G20 summit can help Greece by looking at host Mexico

Mexico's own recovery from a currency crisis has enabled it to play host to this year's G20 summit. What lessons can eurozone countries draw from that?

Eduardo Verdugo/AP Photo
President Felipe Calderon of Mexico arrives for the opening session of the G20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, June 18.

Saving the euro was the hot topic at this week’s summit of the Group of 20 nations. Just 18 years ago, the world was trying to save another currency from collapse: the Mexican peso. But guess what? Mexico has since recovered to the point that it could proudly host this year’s G20 gathering in the Baja city of Los Cabos.

Mexico’s comeback should give hope to Greece, Spain, and other ebbing economies that reform is possible. Mexico still has plenty of troubles, such as high poverty, a large gap in income, and an economy too influenced by organized crime, but it can be grateful for the progress so far achieved.

Take the drug violence that erupted after 2006 when a new president, Felipe Calderón, sent the military to take on the drug cartels. Drug-related murders have fallen 21 percent this year, according to Mr. Calderón, the first decline since the internal war began.

And as he prepares to leave office later this year, Calderón will hand over his reform effort to improve the once-hopeless federal police and judiciary. Cleaning up those pillars of democracy will allow the Army to slowly withdraw from the drug fight and return to the barracks where it belongs. This is the wish of many Mexicans.

Another sign of progress is the fact that Mexicans will vote July 1 for a new president in a very competitive contest. Before 2000, Mexico didn’t have much political competition. But in that year voters finally ousted the entrenched Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. That historic event has since changed the nation’s political culture.

Now, Mexicans are confident enough after 12 years to possibly elect the PRI’s candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto, who is ahead in the polls. (Calderón is constitutionally barred from running for reelection.) Even if Mr. Peña Nieto turns out to be under the thumb of the party’s old elite, as some predict, he’ll face a tough time governing unless he brings results.

Mexico’s economy now outpaces that of Latin America’s other giant, Brazil. That feat should entitle Mexico to join the so-called BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) – even if “BRICSM” doesn’t quite slip off the tongue.

The Mexican economy is now strong enough to welcome back the hundreds of thousands of migrants who left the United States in the past few years. This reverse exodus helps explain why Asians became the largest group of new immigrants in the US two years ago, surpassing the number of Hispanics, according to the latest census data compiled by the Pew Research Center.

The G20 summit has helped put Mexico on the international stage for a couple days. Who knows, perhaps in a few years Greece might be able to host a big international summit that shines a spotlight on its reformed economy.

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