Posted on November 10, 2006

Latin Americans Cheered by GOP Setback

E. Eduardo Castillo, AP, Nov. 9, 2006

Mexico City traffic officer Raul Cervantes couldn’t remember the name of the Republican Party on Wednesday — all he knew was that President Bush had taken a beating and that was enough to make him happy.

Politicians, analysts and ordinary citizens across Latin America cheered the Democrats’ takeover of Congress as roping in a president who went to war against Iraq, ignoring widespread world opposition to the invasion.

“When the people who make Bush’s plans happen aren’t around, we will be better off,” said Cervantes, directing traffic on a major Mexico City avenue.

Most in the region agree that Washington’s new political landscape will do little for their countries’ agendas, such as Mexico’s hope of stopping a border wall meant to stem illegal immigration.

And few believe the Democrats will push through a migration accord that would allow Latin Americans to more easily work legally in the U.S., or smooth relations with Latin America’s growing camp of leftists, from Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez to Nicaragua’s newly elected Daniel Ortega.

Regardless, many in the region cheered.


In the Dominican Republic, which has 1.3 million citizens in the U.S., Radhames Gomez Pepin, director of the left-leaning newspaper El Nacional, said Democrats’ plans to raise the minimum wage will help Hispanics and Latin American immigrants.

“I believe Hispanics will benefit,” he said. “Perhaps some of the persecution against them in schools and cities will end,” he said.

Mexican President-elect Felipe Calderon said yesterday that Democratic gains in Congress could lead to “room for improvement” in U.S.-Mexican relations, a suggestion that headway may be made on immigration and other bilateral issues.

At a White House meeting with President Bush today, Calderon, who takes office on Dec. 1, is expected to express Mexico’s disappointment with the decision by the outgoing Republican-controlled House and Senate to approve a 700-mile fence along the Mexican-American border, an effort to stem the flow of millions of migrant workers.

During a meeting yesterday with Washington Post reporters and editors, Calderon said the outcome of Tuesday’s midterm elections allowed for “some room for improvement in terms of bilateral relations.”

“I know President Bush is facing a difficult moment,” he said. “But I think there is an opportunity. After the elections, I hope Americans and Congress will have a chance for rational debate.”

Calderon, a Harvard-educated economist and a member of the conservative National Action Party, made job creation a central platform of his campaign. He returned to that theme yesterday, saying that new jobs and foreign investment in Mexico would be more effective than a fence as a tool against migration.

His predecessor, current President Vicente Fox, made the same arguments against the fence, to no avail.

“Now maybe you have people crossing the border looking for capital,” Calderon said. “We need capital crossing the border looking for people.”

Calderon also said that the North American Free Trade Agreement had been a boon for Mexico but that more needed to be done to make the economy more competitive. He said that only by reducing tariffs, eliminating other regulations and enforcing the rule of law could Mexico be seen as a destination for foreign investment.