By Beatrice E. Rangel
Before Ferguson, two stories dominated last week’s media. One was the immigration debate that ensued after President Obama's announcement that he was taking executive action on immigration. The second most trafficked issue was in Mexico where 43 students disappeared at the hands of local authorities acting of behalf of horrific drug mafias.
President Obama's resolve to address a broken immigration system that allows entrepreneurs to operate with modern day slaves and causes the United States to fail to retain talent was met with hope, skepticism and derision depending on which side of the conundrum you were (Republicans derided the move; Hispanics welcomed the move; scholars and national security experts just exhaled).
The International Labor Organization estimates profits from forced labor in industrialized countries to be $3.6 billion. By 2005 the same organization had clocked the level of profits for this activity at $2.2 billion.
The sum is significant -- and also includes sex trafficking profits -- but perhaps the most worrisome piece of data is the growth rate is about 7.8%.
At this growth rate a country can eliminate poverty in four decades. By this same reasoning, forced labor must create poverty and at that growth rate most probably can ensure that poverty lives on ever after. It is not necessary to elaborate on the dire consequences of poverty for any society, but suffices to recall how easily one can politically manipulate the poor to reach a desired outcome. And therein precisely lies the strength of populism in Latin America, because we have seen the effects of populism South of the Rio Grande.
While the U.S. is the land where rule of law prevails and because the midterm elections have passed, one would think that a star spangled horizon would overcome the Republican and Democratic blizzards to bring us together behind America. But this notion seems closer to a Disney fantasy than to daily America where petty bickering seems to have dominated the hearts and minds of the newly elected Congress whose leaders have announced that they will disassemble any effort on the part of the executive to bring rationality to the immigration system. This turns the political theater into a boxing ring where only a knock-out will bring conclusion to the fight.
Unfortunately for democracies, boxing rules which call for consensus building often weaken the strength of the country's resolve and leave us wanting to imitate the fiat and populist politics South of the Rio Grande -- a possibility that sounds eerily familiar for all of us who were born in that geography.
Another eerily familiar sound came from Mexico. A visionary head of state promotes a reform agenda aimed at building a tax-paying modern society, instilling the virtues of price competition, and achieving energy sustainability. Secular interests are affected, discontent sets in, and the reform locomotive is strayed by means of fostering uprisings everywhere.
Such an opportunity presented itself when the mafia infiltrated authorities of Iguala, a small town in Guerrero, and disposed of 43 protesting students in a way that would make the Silence of the Lambs
seem like children’s bedside reading.
Mexico’s Attorney General immediately took action and the alleged direct perpetrators and intellectual authors are locked up and the due process is advancing. But the country continues to be shaken by sizable demonstrations that incur in violence and demand the removal of the President.
Curiously enough, no one demands the sacking of the governor of Guerrero nor the responsibility of the party and the population that supported the Mayor of Iguala and his wife.
Unfortunately for those inhabitants of the hemisphere that were born in 20th century Venezuela, the images coming out of Mexico resemble those of Pre-Chavez times. Then and once upon a time a revolt against reforms by the local elites led to the sacrifice of freedom. Also by Beatrice Rangel in her Latin America from 35,000 Feet seriesBeatrice Rangel: Tale of Two Walls
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Beatrice Rangel is President & CEO of the AMLA Consulting Group, which provides growth and partnership opportunities in US and Hispanic markets. AMLA identifies the best potential partner for businesses which are eager to exploit the growing buying power of the US Hispanic market and for US Corporations seeking to find investment partners in Latin America. Previously, she was Chief of Staff for Venezuela President Carlos Andres Perez as well as Chief Strategist for the Cisneros Group of Companies.
For her work throughout Latin America, Rangel has been honored with the Order of Merit of May from Argentina, the Condor of the Andes Order from Bolivia, the Bernardo O'Higgins Order by Chile, the Order of Boyaca from Colombia, and the National Order of Jose Matías Delgado from El Salvador.
You can follow her on twitter @BEPA2009 or contact her directly at BRangel@amlaconsulting.com.