Prolific Mexican politician and intellectual Jorge Castañeda believes that a greater North American community -- a "North American Union" -- with economies tied together under a European Union-style system, complete with open borders and a unified currency, is the wave of the future.
In a new interview with Web site BigThink.com, Castañeda, Mexico's foreign minister from 2000-2003 and a global distinguished professor of politics at New York University, said that with nearly 11 percent of Mexicans living in the United States, he has stopped seeing his nation as a Latin American country.
"Well, my sense is that we’re moving closer and closer to forms of economic integration with the United States and Canada and conceivably Central America and Caribbean could become part of that in the coming years," he said. "I don’t see Mexico as a Latin American country. Too much of trade, investment, tourism, immigration, remittances, absolutely everything is concentrated exclusively with the United States. So, Mexico has to be part of a North American community, a North American union, which at some point probably should include some type of monetary union along European lines with a free flow of labor, with energy being on the table, etc."
Often demonized as some type of "conspiracy theory" in mainstream American press, the so-called North American Union proposals have actually existed for some time. In May of 2005, the Council on Foreign Relations released a document entitled "Building a North American Community" in which it calls for an EU-like integration of Canada, the United States and Mexico.
While the document does not specifically call for the ceding of sovereignty between the three nations -- as some vocal opponents of the idea have suggested -- it does recommend the formation of a North American Advisory Council and a multinational inter-parliamentary group to facilitate mutual cooperation. Though the group originally set out to achieve this goal by 2010, few in mainstream America are even aware of it today.
The CFR's full proposal is available online. [PDF link]
"Economic and social citizenship in North America implies the ability of citizens to exert pressure for the implementation of an inclusive economic policy at home and to be engaged in the international economy," wrote CFR member Carlos Heredia. "To the extent that citizens of the three partner countries see that North American integration brings concrete benefits, a new constituency will be galvanized to support these efforts in the years to come."
"How far away are we from that?" Castañeda asked, rhetorically. "Quite far, but so did it seem back in Europe in the 1950's and very little time later they came around and understood that that was their future lay. My sense is that the Mexican society is voting with its feet. We have a higher share of Mexicans living in the United States than we have ever had in our history. One out of every nine Mexicans, Mexican citizens, people born in Mexico, live in the United States today."
In recent weeks, Castañeda also appeared on CNN's Amanpour for a debate about the drug war. He explained that in his view, marijuana should be legalized in order to take away the drug cartels' primary revenue source. However, "we can’t do it in Mexico if the U.S. doesn’t do it at the same time," he said.
Speaking to BigThink, he carried a similar message.
"Having recklessly plunged the country into [the drug war] now, I think what Calderón and the United States should do is to sort of sit back for a second, think this through, see what they really want to achieve, what is achievable and what should be done that's new," he said. "For example, there are more and more states in the US that are moving towards decriminalization at least of marijuana. Mexico is still a very important producer of marijuana. Some people say that up to 60 percent of the profits of Mexico’s cartels come from marijuana. Well, if the United States or California’s de facto legalizing it through medical marijuana, what sense does it make for Mexicans to die to stop marijuana from entering the US when once it enters it can be sold legally at over 1,000 dispensaries in Los Angeles, more than the number of public schools there are in Los Angeles. That’s certainly one thing that we can do."
This interview was published to the Web by BigThink.com on Feb. 16, 2010. The complete interview is available here.