Friday, March 15, 2013

North America in 2013 - Changing México and the US

It is march of the year 2013, and most of us are still here. The world did not end as many feared it would happen last December. It was just another panic attack created by religious fanatics. But the Mayans did predict the beginning of a new era, and it sure feels like it! Pope Benedict resigned, and his succesor is from América,  something that hadn't happened in over 700 years. A meteorite in Russia has injured hundreds of people before sinking into a frozen lake--all of it caught on camera. Hugo Chavez has died, and the political environment in North America is completely upside down.

While México has managed to pass a historic constitutional reform to its education system, and is about to take on media moguls, politicians here in the United States are more than ever at each other's throats, playing Russian roulette with the world's biggest economy. The United States is carrying a 16-trillion national debt, "bloated over the years by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," as put by Reuters.

This impasse in the United States is due to a clash of ideologies, and to ultraconservative pressure groups like the Tea Party. The Republican Party refuses any increases to government spending, and its politicians have signed a Tea Party pledge that forbids increasing taxes, an ingredient required by the Democrats in any plan to fix the country's budget. After all, President Obama said, "we cannot cut our way to prosperity." This ideology battle has been also taking place in many European countries Like Greece and Italy for years, where there is a clash between those who support austerity measures, and those who back the strong social safety net that Europeans have enjoyed.

Meanwhile in México, which has a brand new president, reforms are on fast-track. A few days ago the three main political parties introduced an overhaul to the laws that regulate the telecommunications industry. They seek to reduce the power of people like like Carlos Slim, the richest man in the world, and a couple others that dominate Mexican media. México has not had any more economic collapses either. The last one was 1994, when I left the country in search of a better life.

The political deadlock in the United States has been going on for over a decade. Republicans have veered to the right, alienating minorities like Latinos, who in last year's elections voted overwhelming for President Obama. "They are now the party of cutting spending, but austerity is not popular," Joy-Ann Reid, managing editor from told Meet the Press.  And "Republicans want to find a way to blame it on the president."

A break to the political stalemate in the United States may come if Congress finally passes comprehensive immigration reform. But this issue may also encounter a very bumpy road. Ultraconservatives are against a a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, even though many have been in the country for decades, and there has not been a blanket regularization of immigrants since 1986. The current budget fight may leave politicians more polarized, whenever they finally come to a balanced agreement.

Overall, I feel very good things to come. México was politically stagnated due to its current drug war, but there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel. President Enrique Peña Nieto has arrested Elba Esther Gordillo, the perpetual president of the most powerful teachers' union and probably the most corrupt woman in México, sending a message the government is finally serious about  helping those at the bottom of the ladder.

Link to Spanish version