Mexican politicians may be materially and morally corrupt – but at least they worry about the national interest. With American politicians, it's the opposite…usually.
The Republicans in the House International Relations Committee just came up with a novel proposal that ruffled some feathers in Mexico. In fact, it got a lot more attention here in Mexico than in the U.S.
The Committee members voted to link any migratory accord with Mexico with the opening of PEMEX, Mexico's oil monopoly, to American investment.
This is big news. Whatever you think of this particular proposal, it's a great breakthrough that some American lawmakers are actually asserting that Mexico has to give us something – anything! - in exchange for opening the borders!
Thus far, the whole idea of a "migratory" i.e. immigration accord was predicated on the notion that the U.S. give Mexico veto power over American immigration policy, with nothing in return.
As Mexican commentator Luis Rubio so aptly put it in a Reforma column:
"Migration was never formulated as a subject of negotiation...we weren't negotiating anything, but demanding concessions from the Americans." ("Petroleo y migración", Luis Rubio, Reforma, May 18th, 2003)
In Mexico, needless to say, the response to the Republican proposal was predictable. Politicos across the spectrum rushed to condemn it. They indignantly emphasized that PEMEX is not negotiable. President Fox publicly rejected the proposal several times, pointing out on one such occasion that PEMEX is "part of our history."
(PEMEX no se vende, reitera Fox , El Universal, May 12th, 2003)
This of course is a ridiculous argument – a lot of downright bad ideas are part of history, particularly Mexican history.
Foreign Minister Derbez also rejected the proposal out of hand
(Responde Derbez: PEMEX no se vende, Reforma, May 10th, 2003)
He explained that migration is a bilateral issue but oil is a domestic Mexican issue.
This is a commendably frank statement of Mexican government attitudes.
What's mine is mine, what's yours is - bilateral!
Naturally, what the House Republican proposal says about PEMEX is right on the money: PEMEX "is inefficient, plagued by corruption and in need of substantial reform and private investment." And, as the amendment points out, reform of PEMEX could "fuel future economic growth, which can help curb illegal migration to the United States." [My emphasis]
In all of Mexico, the only legal gas stations are PEMEX stations. For the captive Mexican customer, purchasing gasoline is more expensive than in the U.S.A. Allegedly belonging to "the people" of Mexico, PEMEX actually functions as a golden goose for the government of the day. In the 2000 election, PEMEX funds wound up in the coffers of the ruling PRI party candidate.
Mexico has twice the oil reserves of the U.S., but lack of capital prevents their exploitation. PEMEX is forbidden to have private partners in Mexican territory, but not abroad—which causes bizarre anomalies like the export of Mexican crude to Houston, Texas, where it is refined at a Shell-PEMEX refinery and re-imported to Mexico!
Similarly, there are vast, unexploited fields of natural gas in Mexican territory. But again, they can't be properly exploited. So Mexico is a net importer of natural gas from the U.S.
Vicente Fox knows all this. Before he was president, Fox reportedly called for privatization, at an Economist Magazine conference in New York City. When the information was leaked to Mexico, Fox promptly denied it. Subsequently, he repeatedly promised not to privatize PEMEX.
Nevertheless, PEMEX is undergoing some limited privatization, albeit surreptitiously, through subcontracting. And although Economy Secretary Fernando Canales categorically declared, during the Ballenger feeding frenzy, that PEMEX "definitely will not be opened to foreign capital." (AP, May 10th, 2003), exactly one week later, he declared that "State monopoly of energy is no longer necessary." His proposal was vague - it envisions the continued existence of PEMEX, but with room for Mexican and foreign private sector investment. But it could be a trial balloon. (Insiste Canales en Abrir PEMEX a Inversión Privada, Proceso, May 17th, 2003)
However, the problem is that Gringo energy meddling will be counter-productive. It's widely believed here that the U.S. grabbed Iraq for the oil. PEMEX itself was formed back in 1938 as a response to foreign oil investment. [VDARE.com note: the American side of the story may be found here, something about the Mexican government stealing half a billion- in 1938 dollars.] As a practical matter, there is little alternative for the U.S. but to wait for Mexicans to reform their energy industry in their own way, and on their own schedule, and with their own interests in mind.
As a believer in national sovereignty, I defend Mexico's right to manage its own energy policy.
But I also defend the U.S right to manage its own immigration system.
The truth is that a "migratory accord" is a much greater risk to the sovereignty of the United States than any privatization of PEMEX is to the sovereignty of Mexico.
We can't expect Mexican politicians to look out for the sovereignty of the U.S – that's the duty of American politicians.
But American politicians are not doing their duty. Our lawmakers continue to promote an immigration accord.
Just last week, the Mexican press reported an interview with Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert ("Necesario, Acuerdo Migratorio: EU", May 16th, 2003, Siglo de Torreon) in which the speaker spoke in favor of not one but two (!) migratory accords with Mexico – an "immigration accord" and a "workers accord," presumably dealing with illegals and guest workers.
Hastert refused to commit himself on the idea of an oil-immigration deal.
Let's hope that Mexico does liberate its energy sector, for its own good. Meanwhile, the U.S. must reform its immigration system—for its own good.
American citizen Allan Wall lives and works legally in Mexico, where he holds an FM-2 residency and work permit, but serves six weeks a year with the Texas Army National Guard, in a unit composed almost entirely of Americans of Mexican ancestry. His VDARE.COM articles are archived here; his FRONTPAGEMAG.COM articles are archived here; his website is here. Readers can contact Allan Wall at firstname.lastname@example.org.