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June 19, 2012


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I just did a border tour in El Paso. The detention center was empty. Imagine that? I think you're spot on in this piece.

However, the costs of crossing the border are certainly higher these days. Simply put, the gringos are putting more resources -- legal and material -- into controlling the border, which raises the costs. A low-paying job, in other words, might be relatively better than the risk of crossing cartel-controlled territory...

Okay, time for the medievalist to ask the modernist a question:

It seems to me that a growing manufacturing sector would lead to a growing class of people who are extremely wealthy from manufacturing. Moreover, it seems like this class of wealthy would probably have a fairly substantial interest in a stable Mexico. Finally, I think that those with scads of money from Mexico's (legitimate) exports would wind up with more indirect influence on the state and federal governments than the narcotraficantes, and thus the state might have a greater interest in restoring something of a semblance of order to the northern states.

Is any part of this analysis dead wrong?

Nope. The short version is that it's correct. Frex, the PAN pushed through corporate tax hikes, and the PRI has just come out publicly in favor. This is possible in part because big companies realize that they have a stake in greater public revenue.

The longer version is that it misses three details: impact, time, and difficulty.

Impact: so far, despite recent events in Michoacán, the crime wave hasn't affected the big companies directly.

Time: political change takes time, especially in a democracy.

Difficulty: the state hasn't exactly abandoned northern Mexico. Quite the reverse, actually. It's just that getting a handle on organized crime is incredibly difficult, especially for a state with such a long history of institutionalized corruption and insufficient public revenues. The manufacturing elite clearly prefer stability ... but has no more idea how to get there than anyone else.

In the long run, assuming we don't all wind up serving the robots, I'm optimistic. But the long-run is, as you know, long.

Gabe: did you get any pix of the detention center? That's ... astounding. I mean, it's what you'd expect, given the statistics and all ... but that's still absolutely astounding.

Hi Noel,

I recognize Gabe´s observation. Recently, during a visit in Tijuana, I visited several transfer centers for deported Mexican migrants. They were all empty, with only a few small groups coming in every week. I visited the places where migrants normally (such as the old cathedral and the small gorge near Playas) gather to be led over the border: hardly anyone. Migration in Tijuana has slown down to a very small trickle at best.

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