Support Families like Mine: End Inequality in Immigration Policy

October 22, 2011  |   LGBT Issues Mexico Politics and Policy Progressive Political Commentary

Support Families like Mine: End Inequality in Immigration Policy

I’m one of the lucky ones – lucky because I’ve had the good fortune to share the past ten years of my life with the person I love, despite the fact he’s a Mexican citizen, and I’m an American citizen. I’m lucky because, in 2001 when we met, I had the resources, ability, and the option to move to Mexico and establish a business and a life with Luis. I’m lucky because Luis and I built a rich and rewarding life together.  We enjoy the love and support of both our families, we have a wonderful circle of friends, and we’ve been able to give back to our Mexican community in ways that have been incredibly satisfying. Unfortunately, the past two years have shown us just how fragile that luck has been. My business, a small resort hotel catering to LGBT vacationers to Puerto Vallarta, has suffered greatly since the U.S. economy took its nosedive in late 2008. In 2009, Mexico was the epicenter of the H1N1 flu scare – it nearly shut down the tourism industry for a couple of months. And mounting concerns over the safety and security of travel to Mexico due to drug cartel violence has further decimated the tourism industry and my once-thriving business, despite the fact that the violence is enormously hyped by U.S. media and is mostly localized in a few cities far from Puerto Vallarta. Times are hard. The economic realities of a struggling business in Mexico have compelled me to return

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Why the NAFTA-style Free Trade Agreement Will Fail to Benefit Colombia

October 21, 2011  |   Economics & Trade

Why the NAFTA-style Free Trade Agreement Will Fail to Benefit Colombia

Despite evidence of limited economic welfare benefits and significant social costs, Latin American countries have been signing and ratifying trade treaties with the United States since the early 1990s.  This week, the long-stalled treaties with Colombia and Panama were ratified by the U.S. congress and signed by the President.  Like other trade treaties, these were based on the same template that has been the basis for U.S. trade policy since NAFTA. In the case of the Colombia Free Trade Agreement (Colombia FTA), promises from the government of President Juan Manuel Santos to better protect trade unionists pressured enough reluctant Democrats to vote in favor of the agreement.  Over 4,000 trade unionists have been murdered in Colombia in the past 20 years, mostly by right-wing paramilitaries with links to the government, making Colombia the most dangerous country in the world to support collective bargaining rights. Colombian labor union leaders have rejected government claims that human rights and trade unionist protection has improved, denigrating symbolic gestures aimed at securing U.S. ratification of the  agreement, which they rightly claim will help multinational companies over Colombian workers. In addition to doubts that the Colombian government will live up to its promises vis-à-vis the trade unionists, the gains from trade that Colombia can expect once the agreement is in force are ambiguous at best.  When the gains to some sectors (e.g. cut flowers, leather goods, seafood, textiles, certain services) are measured against the losses to other sectors (e.g. rice, corn, poultry, communications technology),  along with fiscal

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Mexico: Victim of America’s War on Drugs

March 8, 2011  |   Mexico Politics and Policy

Mexico: Victim of America's War on Drugs Paul Crist, March 3, 2011 All is not well in the complex and multifaceted relationship between the U.S. and Mexico. A number of recent issues have heightened tensions, including the murder of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent Jamie Zapata, and the wounding of another agent on February 15th, on a highway near San Luis Potosi. That incident has once again ratcheted up jingoist rhetoric from some U.S. politicians and the sensationalist frenzy of U.S. corporate media. The Mexican government swiftly arrested alleged perpetrators, and have emphasized that the gun used, as most guns used in violent crimes in Mexico, came from north of the border. The leaking by Wikileaks of diplomatic cables written by U.S. Embassy personnel depicting Mexico's armed forces and police agencies as "inefficient, corrupt, riven by infighting," and "reliant on the United States for leads and operations" has infuriated Mexican President Felipe Calderón. Mexico continues to wait for the opening of U.S. highways to Mexican trucks, as called for under the North American Free Trade Agreement. (The U.S. Congress has blocked the program under pressure from industry groups, with arguments about highway safety and illicit drug and human trafficking concerns). Mexicans are angered by state-level measures to crack down on undocumented migrants such as the Arizona "papers please" law. Indiana just slipped through similar legislation while the media was focused on protesting workers, fighting to protect the right of collective bargaining. More states are sure to follow soon

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Mexico’s Most Critical Problems are Also Our Own

September 25, 2010  |   Mexico Politics and Policy

August 15, 2010 By Paul Crist  Mexico’s once growing middle class is under attack from above and below, and the stress is showing up in the shrinking numbers who can claim middle class status.  This trend predates the current economic crisis, but has been greatly exacerbated by it.  Middle class Mexicans face a political and economic system stacked in favor of the super-rich above them, while from below they face kidnappings and robbery by desperate and angry criminal poor. Predation from Above: Despite modest progress, entrenched crony capitalism where bribery is the rule and who-you-know counts for more than knowledge, hard work or risk-taking, remains the order of the day in Mexico.  Leaders from across the spectrum of Mexican politics must accept the majority of blame, although there is culpability north of the Mexican border as well.  Progress toward political transparency and economic liberalism has been incremental in some areas, nonexistent in others.  Privatization of formerly government-controlled industries have enriched a handful of wealthy and politically connected Mexicans, as well as a fair number of politicians.  As a popular Mexican saying goes “un político pobre es un pobre político,” (“A poor politician is a poor politician”). Mexican consumers pay higher prices for a lower quality of service and reduced availabil­ity of goods.  The state-corporatist system of price supports, subsidies, and special-interest tax exemptions gives an unfair advantage to wealthy and well-connected businessmen while restricting competition and obstructing eco­nomic growth.  Of course, the most critical result of anticompetitive policies for Mexican

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U.S. Trade Policy and Declining Manufacturing: Where do we go from here?

August 16, 2010  |   Economics & Trade

U.S. Trade Policy and Declining Manufacturing: Where do we go from here?  By Paul Crist, Aug. 14, 2010 The U.S. economy and the manufacturing sector in particular, face both short-term and long-term challenges.  There is debate about whether government can or should play a role in addressing those challenges, and if so, what are the fiscal, industrial, regulatory, and trade policies that would benefit the stakeholders, which essentially include all U.S. citizens in one way or another. I should acknowledge at the outset a bias toward thoughtfully considered government interventions to guide the economy and trade in ways that benefit American workers and allow them to participate in the gains that accrue from their labor.  There are economic reasons for my bias that have nothing to do with either socialist or altruistic impulse.  That bias in no way means that I favor protectionism or a retreat from global trade, or that government intervention in the economy is always desirable, but there are, I believe, issues and stakeholders that get too little consideration and solutions to structural economic problems that are given short shrift in the name of conservative ideological orthodoxy. There is ample evidence that without adequate and well-designed regulatory intervention in domestic and global markets, capital and political power tends to migrate upward and become concentrated at the top of the economic ladder. We see that phenomenon in country after country, most recently in the U.S.  Concentrated wealth becomes problematic when it undermines social cohesion and a sense of

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