The Border Is
Here - Fall 2001
Mexican Government - What Is It Like?
Government - What Is It Like?
This is largely a repeat of information I had in The
Border Is Here book, which I wrote in 1993 and reprinted in 1995.
Mexico now is a democracy. Most
people who observe it closely say that it became one completely when Vicente Fox
Quesada of the National Action Party (PAN) was elected president in 2000.
Fox is the first opposition leader ever to take charge in Mexico, without
overthrowing the government in power by force first.
Most political offices in Mexico are still held by people in the
Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). All
presidents of Mexico from 1929 to Fox were in the PRI.
Mexico's counterpart to the House of Representatives in the United States
is the Chamber of Deputies. It has
500 members. Of these, 300 are
elected every 3 years from individual districts, and 200 are assigned seats by
proportional representation for the same length of time.
The PRI now has more seats than the PAN, but not a majority, because
about 100 of the seats are held by members of Mexico's third major political
party, the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD).
Besides the 3 major parties, 6 minor parties have seats in the Chamber of
There are 128 members of the Chamber of Senators in Mexico. Of these, there are 3 from each of Mexico's 31 states and the
Federal District (Mexico City). The
other 32 are given seats by proportional representation.
The PRI has the majority of seats, with the PAN a clear second.
The PRD has only 9 senators, and minor parties 5 (all by agreement to
support the candidates for president of the major parties in the elections of
last year). Senators serve 6-year
terms. The chamber will change
totally, along with the president, in 2006.
The government of Sonora, the state that forms almost all of Mexico's
border with Arizona, is Armando López Nogales of the PRI.
The legislature of Sonora has one house only, with 27 members.
Of these, 12 are in the PRI, 9 are members of the PAN, and 6 belong to
the PRD. López was elected
governor in 1997, and the legislators took their seats in 2000.
Formally, the mayors of cities and towns in Mexico are called municipal
presidents. All government that is
at county level in the U.S. is combined with city government in Mexico.
This is the same as in Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Denver on this
side of the border. Just across it here, the mayors of Naco and Cananea are in
the PAN. East and west of here, the
mayors of Agua Prieta and Nogales are in the PRI.
The national constitution requires all municipal councils to have some
people in opposition to the mayor, if their parties got any significant number
of votes in the elections. Municipal
presidents and council members serve for 3 years.
Fox cannot be elected as Mexico's president again, after his term of 6
years is up in 2006. After serving
one term, holders of all other offices in Mexico must wait for at least the
number of years in their terms, to be elected to the offices again.
This is true now, even though offices are held by people in all parties,
and not almost all by the PRI as in most of the last century.
All offices have alternates, except those of national president and
governors. There is no
vice-president in Mexico, and there are no secretaries of state or lieutenant
Mexico's courts are divided into a Supreme Court of Justice, Collected
Circuit Tribunals, and district courts, similar to the United States.
Unlike the U.S., the constitution, rather than laws, gives the duties of
the courts. There are 11 members of
the Supreme Court of Justice, who serve for 15 years each.
Since 1996, the affairs of the circuit tribunals and district judges has
been directed by a Council of the Federal Judiciary.
The constitution of Mexico now in force was made in 1917.
The ones previous to it were written in 1824 and 1857.
The framers of all three of them decided to mix what they liked about
government in the U.S. with that in Mexico's mother country, Spain.
Even though the formal ways government runs in Mexico have changed, Mexico is still run by the 1% or less of its people at the top of society there. Depending on how the economy is at any time, the next 10-15% are in a position to make suggestions on how to run things day by day to those at the top. Many of the others do not understand the differences among the political parties. As the PRI and minor parties before; the PRI, PAN, PRD, and minor parties now must keep people fed and entertained enough so their candidates will win the elections. For most people, they do a good job of that, as photos of newspapers all over Mexico show long lines of people waiting to vote in the heat of July. However, they do not do a good enough job for many. The border attracts these people to cross it, and try to get work on this side.
Here Is of Things Other Than Recreational Drugs and People
We can have some fun with this topic again.
There has been no one here like last year, smuggling drugs and getting
into shootouts with the neighbors. As
for people, the crossers who stopped by looking for water in September before
the attacks were the first since February this year.
There has been no one here since, but a Border Patrol agent says there
has been no decrease in illegal crossing since the attacks.
As before the attacks, occasionally a Border Patrol van will go on my
road, with crossers that it picked up a half mile to the west.
In March 1997, I traveled to El Paso and Juarez.
In El Paso, I went to the Sunland Park Mall. The Penney's store there had a sign that limited customers to
2 pairs of Levis blue jeans. I
asked the clerk if the limit was related to smuggling.
