July 2 is election day for the next Mexican president. Recent polls show the statistical tie (margin of error 2.5%) between Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party (36%) and Felipe Calderon of the conservative governing National Action Party (34%), with 25% going to the PRI candidate Roberto Madrazo.
In the May-June 2006, Jorge G. Castaneda (former Mexican Foreign Minister under Fox, and currently at NYU) has an essay titled “Latin America’s Left Turn”, in which he attempts to distinguish between what he identifies as good leftists (in Chile) and bad leftists (in Venezuela), although it is more aptly bad and worse leftists. In his discussion of Lopez Obrador, Castaneda identifies him with the bad leftists in the Chavez mold.
While I have heard many accounts of Venezuela’s economic decay under Chavez, Castaneda provides some statistical comparisons between Venezuela and Mexico:
“A simple comparison with Mexico–which has not exactly thrived in recent years–shows how badly Venezuela is faring. Over the past seven years [Chavez’s reign], Mexico’s economy has grown 17.5 percent, while Venezuela’s failed to grow at all. From 1997 and 2003, Mexico’s per capita GDP rose by 9.5 percent, while Venezuela’s shrank by 45 percent. From 1998 to 2005, the Mexican peso lost 16 percent of its value, while the value of the Venezuelan Bolivar dropped by 292 percent. Between 1998 and 2005, the number of Mexican households living in extreme poverty decreased by 49 percent, while the number of Venezuelan household’s in extreme poverty rose by 4.5 percent. In 2005, Mexico’s inflation rate was estimated at 3.3 percent, the lowest in years, while Venezuela’s was 16 percent.” (p. 40)
With immigration reform thought to be on hold until next year in the US, a new crisis is a couple weeks could change that.