Leaving a Legacy Beyond Drug Policy! 

Leaving a Legacy Beyond Drug Policy! 
Posted by FoM on February 07, 1999 at 11:00:48 PT

 Mexico:It took President Clinton five years to finally get around to his 1997 visit to Mexico, the United States' most important neighbor. This month, Clinton will travel there again, but most foreign policy specialists are not expecting much of his one-day trip to Merida, the capital of Yucatan state, for talks with Mexican President Ernest Zedillo. 
Clinton and Zedillo can act now to help stabilize the entire region for the long term.   Still, the attitude in Mexico is "Mas vale tarde que nunca" (better late than never), which is why the Mexicans plan to pack Clinton's brief visit to Merida with as much business as possible. And if both presidents look beyond their lame duck status, they may actually do some good during their brief meeting and lay substantial groundwork for their successors to build upon.   The reasons behind Clinton's weaknesses are well-known. He is in the midst of a distracting impeachment trial. And even if he is acquitted and remains in office, he has less than two years left. Zedillo also leaves office in 2000.   But that does not mean a lot cannot be accomplished by both men, if they act in unison.   To start, Zedillo genuinely likes Clinton and feels he can be trusted far more than the U.S. Congress on several key issues. Clinton signed on to the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993. Then, he was there for Zedillo at a critical juncture in 1995, offering Mexico a financial rescue package at a time when its foreign currency reserves were being depleted after a disastrous devaluation. The bailout was beneficial for Mexico, and the U.S. made a bundle on the interest.   Every year since he's been in office, Clinton has worked hard to ensure that Mexico gets the crucial certification as an ally of the U.S. in the war against drug trafficking, a symbolic gesture made all the more significant by the fact it has been vociferously opposed by many in Congress.   The election of a new government in Colombia and the red carpet welcome recently extended to Colombian President Andres Pastrana in both the White House and Congress has Mexico especially worried this year. Without Colombia to use as a whipping boy, Mexico is bracing for the full-blown fury of Congress' anti-drug warriors, in their annual sham.   But what would happen if, this year, Zedillo and Clinton aimed for something other than a symbolic show of support by the White House in the drug certification process? This could happen if Mexico supports an idea being floated by State Department officials to develop real benchmarks to measure their success in the fight against drugs.   Zedillo should provide Clinton with a set of standards that he, in turn, could show Congress--solid data regarding tons of marijuana or kilos of cocaine seized, acres of drug crops eradicated and drug arrests made. This would go a long way toward defusing the hostility created each year by the certification process.   Zedillo also wants to talk to Clinton about Central America. As it was in the 1980s, the Mexican government is concerned with growing political and economic instability in the region. The Mexican state of Chiapas is in many ways closer to Guatemala City than to Mexico City. And continued instability in the old Mayan territories could easily deteriorate the political situation in southern Mexico, exacerbating an ongoing problem for Zedillo.   But even without the problems caused by the Zapatista insurgency in Chiapas, Mexico has reason to worry about Central America. The continued impoverishment of the region keeps feeding the flow of migrants who cross Mexican territory on their way to the U.S. and strains Mexico's already limited resources.   Mexico is also concerned with the future of Mexican investment on the Central American isthmus, say sources in Mexico's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A continued economic deterioration of the area would have an adverse effect on the Mexican businesses that have made considerable investments there.   Zedillo hopes to persuade Clinton to form a U.S.-Mexican partnership to help the isthmus out of its current economic predicament. The Central American presidents are talking about an arrangement that would allow them to export their products to the U.S. under the same conditions granted to Mexico under NAFTA. They believe that could lead to creating sorely needed jobs.   These complex considerations may seem out of place. After all, our southern neighbor is not a potential threat to national security like China or Russia. It is not an economic superpower like the European Union. It is not a "client-state" like Israel or Saudi Arabia. But Mexico is crucial for the United States. The economic, demographic, social and political integration of both countries can attest to that.   Clinton and Zedillo don't have enough time in office to reap the harvest of such an initiative. Perhaps they will be content with legacies that made their successors lives a little easier. 
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