He said that before the limit, Mexicans would buy Levis in large
quantities, then take them back across the border to sell them for large
Even before the large increase in cigarette taxes in the United States in
the last few years, low-priced Mexican cigarettes were at least twice as cheap
as American ones. Mexican brands as
Fiesta and Broadway are regarded as so bad that they are not smuggled in great
numbers, even though American cigarette taxes were raised again.
In fact, American cigarettes are smuggled into Mexico.
They are sold at prices low enough to keep the market going, but high
enough to mark them as premium brands. In
other words, the smugglers have the supply to meet the demand of Mexican smokers
for American cigarettes.
In El Paso in 1997, there were ads for foreign brands of cigarettes,
Marlboro and Raleigh, that can now be made in Mexico.
The ads were on TV from Juarez. The
cigarettes cost twice as much per pack as for local brands Fiesta and Broadway.
We discussed the economics of cigarette smuggling much in 1997 through
Very colorful birds live in the tropics of Central and South America.
Most come from the jungles of the Amazon River, mostly in Brazil.
Laws in Latin American countries prohibit taking many birds out of them,
and the U.S. severely restricts importing birds.
Still, with people in the U.S. willing to pay up to $5,000 per bird,
smugglers are ready to supply this demand, and even lose a few birds in the
process. An agricultural inspector
from Douglas told me that he is called to Naco once or twice a month to pick up
birds seized from smugglers. Back
in Douglas, they can be identified and cared for before they are sent home, or
sold or given to animal parks and zoos if they cannot be returned to the wild.
Back in Juarez on Wednesday, September 5, two men got 10,000 Valium
pills. Probably if they had been
willing to spend some money to pay women to take them across and buy them
nice-looking pants first, they would have gotten the pills into El Paso. However, they were greedy, and kept all the money for
themselves. They put on panty hose,
and tried to bring over the pills in person.
The end of the story took place at one of the five ports of entry between
El Paso and Juarez.
Smuggling of people takes place because there is a demand by Americans who want to have jobs done, and a supply of Mexicans willing to do them. If Americans will do the jobs, and if not why, is argued all across the U.S. today. Whether the things are completely illegal as marijuana and cocaine, or the things are taxed but not illegal as cigarettes, or come from just one place as Levis and tropical birds, smuggling takes place because there is a demand for the items, and a supply of people who see the rewards in smuggling the items as worth the risk.
Gracias - Que Se Debe Hacer Ahora
(What Should Be
Usually I thank those who have anything to do
with the newsletter here. Today, I
note the people in Customs, the Border Patrol, and others who have spent extra
time all along the border, as those who checked the bridges between Mexico and
Texas. Other than to check these,
the border was not closed. However,
there has been extra security at ports of entry since the terrorist attacks on
Tuesday, September 11.
I heard of these attacks as I entered what was to be the second article
into the computer files for this issue. There were estimates that there were
more than 30,000 people employed in the World Trade Center, when its towers fell
after being hit by hijacked airplanes.
Lists from those who had people employed in the World Trade Center and
Pentagon, and later checking, show that 4,000 rather than 30,000 died in the
attacks. Even if the bigger
estimates had proven to be correct, they are less than 1/3 of the number of
people who have been caught crossing the border into southeastern Arizona alone
each year. In every one of the 6
years that I have been here since 1995, more than 100,000 have been caught
crossing the border without any legal documents to do so.
Less than 2 weeks before the attacks, Mexican president Vicente Fox had a
very friendly visit to Washington to see American president George W. Bush.
Fox visited the U.S. again after the attacks.
The attacks have now brought American politicians together, if only for a
few months. Now is the time to do
these things; the sooner after immediate aid is given to the victims of the
attacks, the better. All American
politicians now agree that money in the Social Security trust fund has to be
used for anything that is done. However,
these measures will cost little compared to other things being done, such as
grants and loans to the airlines. With
regard to Mexicans and the border, to treat Mexicans as all immigrants, I would
do these eight things:
certain the status of all immigrants now in the United States.
No immigrants need to be treated differently, whether they are from
Mexico, or from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, or the United Arab Emirates as the
terrorists apparently were, or Iran, Peru, or Taiwan, homes of people I knew
when I was going to college more than 25 years ago.
who are doing work that no others in the U.S. want to do or can do properly, can
get non-citizen work permits. These
will allow them to keep working on this side of the border, whether in
entry-level agricultural jobs, or ones requiring expertise as the people I knew
almost 30 years ago were hoping to get.
what they are doing is permanent, or they have a string of temporary jobs that
is enough to support them, their status should be reviewed every year.
they are doing seasonal or temporary work, as many from Mexico, they should get
permits for the time needed to stay and do their work, plus whatever time they
need to get things together and go back afterwards.
permit process must be much easier now than in the past.
