There was an election in Mexico

An op-ed at Worldcrunch outlines the reason many consider Mexico a failed state (emphasis added):

Paradoxically, while the political class could meet some of the people’s demands on education, transport or health care, it would find it practically impossible to eliminate corruption, which is the oxygen of its activity. Meanwhile, the pressure that’s being exerted, especially through social networking sites, is rising exponentially, as are pressures to resolve the majority’s bread-and-butter issues. It would be delusional to expect these to subside by themselves, and the government’s challenge is to respond to reality as it stands today.

On the other hand, the one great advantage — if that’s the word — that Mexican politicians have over their Chilean and Brazilian peers is that Mexico is infinitely less democratic. And that could strangely give them more leeway to transform the country. Mexican institutions have yet to be pushed into a corner and forced to make decisions the way Chile and Brazil have. They therefore have the chance to anticipate and preclude such extreme pressure.

True, but the article fails to mention another, very considerable advantage: Mexico borders the U.S.

The poor, oppressed, exploited, or persecuted (and every combination of those) in Chile don’t have very attractive options when they cross the border: Peru, Bolivia and Argentina. Of the three, Peru is slowly becoming more viable, but Bolivia is the poorest Andean country, and Argentina is back on the “junk bond basket case” shelf.

Indeed, when Pinochet’s dictatorship was persecuting Allende supporters, many left for Europe, among them Roberto Ampureo, who landed in East Germany and lived to regret it.

Brazilians don’t have many appealing politico-economic options across their borders, either, plus they would also have a language barrier.

Several years ago I met a young Brazilian who worked washing dishes in a restaurant (he had a work visa, in case you wonder). He had a Master’s degree in mechanical engineering. I apologized for intruding and asked him why was he working there. He graciously explained that the career and salary opportunities for his field were so much better in the U.S. that it was worth risking washing dishes here for a year while he perfected his English and reviewed the materials for the state licensing exam.

Which he took, and passed.

But back to Mexico; The institutions are not about to be “backed into corners” anytime soon.  In addition to being infinitely less democratic, many, many in Mexico – among them Univision anchorman and amnesty activist Jorge Ramos – see the U.S. as the safety valve for Mexico’s myriad problems, all rooted in deeply-ingrained corruption.

Which, with the open border, it will continue to be.

Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics, news and culture at Fausta’s Blog