By Carolina Vela
Mexico’s economic competitiveness has allowed it to compete face to face with larger and more developed economies, a former Mexican president told a San Antonio audience.
Felipe Calderón was the guest speaker for the March 21 Flora Cameron Lecture on Politics and Public Affairs in Laurie Auditorium at Trinity University.
The Flora Cameron Lecture is an annual spring event made possible by an endowment fund established by Mrs. Flora C. Crichton of San Antonio.
Calderón won the Mexican presidential race in 2006, becoming the second president from the National Action Party.
He earned a law degree from Escuela Libre de Derecho and an economics degree from the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México in 1987.
He received his master’s in public administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 2000, where he is now a professor collaborating with scholars and researchers, lecturing, writing, working and developing case studies around the many policy challenges he encountered as president.
Calderón, addressing a press conference before his lecture, was questioned about his reaction to a petition to disqualify him from the Angelopoulos Global Public Leaders Fellowship program at Harvard; Program that provides opportunities for high-profile leaders who are transitioning out of public office or other leadership position to spend time in residence at Harvard for teaching.
He said no Harvard student refused in any way his presence and he received a very warm welcome from the university, but he respected those who had different opinions.
Harvard University’s newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, said the petition circulated on the online petition platform change.org, by John Randolph, a former U.S. border control officer, argued Calderón’s initiation of drug wars in México resulted in tens of thousands of deaths.
Calderón said, “In my government, the army, the navy and any other law enforcement or security agencies at federal level, had the clear and explicit instruction to respect human rights and the rights of the people in their actions.”
The National Action Party member’s term ended in November.
As president of Mexico, Calderón was criticized during six-year term because of his all-out war on Mexico’s drug cartels.
“What caused the assassination of many people under my government, is precisely the action of organized crime, not the government,” Calderón said. “Drug cartels that were fighting for control of Mexican territory.”
He explained that at the beginning of his presidential period, the drug cartels separated and wars started between the groups.
As a result from the wars, Calderónwas viewed in a bad light among the citizens.
Trinity President Dennis A. Ahlburg said Calderón’s many accomplishments had been unfortunately overshadowed by drug violence.
Ahlburg mentioned that during Calderón’s term, México achieved macroeconomic fundamental rights and low inflation, while the economy and exports have become more diverse and are growing steadily.
During the lecture, Calderón spoke to more than 2,000 people about expansion, innovation, transformation and what he has learned about leadership from his experience in México.
He said his government faced serious challenges and was one of the most difficult periods in Mexican modern history starting with the closest presidential election ever and the worst global economy crisis.
His speech focused on México’s economic accomplishments, saying México faced its future in a very promising way after his term in 2012.
“México is being recognized globally for its economic stability, despite the devastating affect of the global financing crisis,” Calderón said.
He said México has stable inflation, and interest rates are at their lowest levels in history. The economy has expanded 17 percent in the last three years, and it is considered a safe place to invest.
“Exports are bigger than the rest of Latin American and Caribbean exports combined, including Brazil,” Calderón said. “México has a very open economy and has open free trade agreements not only with U.S., but with 44 countries in the world.”
He talked about his expansion in education, investing in more than 1,100 new public high schools and 140 tuition-free universities.
He also talked about the strength of the energy sector, construction of 20,000 km. of highways and priority access to health care services for the entire population with the construction of more hospitals and availability of medical services to poor people and universal health care to every Mexican citizen.
“Today, every Mexican can have access to doctors, medicines and hospital treatment when needed,” he said.
The former president said his government faced organized crime with strength and determination.
He said the only thing his democratic government could do was use the full legitimate force of the state against the criminals, and so that is what they had to do.
“Under my administration, we clearly understood that there were not too many options. Either you enforce the law, which is your duty, or change the law,” he said. “But you cannot ignore the law.”
He said it is crucial to stop the flow of drug money from U.S. consumers to Mexican criminals because that money ensures more years of violence ahead in México.
“It is not possible to guarantee security to the Mexican people if we don’t stop the flow of money,” he said. “To do that, the American society, Congress and government have the moral obligation to find a way in which they could prevent the flow of that money.”