Their View: Calderon's win means no major changes
The closeness of the Mexican presidential election - in which the conservative, pro-business, pro-U.S. candidate, Felipe Calderon, edged out former Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, of the center left - suggests deep ambivalence in Mexico, as in all of Latin America, toward the free-market policies adopted in the region, with varying success, over the past decade. While there has been a movement to jettison some of this “classical liberalism” and return to a more statist approach (consider Venezuela's Hugo Chavez), many Latin Americans, especially in the middle and upper classes, have benefited from the pro-business stance, and have voted accordingly.
On the one hand, the followers of Obrador are concerned about Mexico's high socio-economic inequality and insecurity, are suspicious of and resentful about U.S. power, and want massive new programs to reduce poverty. On the other hand, Calderon's voters approve his call to develop an ever more competitive Mexico tightly integrated in the world economy - a nation that will continue to enthusiastically seek foreign investment: exactly the policy of departing President Vicente Fox.
Interestingly, more Mexicans aged 18 to 29 voted for Calderon than his leftist foe, suggesting that for this group, globalization and close ties with the United States are permanent facts of life, from which they don't run. (An exit poll showed 38 percent of this age group voting for Calderon, 34 percent for Obrador, and the rest for centrist candidates.) Mexico's young are apparently becoming more internationalist.
A recent fall in the Mexican poverty rate and rise in the nation's economic growth may well have been key in leading many younger voters to support current policies, which they see as more likely than a socialistic approach to make Mexico prosperous in coming years. But people over 50, who have lived under a statist (and politically very corrupt) system, tend more to turn to government as a social protector, and to worry about globalization. By a margin of 37 to 34 percent, the older Mexicans went for Obrador.
Calderon's apparent victory signals that there won't be any major changes in Mexico's policies, and that the North American Free Trade Agreement - albeit disliked by many in Mexico, the United States and Canada - is safe for the foreseeable future.
- The Providence Journal