It's a big week in Ottawa. Yup, the "Three Amigos" festival is in full swing! That's where the leaders of the three NAFTA partners get together to tell one another how great they are.
NAFTA. What a grand boondoggle that was!
Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!
I'm sure I wasn't the only working-class Canadian who had trouble understanding why creating a level playing field between five dollar a day Mexican labour and twenty dollar an hour Canadian labour wasn't going to turn out well for our side.
And, although our mainstream economic pundits still can't bring themselves to admit it, it hasn't. But here's what's really messed up; it hasn't worked out for the Mexicans either! Or the Americans for that matter.
You don't want to over-generalize of course. It goes without saying that NAFTA has been good for some folks in all three countries. It just hasn't been good for average folks in any of them. The one percenters have done quite well by it though.
So what you're seeing in Ottawa this week is two leaders of more or less developed nations getting together with the leader of what is, for all practical purposes, a failed state. It's not really "Three Amigos" we're watching here; it's two Amigos and their crooked and perhaps slightly retarded cousin.
Here's a brief synopsis from Business Insider of the kind of hanky-panky that would have got the other two Amigos impeached, if not jailed. In Mexico corruption is taken for granted. "Show me a poor politician and I'll show you a poor politician" is a popular maxim.
And you can't pin all the failure on Nieto - he's had a lot of help. NAFTA, crafted when Nieto was still in short pants, set the stage for an influx of jobs from the northern partners on the one hand, but at the same time it threw millions of peasants off the land by flooding Mexico with subsidized US agricultural products, especially corn. So industrial jobs grew in number but due to the oversupply of labour the pay went down. So much for the rising tide lifting all boats.
Not that the tide actually rose all that much. When NAFTA was created a peso was worth thirty cents. Now it's worth a nickel. There goes your rising tide!
The other thing that's been killing Mexico is the exorbitant level of violence. Think we've got a problem with MMIW here in Canada? We certainly do, but in Mexico they call their missing and murdered women a "pandemic of femicide." Not only that, but the record of law enforcement in Mexico is exponentially worse than ours; less than two percent of crimes ever result in a conviction.
And let's not forget about those 43 student-teachers who just "disappeared." Yup, they were last seen in police custody, and then they were gone! Nobody knows a thing.
I know we've got our quarrels with the cops here in the northern Amigostans, but nothing on that scale!
Then you've got the ever-popular war on drugs. About ten years ago W and Nieto's predecessor signed the Merida Initiative, whereby the US would give the Mexican government lots of guns and money and the Mexican government would get really serious about fighting the cartels. Can't say the Mexicans haven't held up their part of the bargain; at least 165,000 civilians dead in the ensuing ramped up war on drugs.
Just how violent is Mexico? We Canadians like to think of ourselves as a peaceable kingdom compared to our gun-happy neighbours in the USA. Well guess what? Cross the Rio Grande and the murder rate is 400% higher than in the US!
Anyway, at least for this week, they're all just three happy "Amigos," living large on the public dime in Ottawa, pleased to be doing the photo-ops together. And Justin's already made a beautiful gesture to help those Mexicans set things right.
They'll no longer need visas to visit Canada.