the Mexican president and even branded him a "puppet of the [American] empire". In both cases Fox risked much for the United States and paid dearly for it in his credibility in certain Latin American countries.

It is worrisome, then, that the United States -- the most powerful country in the world and an excellent example of the institutions that a country must adopt to achieve prosperity -- is devoting so much time and so many resources to the construction of a wall on its border with Mexico. The anti-Mexican hysteria does nothing more than add to the arguments of enemies of the United States and discourage the world's conservatives from working side-by-side with the United States on the true fronts of the fight against the Axis of Evil.

The contract between Allyn & Company and the Mexican government is far from treason. It exemplifies, instead, a search for better communication between countries whose conservatives ought to be natural allies in the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking, as well as on many other battlefronts as well.

Eneas Biglione is a Senior Fellow at the Hispanic American Center for Economic Research (HACER).

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