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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mexico needs its citizens to keep their eyes on how governors spend their money, former foreign minister says

Jorge Castañeda says states need a better system of checks and balances

jorge castaneda makes pointBy David Gaddis Smith

Mexican democracy has meant that there is less corruption on a grand scale in Mexico than ever, former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castañeda said Monday in Tijuana. But large amounts of money are now being transferred to state governments, and citizens need to organize themselves in order to examine the books and curtail corruption there, Castañeda said.

Castañeda spoke at the Tijuana Cultural Center as part of a program sponsored by the Autonomous University of Baja California and the State Council of Alumni Societies, which handed out free copies of his and Héctor Aguilar Camín's 135-page book, "Regreso al Futuro" ("Return to the Future.")

a pensive jorge castanedaSaying Mexicans need to think of government funds under the terms of "It's my money," he said the country needs citizens' groups to oversee and audit what is spent. He said this is necessary in part because in 25 of Mexico's 32 legislatures, the governor has a majority. "This is the 'carro completo' (clean sweep), what Mexico had before (at the federal level). What do the legislatures do? They rubber-stamp what the governor wants," Castañeda said.
Video in which Castañeda discusses states' corruption.

He said the former ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party's having lost control of the national Chamber of Deputies in 1997 and then having lost control of the Senate and the presidency in 2000 has meant more "checks and balances" and more eyes on the federal budget and less corruption on a large scale.

He said he and Aguilar Camín both suggest that Mexico return to having a full day of elementary school, so that students learn more and so that working mothers don't have to worry so much about their children once they get out of school. Elementary students now go either go to school either in the morning or the afternoon. He also wanted for all students to get cheap computers, and for teachers to be evaluated and booted out if they do not do their job well. He also said he disagreed with the 1990s decision to decentralize the education system, saying that a centralized education system is what has generally worked best in the world. YouTube video on his discussion of centralized education

Castañeda tried to run for president in 2004 as an independent candidate but couldn't because Mexican law does not allow it. The Senate has passed a measure to allow independent candidacies, and Castañeda said this will be a good thing for Mexico because independent candidates will bring up subjects that major party candidates generally will not, such as legalizing drug use. Castañeda repeated his belief that drugs should be legalized. He also said he thought independent candidates would have the most impact at the local or state level.

He said he and President Vicente Fox had failed in their attempt to get a U.S.-Mexico migration agreement, a proposal he had called the "big enchilada," but lamented that castaneda regreso al futuro bookPresident Felipe Calderón had basically taken migration off the table for discussion. Castañeda said Calderón had "de-migrationized the agenda with the United States."

Castañeda also discussed the problems of monopolies in Mexico, and said billionaire Carlos Slim and Televisa media magnate Emilio Azcarraga Jean had inadvertently provided strong arguments against monopolies.
YouTube video of Castañeda's discussion of monopolies.
Los Angeles Times story on Slim-Azcarrage-Ricardo Salinas Pliego dispute.
Salinas Pliego denies that there is a TV duopoly


Castañeda was supposed to discuss the book at 6:30 Monday night at the University of Sonora in Hermosillo, but the presentation was canceled due to "unforeseeable circumstances." Castañeda began his talk in Tijuana 49 minutes late at 12:19 p.m.