An immigrant's critique of Fox

June 05, 2006|By RUBEN NAVARRETTE

LOS ANGELES -- Mexican President Vicente Fox has fans on both sides of the border.

Jose GonzM-alez isn't one of them. While Mr. Fox was flying to Los Angeles to wrap up a three-state swing through Utah, Washington and California, the 39-year-old San Diego resident was also headed to the City of Angels aboard a train.

A human rights activist who champions the cause of Mexico's beleaguered indigenous population, Mr. GonzM-alez wasn't intending to meet with Mr. Fox.

For Mr. GonzM-alez, who came to the United States from Mexico illegally 25 years ago and went through the process to become a legal resident and then a U.S. citizen, the Fox presidency is a letdown. The main reason: Not enough jobs have been created in Mexico, and so more people than ever are fleeing to the United States.

It's fascinating. In Mexico, the elites take pride in the fact that Mexicans abroad send home nearly $20 billion a year. But for Mr. GonzM-alez, that figure is a national embarrassment - an advertisement of a government's failure to provide sufficient opportunity for its people.

That's the tension devouring Mexico: The elites want to help get more rights for Mexicans in the United States; the immigrants themselves just want better-paying jobs at home so they won't have to go to the United States in the first place.

Mr. Fox and the National Action Party (PAN) rode an initial wave of popularity after snatching the presidency from the clutches of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which held the reins for more than 70 years. But for Mr. GonzM-alez, the PAN and the PRI are about as different as Visa and MasterCard. All they care about, he insisted, is taking care of the rich - the relative handful of powerful and ultra-wealthy people who, according to Mr. GonzM-alez, actually run Mexico.

Neither party is doing anything to address what Mr. GonzM-alez would say is the greatest challenge facing Mexico - improving the treatment of the nation's indigenous population. For dark-skinned Indians in Mexico, the future is dim.

Still, I asked, doesn't Mr. Fox deserve credit for reaching out to Mexicans in the U.S.? Before he came along, these castaways had long been ignored by Mexico's ruling elite.

Not so fast, Mr. GonzM-alez said. If Mr. Fox really wanted to help the millions of illegal immigrants from Mexico living in the United States, he said, the answer is to create jobs at home so that Mexicans don't have to leave their country and families to search for work. Mexicans are not your typical immigrants, it seems.

"We're not here for the American dream," Mr. GonzM-alez said. "We're here to survive." At various times during his U.S. trip, Mr. Fox said his government would "continue expanding jobs in Mexico so that migration is no longer a necessity."

Mr. GonzM-alez doesn't believe it. So I had to ask: What would he do to make a better Mexico if he were presidente for a day?

Three things, he said.

Tackle police corruption; people have no incentive to be productive if they're constantly being fleeced and robbed by those who are supposed to protect them.

Stop penalizing employers and small businesses; cutting licensing fees would allow companies to create more jobs and pay higher wages.

Clean up the environment by punishing companies that plunder natural resources and lay waste to the countryside and waterways.

Mr. Fox hasn't done enough in those areas, Mr. GonzM-alez said. He's all talk and no action. A mentiroso - liar - he said.

Readers demand that I criticize the Mexican president for not doing enough for his own people.

Why bother. As a product of the United States, I couldn't possibly improve on the critique offered by one of the runaway children of Mexico.

Ruben Navarrette is a columnist for the San Diego Union-Tribune. His e-mail is ruben.navarrette@uniontrib.com.

Columnist Ellen Goodman is on vacation.

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