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Former Mexican Diplomat Sees Improving Relations with US Under President Calderon


In spite of problems like drug smuggling and illegal immigration, a prominent former Mexican diplomat sees better times ahead for the US-Mexico relationship. Andres Rozental, a retired career diplomat who has served as the president of the Mexican Council on Foreign Affairs, spoke Tuesday to the Houston World Affairs Council. VOA's Greg Flakus was there and has this report.

The government of Mexican President Felipe Calderon, which came to power in December of last year, has already embarked on a number of ambitious projects that could transform Mexico into a more modern nation with much less poverty and fewer frictions with the United States. That is the view of Andres Rozental, who served as ambassador to such nations as Great Britain and Sweden and in 1994 was granted the rank of eminent ambassador.

Now retired, Rozental sees opportunities for both Mexico and the United States to act on problems that confront them in a way that would benefit the citizens of both nations. One of the biggest challenges in illegal immigration, which he says is driven by both the excess of labor in Mexico and the need for cheap labor in the United States.

"You cannot resolve an economic situation with politics. The thing you have to do is simply say,' we need the workers, we want the workers, now let us find a way for the workers to come here, legally, orderly and in an expeditious fashion, do the work that they are being offered and, hopefully, get to the point, and there will be a point where there will be no more huge supply of Mexican workers, partly because the Mexican economy will be growing and partly because our demographic profile is changing and the younger people, there will be fewer of them," he said.

Ambassador Rozental says illegal immigration and drug smuggling problems tend to dominate headlines on both sides of the border and obscure the fact that the United States and Mexico generally maintain excellent relations.

He credits President Calderon with moving aggressively to push reform in the judicial system and for spending on infrastructure development, which, he noted, provides immediate jobs as well as creating potential for future job growth. He says he believes Mexican lawmakers will open the nation's oil and gas sector to outside investment, holding Brazil's state-owned oil company, Petrobras, as a model for transforming Mexico's Pemex into a more efficient and competitive company.

But Rozental says he is disappointed that President Calderon has not done more to deal with other monopolies in Mexico. "This is the one challenge where I find that President Calderon has not been as forceful as I would like. He says he believes this, that he understands it, but that it is up to the regulators to do it. Of course, I think that, no matter how independent they are in life, if they do not have a political signal from the firmament (presidency), they are probably going to find it easier not to do the things, rather than do them," he said.

Rozental says the close election of Calderon last July, which was disputed by his leftist rival, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has made clear the need to address the huge political divide in Mexico. He says it has also given Calderon impetus to address the nation's social problems and provide better programs for the nearly one half of the population that lives in poverty.