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Entries in Mexico (4)

12:01AM

What China wants, China gets - at a cost to the planet

One of the ways in which China starts getting blamed for all things globalization is the direct impact its consumers can have on global markets - sending them soaring and crashing in a historical heartbeat.

I've talked about China's incredible hunger for various nuts in the past, and how that demand has fundamentally reshaped ag markets in the US.

This NYT story discusses how fishermen off the coast of Mexico are ignoring governmental attempts to preserve an overfished area for sea cucumbers.  Out-of-area guys are slipping into zones being vigilantly guarded by locals and pulling out hauls right under their noses.  This creates a "wild west" atmosphere were towns square off against towns over their precious slices of the pie and every stranger is treated like a would-be criminal.

Until China emerged in its middle-class glory, they wasn't much of a demand, as sea cucumbers aren't really eaten by Mexicans.  But now the demand is such that one guy poaching can claim $700 a day in profit.

So this section of Mexico's coastline is in uproar . . . because Chinese like their sea cucumbers.

There will come a time - soon enough, when virtually everyone in the world who isn't Chinese will be living some version of this story.

A while back, America played that role, and while everyone wanted to please that American consumer, the dynamic created a lot of antipathy too.

And that is what's coming toward China at high speed.

10:04AM

The only solution to our immigration "crisis" that matters

In the 1950s, there was a scare (mostly in NYC) about the seemingly endless influx of Puerto Ricans (you remember "West Side Story" and Leonard Bernstein's attempt to dance the problem away?), but the stream thinned out dramatically when the local GDP per capita reached somewhere in the region of 40% of the US's number.  When it got to that point, all things being equal, PRs preferred staying in PR.

This dynamic is well know and has been pointed out many times before in print.

Point of these charts from WAPO story about how returning migrant workers are bolstering Mexico's middle class is that we are reaching that point on Mexico, where - commensurately and with no surprise - the birth rate falls dramatically.

No, it doesn't end the flow of immigrants from LATAM writ large, but the point is made:  as long as a huge opportunity disaparity exists, they will come.  If you want a more manageable flow, you need to whittle down that delta along the lines I just described.

From the story:

 For a generation, the men of this town have headed north to the land of the mighty dollar, breaking U.S. immigration laws to dig swimming pools in Memphis and grind meat in Chicago.

In the United States, they were illegal aliens. Back home, they are new entrepreneurs using the billions of dollars earned “on the other side” to create a Mexican middle class.

The migrants “did something bad to do something good,” said Mexican economist Luis de la Calle.

Where remittances from El Norte were once mostly used to help hungry families back home simply survive, surveys now reveal that the longer a migrant stays up north, the more likely the cash transfers will be used to start new businesses or to pay for homes, farm equipment and school tuitions.

From Santa Maria del Refugio, a once rural, now almost suburban, community of 2,500 in central Mexico’s Guanajuato state, young men have gone to the United States seeking the social mobility they could not find at home.

Their money, and many of the workers themselves, have since returned, as the U.S. economy slowed in the global recession. For the first time in 40 years, net migration is effectively zero. About the same number of Mexicans left the United States last year as arrived. Migration experts expect the northward flow to pick up again as the U.S. economy improves. It is also possible that as Mexico provides more opportunity for upward mobility, some potential migrants will stay home.

In Santa Maria, dollars scrimped and saved in the United States have transformed a poor pueblo into a town of curbed sidewalks, Internet cafes and rows of two-story homes rising on a hillside where scrawny cattle once grazed.

“Look at this place — it’s practically a city now,” said Roberto Mandujano, 50, who moved back to his home town and opened a hardware store five years ago. “There was nothing here when I left.”

Mandujano is a member of a new demographic in Mexico, the anxious, tenacious, growing middle class who own homes and cars and take vacations. They see the United States more as a model than an exploiter.

Another argument for the US focusing more on amping up growth across LATAM: If we want to grow long-term above what history says we should be restricted to as a mature economy, then the best way to achieve that is for countries in our neighborhood to be experiencing rapid growth. [NOTE: this is ultimately why China will need to cool it on seabed territoriality disputes, but no, this logic does not rule out Beijing's stupid behavior in the meantime - as humans have an unlimited potential for letting idiocy trump logic.]

The resurrection of cheap energy in the US is the lure we should use in such an integration effort, and yes, we should most definitely be thinking about adding more stars to our flag.

You either get busy growing or you get busy shrinking in this globalized world.

12:13PM

Mr. President, end this (drug) war!

 

Death toll in Mexico this last year: a stunning 12,000, according to WAPO.

Yes, some will write it off as only "professionals" dying, but the same is largely true in all conflicts.

We supply the money and the guns, and then demand that the Mexicans fight it out to the last man standing.

It's a wonder that all Mexicans don't hate us all the time.

Decriminalize drug use and you deny the cartels the big money that fuels their warfare.  You also stop US states from spending so much on jail time for small-time users and peddlers. You also medicalize our response, which is how the rest of the intelligent world deals with debilitating drug abuse.

End the drug war, Mr. President, and truly earn the Nobel, because that would take some political courage.

We can only hope that a second-term Obama, hemmed in domestically by a GOP House and Senate, will escape to some suitably radical foreign policy (back-dooring some sensible domestic policy changes). This would fit that scenario, but I have little hope of Obama making such a call.

12:05AM

Mexico talking decriminalization of pot

Economist story.

Felipe Calderon, president of Mexico, floating the idea that enough is enough.  His war on drugs (truly a war) has come at the cost of 28,000 lives in four years--with no let-up in sight.

We freak out, as a nation, over 4,000 troop deaths over twice the period, and we're three times the population of Mexico.  So fair to expect far more of a political freak-out on their side, which has remained really quite reasonable throughout.

So I guess I don't see why, as The Economist says, that "it came as a surprise when on August 3rd Mr. Calderon called for a debate on whether to legalise drugs."

If we had similar numbers of per-capita deaths, we'd be talking 84,000 deaths since 2006, or roughly 15 times what we've lost in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002.  If we were suffering such losses, dontcha think we'd be talking decriminalization a lot more than we are now.  Hell, even with our relatively marginal losses, 30 out of 50 US states have passed or are considering medical pot/decriminalization bills.  So why such a surprise that mellow Mexico calls for just a debate?

Calderon's predecessor, Vincente Fox, has already called for legalization in response.  If California soon votes to legalize and tax pot sales to adults, then expect Mexico to more ahead, I say.