Jewish World Review July 5, 2006/ 9 Tamuz, 5766

Wesley Pruden

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South of the border, some good news | The Border Patrol and the rest of us can indulge a deep breath. The best man appears to have been elected president of Mexico on Sunday, and that makes the prospects a little brighter here for the rule of law and the maintenance of fragile order on the border.

Felipe Calderon, the conservative candidate of Vicente Fox's National Action Party, holds a steady lead of 400,000 votes with nearly everything counted. That doesn't necessarily cinch it, but to reverse it would require the kind of counting-house magic that made George W. Bush's similarly comfortable lead in Florida vanish within an hour in the wee hours of a November morning in the year 2000. More or less neutral Mexican election officials say that's not likely.

Senor Calderon is a free-market man whose jib is cut in the pattern of Vicente Fox, and the loser, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the former mayor of Mexico City, is a populist lefty in the mold of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, fond of punctuating out-of-date economic theories with mobs of poor campesinos, called into the streets to seek with disruption what he could not win with ballots. "There is an irreversible result and it is in my favor," a confident Senor Calderon said in the early hours of yesterday morning, "and the result gives me a very clear victory that cannot be reversed." This assurance had the jarring tone of a superstitious man whistling past a graveyard by the light of the moon, but unless the loser tries to argue with riots, the verdict looks secure enough.

Senor Calderon campaigned as a 21st-century man out to rescue the Mexican economy from the strangling embrace of the monopolies of oil, natural gas, electricity, cement, transportation and the telecommunications industry — just the industries that should be making Mexico prosper but don't. Lopez Obrador, the man of the left, campaigned as a threat to NAFTA, who would stifle imports from the United States and embark on a costly welfare-state adventure that would turn the torrent of Mexicans rushing across the Rio Grande into a gusher beyond any government's will to manage. As unrealistic as Vicente Fox may be with his demand that the United States treat its southern border like its border with Canada, Lopez Obrador would have been worse.

Senor Calderon, on the other hand, has an all-day job ahead of him if he makes a dent in what's wrong with the economy of Mexico, with its riches of oil, minerals and willing workers. When a nation's chief export is its own people, fixing what's broke won't be easy. The statistics of what's wrong are mind-boggling, enough to frighten the president and the U.S. Senate into giving up their dream of awarding citizenship to everyone south of the border so that no American will ever again have to wash his own dishes, mind his babies, cut his lawn or clean his swimming pool. The amnesty caucus dreams of the day when no American chicken will be plucked by gringo hands.

More than 10 percent of all Mexicans now live in the United States; 15 percent of its entire labor force is working north of the border. More than $20 billion annually is sent home by Mexican workers, more than Mexico earns from its oil, exported in a volume of more than a million barrels a day, or from the tourism that keeps miles of luxury hotels along both its Pacific and Gulf coasts filled with free-spending foreigners. The annual remittance sent home by Mexican migrants is almost as large as the entire U.S. foreign-aid budget.

Felipe Calderon says he knows how to change this, and Sunday's results suggest that Mexicans, who tolerated one-party rule that grew slovenly and corrupt over seven decades, are finally demanding a government they deserve. "The good news is that a million Mexicans were on the street recently demanding good jobs, good government and justice," Roger Noriega, a former assistant secretary of state, told a panel at the American Enterprise Institute not long ago. "The bad news is that they were marching in someone else's country."

The Sunday results were the work of a different march, a march to the ballot box with something better than continued national sickness in mind. When Mexico sneezes, it sprays migrants across North America. Any sign of improving health is good news for everyone.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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