by David Hendricks
Probably no other border in the world has so much wealth on one side and so much poverty on the other than the U.S.-Mexico border.
The United States loses ground by having a neighbor where the youth are so discouraged by dismal prospects for their future that they turn to crime. The United States and Mexico must aggressively establish partnerships to advance economic opportunity in Mexico.
Proposals for a North American union of the United States, Mexico and Canada, similar to the European Union in which resources cross borders to boost economic prospects, have gone nowhere in Congress. The debt-laden U.S. government cannot and will not do that. Others must take on the job.
With Mexico's civil society continuing to disintegrate into the violence of drug smuggling and organized crime, a private-sector effort is organizing in the United States and Mexico to foster systematic change in Mexico. The effort has strong roots in San Antonio, and the Obama administration is watching. The effort is called the U.S.-Mexico Foundation. The headquarters are in New York City and Mexico City, but the nonprofit designation comes from an organization spun off from San Antonio's North American Development Bank to Mexico's National Business Council.
Foundation board members from the United States include former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros; former San Antonio business consultant Roger Wallace, now of Dallas; and San Antonio bond lawyer José Villarreal, who also is U.S. ambassador commissioner general to the 2010 Shanghai Expo. Ex-NADBank Managing Director Raul Rodriguez was the foundation's initial treasurer and now is an advisory board member along with Carlos Slim Domit, son of Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim. Villarreal said recently he will devote himself to the foundation once the Shanghai Expo ends. He recently briefed U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the foundation. Clinton initially backed an organization called the Mexican-American Leadership Initiative, but that effort merged this summer with the U.S.-Mexico Foundation at Rodriguez's suggestion.
Recently hired as foundation president and CEO was James Polsfut, who possesses an extensive background in U.S.-Mexico relations, including working for GE Capital in Mexico City during the 1990s. Mexican board members include the foundation chairman, José Antonio Fernández, president of the giant soda bottler Grupo Femsa. Former Mexican Finance Secretary Pedro Aspe, Microsoft Mexico General Director Juan Alberto González Esparza and Mexico's ambassador to the United States, Arturo Sarukhán, also are on the board.
This high-powered group, which formed last year, seeks resources for programs to improve education, health and job opportunities in Mexico. Some projects already have started. Others will be added, Polsfut said.
“A lot of attention will be paid to opportunities for young people, both in education and job creation,” Polsfut said. Program funding will be sought from corporations, foundations and individuals on both sides of the border. Money raised in the United States will be matched in Mexico, Polsfut explained. The foundation should be the first place where Mexican Americans, and wealthy Mexicans living in the United States, especially San Antonio, can try to make a difference in Mexico.
Mexico's youth need hope and alternatives to crime. Otherwise, some parts of Mexican society will slide further into chaos and misery.