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Those who missed Mexico analyst Denise Dresser's talk to the Coparmex Tijuana business group on Tuesday have a relatively easy way to catch up on what she said: Read her latest book.
Much of what she said Tuesday came from the ideas on the pages of "El País de Uno" (One's Country, or My Country), first published a year ago and now in its eighth edition. The book's subtitle is "Insights to Understand and Change Mexico."
Asked about her generally bleak outlook on Mexico during a question-and-answer session, Dresser said she would not have bothered to come to Tijuana from Mexico City to speak if she did not have hope for Mexico.
She said Mexico is likely to move forward only if its citizens put in a greater joint effort to make it a better country.
She drew a big applause when she said she would not be the last to turn off the lights for Mexico. But she then said Mexico needs a revolution, not an armed one but one of the middle class that fights for its and other Mexicans' rights and for an accountable and better government. She said a consequence of the Institutional Revolutionary Party's 1929-2000 hold on the presidency was that Mexicans did not know their rights. Now, after 12 years of National Action Party presidents, the country has elected another PRIista, Enrique Peña Nieto, who will take office Dec. 1.
As in her book, she likened many Mexicans to the "reluctant hero" Frodo in J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Frodo was comfortable with his life and was afraid to take on the quest to destroy Sauron's ring. Dresser wrote, however, "Frodo did not have a choice and the Mexican citizen doesn't either... Frodo has the task of saving his world and the Mexican citizen has the task of saving his or her country." The ring, in this case, presumably would symbolize, in the Mexican case, the warped, outsized powers monopolies and some Mexican politicians and political parties have developed.
Dresser also will be a keynote speaker at Tijuana Innovadora at 3 p.m. Oct. 13, discussing the very issues contained in her book under the theme, "From Submission to Citizen Participation."
Dresser called the Mexican political system dysfunctional; rather than calling it a democracy, she called it a party-ocracy and a kleptocracy.
She said Mexico needs re-election of legislators and council members so that the voting public can hold politicians and parties accountable. Peña Nieto is opposed to re-election; Dresser's colleague at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico, Jeff Weldon, recent told the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego that the passage of re-election legislation is highly unlikely during Peña Nieto's six-year term.
Dresser said the idea of no-election occurred as a result of Porfirio Díaz's long dictatorship that culminated in the Mexican Revolution that began in 1910. She said the main idea of no re-election at that time only had to do with Díaz and later was perverted into no-re-election for all elected officials to the detriment of Mexican society but to the long-term benefit of the PRI.
She said she hoped the labor reform President Felipe Calderón sent to Congress is passed this week. She said labor leaders have accumulated too much power and privilege at the expense of the rank and file, pointing to oil workers union leader Romero Deschamps' long years in power. He recently was elected as an at-large federal senator. Dresser noted that Deschamps' teenage daughter is somehow able to live a life of incredible luxury and fly on private aircraft for her shopping expeditions and vacations with her English bulldogs; Dresser said she could not get the names of the bulldogs (Keiko, Boli and Morgancita) out of her mind.
Dresser described herself as center-left and as what would be classified as a social democrat in Europe. She said the left in Mexico has acted suicidally the last six years and driven itself into a blind alley it is having an extremely difficult time extracting itself from.
As in her book, during her talk she called Vicente Fox's 2000-2006 presidency a failed one.
Among the many in attendance at Dresser's talk, one of several she has given to the organization over the years, were PANistas mentioned as possible candidates for next year's Baja California gubernatorial election: former Tijuana mayors Enrique "Kiko" Vega, Héctor Osuna Jaime and Jorge Ramos as well as former top state official Cuauhtémoc Cardona.
El País de Uno for sale on Amazon.com
Mexico expert Eric Olson's review of her book.
Dresser spoke at the University of San Diego in May and worried that Peña Nieto's election would result in the Putinization of Mexico. The fact that the PRI, however, did not win a majority in Congress makes such a possibility seem even slimmer.
Denise Dresser, who speaks at Tuesday's Coparmex Tijuana business group breakfast, on Monday used her column to tout a new book from the Emerging Markets Forum on the major reforms Mexico needs to undertake to achieve greater prosperity for its citizens.
She said President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto is going to have to go against the grain of his Institutional Revolutionary Party to achieve the labor, economic and educational reforms to move Mexico forward. Although Peña Nieto calls for such reforms in his own book, calling for such reforms and getting them passed are a much different matter.
Update, Sept. 25: Dresser, in her Coparmex talk, said Peña Nieto has admitted he did not write the book himself.
The Mexico 2042 book is edited by Claudio Loser and Harinder Kohli and has a foreword by Mexican writer Héctor Aguilar Camin, who spoke to Coparmex last year.
Dresser's column, entitled "Fossilized Mexico," writes about how current labor law benefits union leadership that provides votes for the PRI and how the lack of economic reforms leaves Mexico uncompetitive with monopolies benefiting from a captive public.
Dresser's column, in Frontera (PDF).
The book: Mexico: A New Vision for Mexico 2042: Achieving Prosperity for All (PDF)
Emerging Markets Forum website.