- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Money for Mexico

Former Mexican President Vicente Fox is predicting his country this year will reap a record economic bonanza from Mexicans living legally and illegally in the United States and is criticizing U.S. efforts to seal the border.

Mr. Fox told an audience at the Kennedy Center this week that Mexicans will send home $24 billion this year, making the cash transfers the fastest growing sector of Mexico’s economy. The oil industry, still the top source of income, is in decline, and tourism brings in about half of the money Mexicans here wire to relatives in Mexico. Mr. Fox said a growing number invest in “small businesses or infrastructure in small communities” in Mexico.

Mr. Fox, addressing guests of the American Society of Association Executives and the Center for Association Leadership, greeted Mexicans living here, calling them “paisanos,” or fellow countrymen.

“I salute my paisanos in the United States. They are great, great people,” he said, adding that they are “working, building the American dream.”

According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau figures, 24 million Mexicans are living legally in the United Sates, while most immigration specialists estimate that an additional 12 million to 20 million are here illegally. The estimated remittances for 2007 are $4 billion more than Mexico received in 2005.

Mr. Fox, who spoke in an interview format with broadcast journalist Meryl Comer, was asked about U.S. plans to build a more secure fence along 700 miles of the border.

“I think we should have the wisdom not to keep building walls but to build partnerships,” he said.

Mr. Fox also criticized the U.S. invasion of Iraq and called for a withdrawal of all American and coalition forces, although he did not address the potential for wider bloodshed and chaos that many analysts predict would follow a premature troop pullout.

“It would be very wise to withdraw and let [Iraqis] build their own democracy, their own nation,” he said.

Mr. Fox said that he “deeply believes in multilateralism” and called for the United Nations to “assume the role in solving conflicts throughout the world.”

He also hinted that he favored the presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and co-sponsor of an immigration reform bill that would create a program for citizenship for illegal aliens. Critics have called the McCain plan amnesty for lawbreakers.

Asked to name the person he would like to see as the next American president, Mr. Fox demurred.

“McCain is a great friend of Mexico’s, a great believer in immigration solutions,” he said, adding, “So ….”

‘No cracks’ in Italy

The U.S. ambassador to Italy is insisting that relations are “excellent” between Washington and Rome, despite tension over U.S. efforts to apply diplomatic pressure on Italy to keep troops in Afghanistan and other disputes involving Iraq and the CIA.

“I must say, sincerely, that I see no cracks in relations between Italy and the United States, which are really perfect, excellent relations,” Ambassador Ronald Spogli told Italian news agency ANSA this week.

Mr. Spogli blamed reports of tension on the press.

“The newspapers talk about things that, if you will, are a bit exaggerated, but this doesn’t mean that relations have changed,” he said.

Last week, Mr. Spogli and the ambassadors from Australia, Britain, Canada, the Netherlands and Romania signed an open letter printed in newspapers that called on Prime Minister Romano Prodi to maintain the 1,800 Italian troops as part of the NATO coalition in Afghanistan.

Also last week, an Italian judge ordered a U.S. Marine to stand trial for the fatal shooting of an Italian secret service agent in Iraq in 2005. U.S. military authorities cleared the Marine after an investigation.

Another judge is reviewing a case against 25 CIA agents and a U.S. Air Force colonel for the 2002 kidnapping of a terrorism suspect who was captured in Milan and secretly flown to Egypt, where he was held for four years.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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