In theory, there is a permit process now, but in practice, it is too long
and cumbersome for anyone to follow it. By
the time the permit process as it is now can be completed, the need for the
temporary jobs, as to pick cotton as I saw near Casa Grande in October, is often
all immigrants now in the United States an opportunity to become citizens in 5
years, under the laws and conditions required to become an American citizen now.
Then, they will not need work permits, as is true for American citizens
now. Those who do not follow all
conditions in general should be
given enough time to wrap up their particular affairs and go home, or to another
country of their choice. Both they
and Americans already here must realize that they swear allegiance to the United
States when they become citizens, and not to Saudi Arabia, Iran, Canada, Mexico,
or wherever anymore.
the Border Patrol, and also use the National Guard - only those persons in it
from immediate areas, as southern Arizona and southern Texas - to help them.
Do not use the regular military, there has been enough experience with it
on the border to know that it will not work.
The regular military is now active in the Middle East and other parts of
the world, anyway.
he went to Washington, Fox suggested American aid for places in Mexico which do
not have work for the many who come to the United States illegally.
Even he and others in the Mexican government must now realize this is not
possible now, if it ever was. Much
of the email I receive is from Mexicans wanting to sell Internet or other
services from the capital, Guadalajara, or Monterrey.
It is all in Spanish, of course. If
there is enough money in Mexico to have centers which make these mailings, there
is enough money in Mexico to have a fund to aid the places in the countryside
there. They are capable of
appealing to Americans to contribute to the fund.
Both the PRI and the PAN offered translations of their web sites to
English in the last presidential elections in Mexico in 2000, as they looked in
any way they could to keep their campaigns going.
The PRI's was very good, while the PAN's was not as good but
understandable. Persons who were in
Agua Prieta when the Rancho Feliz Charitable Foundation of Scottsdale, Arizona
delivered a fire truck donated by the city of Tempe, also in the Phoenix area,
may know people who can start such a fund.
If the fund does what it says it will do, Americans will contribute to it
through groups like Rancho Feliz.
These are general points. How
do the details get done?
The last estimate I have heard says that 72% of people in the United
States have direct access to the Internet.
I do not know of the figure for Palominas, or any other place
specifically. My translation of the
current Mexican constitution is the first complete one since 1968. The free version has all text written for it to 1996.
It is on the Historical Text Archive at: www.historicaltextarchive.com
Then, click on its Mexico articles and books section. The site is run by Dr. Donald J. Mabry, a history professor
at Mississippi State University by Starkville.
Until he went on sabbatical this year, he was also an assistant dean of
his college there. Dr. Mabry also
has the 1968 text, and many other materials that you can read for free.
As for masny other sites on the Internet, he makes money for it by
commissions from sites as amazon.com for books, and others.
As you read it, note its text on labor, Article 123. It is clear that for many people, the Mexican government's
idea of "socially useful work" has been to have them make the
dangerous journey through northern Mexico, across the border, and through how
far in the U.S. they have to go. In
the middle of the article, those who wrote it in 1917 put: "The consul of
the nation where the worker has to go must see the labor contract."
There is a possible foundation for a guest-worker program,
point 3, or whatever people would like to call it.
Also, Dr. Mabry has posted an electronic edition of my book, The
Border Is Here, at this site. He
posted it last year, immediately after Fox was elected president of Mexico.
He put it in his U.S. section; it took me awhile to find it there.
This is the same book that went to the raffle winner of former Scottsdale
mayor Herb Drinkwater's red Cadillac convertible.
This raised $50,000 for Rancho Feliz last year.
Also see on the Internet, from where I am in Palominas: www.palominas.com
There, on this community web site, Doug Snyder has posted text from the
two issues of this newsletter before this one, and has photographs and other
writings about the border here.
There are many other writings on Mexico in English besides mine.
In particular, Mexico Online has a good site.
Some of these are by the Mexican government itself.
Of course, there are many things on Mexico posted in Spanish.
Whatever must be done about all immigration to the United States should
be done now, in the few months that those in the American government can agree
As for me, I am taking more classes at Cochise College in Sierra Vista,
for a web developer certificate. I
expect to complete it on Monday, December 17, 2 weeks after this is written.
After that, I either leave and work in the computer field somewhere, or stay and
make it here under a new structure. ?Hasta
luego - posiblemente?
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