Foreign Policy Blogs

Mexico’s Most Important Election

Barack Obama’s reelection has stirred policy reactions in Mexico in at least two ways. First, voters in the states of Colorado and Washington endorsed ballot measures to legalize recreational use of marijuana. One would expect the next issue up for discussion to be the legal conflicts involving interstate commerce and, in general, how the Feds might react. Instead, major media outlets busied away at estimating the impact of pot legalization on Mexico’s drug gangs.

Most of the reportage has focused on a study released by the Mexican Competitiveness Institute that calculated Mexico’s drug gangs would lose $2.8 billion in revenue if marijuana were legalized in the two states. The Sinaloa cartel stands to lose half of its income. (Largely drown out is a similar study by Rand Corporation that projects much smaller losses for the drug gangs.)

“Obviously, we can’t handle a product that is illegal in Mexico, trying to stop its transfer to the United States, when in the United States, at least in part of the United States, it now has a different status,” said Luis Videgaray, the president-elect’s top advisor, a day after the election.

Meanwhile, Mexico’s outgoing president Felipe Calderon convened a meeting with several of his Central American counterparts in order to forge a common response to legalization in Colorado and Washington. The group is pushing for the UN to spearhead a global rethink on the issue of marijuana legalization.

Second, with the election leaving Washington’s Democrat-Republican balance roughly the same as before, the world’s attention has focused on the looming “fiscal cliff.” Unfortunately, each side has interpreted the election as a mandate to hold firm on their tax positions. In lieu of a tax deal, one compromise issue may be immigration reform. Some Republicans, including Bobby Jindal and Lindsay Graham, have been quick to interpret their recent electoral losses as a result of misguided immigration policies. Fox News recently reported that Republican big whigs have formed a super-PAC, “Republicans for Immigration Reform,” to target immigrant voters.

Immigration reform would undoubtedly be welcome across the border in Mexico. “I don’t think there’s as an important issue for the future wellbeing of our bilateral relationship than getting immigration reform right,” said Mexican ambassador Arturo Sarukhan. Sarukhan went on to advocate a comprehensive, not piecemeal, reform.

Photo from AP