Barnard R. Thompson, MEXIDATA . INFO, Jan. 19, 2004
As the New Year begins with reconciliation between Presidents Vicente Fox Quesada and George W. Bush, following differences over matters such as Iraq, UN votes, immigration and U.S. states’ rights in imposing the death penalty, others in Mexico are flexing their muscles so as to take on California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Ostensibly this is a result of Schwarzenegger having forced the reversal of his predecessor’s approval to grant California driver’s licenses to undocumented and nonresident aliens. However in Mexico concerns like electoral ambition, political stability and money — lots of money — are also part of the mix.
In consequence several concurrent actions, largely targeting California, are now moving forward.
Four Mexican governors are currently on fact-finding visits to the U.S., these prior to Mexico’s next National Governors Conference (CONAGO), to be held on January 22 in Mexicali, Baja California. Governors José Murat Casab (Oaxaca, PRI), Francisco Ramírez Acuña (Jalisco, PAN), Juan Carlos Romero Hicks (Guanajuato, PAN) and Lázaro Cárdenas Batel (Michoacán, PRD) are visiting Chicago, Los Angeles and Dallas in order to analyze the problems of Mexican migrants living in the U.S. As well, the goal is to help organize lobbying preparations so that rules and procedures can be put into place so Mexicans living abroad will be allowed to cast absentee ballots by the 2006 national elections.
The 32 powerful members of CONAGO, at their November meeting in Puebla, resolved to form a special committee to meet with California state officials, the associations of Mexican living in the state and others. Six governors were instructed to study migratory matters in order to design support mechanisms for “braceros,” while the CONAGO governors most particularly want Schwarzenegger to reconsider his position on the issuance of driver’s licenses to undocumented Mexicans.
The scheduling of the January CONAGO meeting in the contiguous state with California was no coincidence, especially since Baja California governors have traditionally maintained positive relationships with their “Alta California” counterparts. The goal apparently was to take advantage of the expected connection of Baja California Governor Eugenio Elorduy Walther to Schwarzenegger in hopes of influencing the California governor. And of course if Elorduy might drop the ball, that too could benefit the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) majority in the CONAGO. Too, the CONAGO meetings are always well covered by the Mexican media, and tying in Arnold Schwarzenegger — directly or indirectly — makes things even juicier.
But what really helps Mexico is the money sent home by expatriates, money that is especially important to the states. Remittances from abroad are now Mexico’s second greatest source of foreign exchange, and the total is expected to surpass number one petroleum exports in the not too distant future. According to the Bank of Mexico, the nation’s central bank, Mexicans sent home US$14.5 billion in 2003. Of that, another study shows that family member recipients in the states of Michoacán, Querétaro and Zacatecas received US$1.74 billion, US$672 million and US$540 million, respectively.
As to the scheduled January CONAGO meeting, when people in Baja California heard that it would take place in the National Action Party (PAN) governed state rumors began to circulate that Elorduy would invite Schwarzenegger to attend. And while local rabble rousers hedonistically waited until after their holiday vacations, small radical factions within opposition parties, community groups and other sociopolitical firebrands have since been meeting to plan anti-Arnold demonstrations (regardless of when he might visit the state as he is not scheduled to be in Mexicali on January 22).
The Secretariat of Government (Gobernación), Mexico’s all-powerful internal affairs ministry, is encouraging ratification of allowances for Mexican migrants to vote in the 2006 presidential elections. The ministry has commissioned the design of an applicable system, along with a prototype electronic ballot box that is now in the testing stage. Furthermore, as a prelude to requisite reforms in the electoral law officials from Gobernación, along with Secretariat of Foreign Relations colleagues, will meet with migrant organizations, Mexican community leaders and Mexican-Americans in Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago and New York between January 24 and February 1 to discuss their electoral rights and the possibilities for 2006.
The senate is also now on the bandwagon. Mexican senators are scheduled to visit Sacramento on January 22, to meet with California legislators who belong to the (all Democrat) “Latino Legislative Caucus.” According to Sadot Sánchez Carreño (Oaxaca, PRI), who chairs the senate’s Human Rights Committee, the goal is to promote “the correctness in approving migration measures favorable to Mexican residents … (and) to express concerns, of legislators from our country, regarding the situation of migrants.”