Commentary

Good News from Mexico

The National Action Party (PAN) victory in Mexico is the best thing to happen to Latin America in many years, bringing with it the end of 71 years of corruption, mercantilism, pathological nationalism, and the wide diffusion of bad habits and influences from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

Latin Americans feel a special affection for Mexico. We like its music, spicy food, magnificent beaches, colonial architecture, melodramatic soap operas and the congeniality of its people. On the other hand, the PRI’s corrupt politics have been replicated throughout the hemisphere, so that within many Latin American constitutions and laws one can find the same ruinous PRI ideas that plague Mexico.

In my homeland of Venezuela, throughout the last half century the Social Democrats of the Democratic Action Party have done everything possible to implement the traditional policies of the PRI: agrarian reform, politicization of the unions and education, intrusive public sector growth, subsidies, tariffs and other mercantilist arrangements that favor the big business allies of the regime.

Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas put Venezuela on the economic map when he confiscated and nationalized Mexico’s oil industry in 1938, causing oil companies to direct their investments to Venezuela. The Social Democrat president, Carlos Andrés Pérez, in 1976 emulated Cárdenas, creating an immense state oil monopoly and converting the industry into a piggy bank for politicians to buy elections and enrich themselves. But Pérez went even further and nationalized the central bank, which stimulated inflation, destroyed the purchasing power of the bolívar and thus succeeded in quickly demolishing Venezuelans’ savings.

An important part of the good news from Mexico is that it will now be much more difficult to swindle the public. The people now have considerably more access to information. Not only has the government, for some years now, given up its monopoly of newsprint, there is also genuine competition among the media, which no longer depend on government ads for survival. Moreover, the Internet and satellite access to hundreds of television channels considerably undermine the propaganda of Notimex, the old state news agency.

The socialist victory in Chile, the surprising servitude of Bill Clinton to Fidel Castro in the Elian case, the disaster of Colombian President Andrés Pastrana’s government, the dirty electoral tricks of Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori and the ignorant arrogance of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez have recently blown a chilling wind on the backs of Latin Americans. Our spirits are thus lifted by the PAN victory. What’s more, Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo’s rapid recognition of Vicente Fox’s victory thwarted his party’s “dinosaurs,” who were not prepared to accept defeat and the loss of their immense privileges.

Liva Mexico!

Carlos A. Ball is the editor in chief of AIPE, a newswire service that distributes op-eds to Latin America, and an adjunct scholar with the Cato Institute.