Michael Barone
We Americans are lucky, though we seldom reflect on it, that we have good neighbors.

In East Asia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines face challenges from China over islands they have long claimed in the East China Sea.

In Europe, Germany and other prosperous nations face demands for subsidies from debt-ridden nations to avoid the collapse of the Euro.

When Southern Europeans look across the Mediterranean, they see Muslim nations facing post-Arab spring upheaval and disorder.

The United States has land borders with just two nations, Canada (on which more on another day) and Mexico, where Barack Obama is headed next month. They're both good neighbors.

I realize that most of the recent news on Mexico has been about violent drug wars. You get 500,000 hits when you Google Mexico "failed state."

But that's a misleading picture. The war on drug lords waged by President Felipe Calderon from 2006 to 2012 has had considerable success and has been de-emphasized by his successor Enrique Pena Nieto.

The focus on the drug war ignores Mexico's progress over the last 25 years as an electoral democracy. For 71 years, it had one-party rule of the PRI (Party of the Institutional Revolution). Under PRI rule, a president selected by his predecessor selected his successor.

But under PRI Presidents Carlos Salinas (1988-94) and Ernest Zedillo (1994-2000), Mexico established a clean election system under which the opposition conservative PAN and leftist PRD parties won state and legislative offices.

This was capped when PAN candidate Vicente Fox was elected president in July 2000. When Zedillo came on television and said, "I recognize that Vicente Fox is the next president of Mexico," thousands of Fox supporters gathered around Mexico City's Angel of Independence and stomped so strongly in unison that the earth shook.

Fox and his PAN successor Calderon had some significant policy successes. But they were frustrated in getting changes in the energy sector, in which the state-owned monopoly Pemex has lagged behind, and in education, where teacher jobs are handed down from parent to child.

The reason is that since 2000, none of Mexico's three parties has had majorities in Congress. That's one result of genuine political competition, in which voters have imposed rotation in office in governorships and legislative seats.

But it also meant that the PAN presidents could not get reforms through Congress if they were opposed by the PRI and the PRD.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM


TOWNHALL MEDIA GROUP