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Return to Mexican past is bad for U.S.

Updated: July 29, 2012 5:00PM

On Sunday, Mexicans will go to the polls to elect a new president and Congress. The election is critical to Mexico’s future, but important as well to the United States. Thousands of jobs in Illinois and across the country, for one, depend on political stability and economic well-being in Mexico.

At stake is not only whether the new president and Congress can stop the drug violence that has claimed 60,000 lives since Mexican President Felipe Calderon launched an all-out-war against the drug cartels five and half years ago. Also at play is the return of the infamous Revolutionary Institutional Party, or PRI, which governed Mexico for 71 years through corruption, cronyism, coercion and selective violence.

If we believe the pollsters, the PRI candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto, a 45-year-old former governor of the State of Mexico, will be the next president. Peña Nieto’ has tried to convince Mexicans that he represents a more democratic and modern PRI.

In most polls, Peña Nieto is ahead of Josefina Vazquez Mota of the ruling Partido de Acción Nacional, or PAN, and the center-left candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the Democratic Revolutionary Party, or PRD, who lost the last presidential election by a close margin.

But Peña Nieto is facing an unprecedented revolt lead by university students across Mexico, who accuse him of representing the old political machine and buying votes and favorable television news coverage.

Many Mexicans have expressed dissatisfaction with the options to replace Calderón whose party, PAN, has been in power for 12 years. In the historic election of 2000, PAN ended seven decades of PRI rule, which Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa famously called “a perfect dictatorship.”

This election might come down to which candidate is the least disliked. It also will depend on the youth movement going beyond social media and street protests to actually casting votes.

Magda Caratachea, a resident of Blue Island who was born in California and grew up in Durango, Mexico, has already casted her vote in the Mexican presidential election. Mexico allows dual citizenship and Mexicans who live abroad have been able to vote by mail for president since the 2006 election.

“I have family and property in Mexico,” said Caratachea. “What happens in Mexico affects the United States and the Mexican community in this country as well.”

Mexicans are increasingly fed up with drug violence, crime, poverty and a broken judicial system that successfully prosecutes only 2 percent of all cases.

And what happens in Mexico might matter to your job. Mexico is the second-largest destination for U.S. exports and the third-largest source of U.S. imports. According to a study by the Woodrow Wilson international Center for Scholars, 6 million U.S. jobs depend on trade with Mexico. The study estimates that one in every 24 American workers depends on U.S.-Mexico trade for their employment.

Illinois is a good trade partner of Mexico. In 2010, Illinois’s exports to Mexico reached $4,268 million, an increase of $3,086 million from 1993.

Mexicans might vote to go back to the past, with consequences that could be bad for both countries.

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