Platform Americas: Former Mexico Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan; Singer-Songwriter Ceci Bastida
On this episode of Platform Americas: a conversation with Arturo Sarukhan, a former ambassador to the U.S. from Mexico. He warns that the U.S. neglects its souring relationship with Mexico at the peril of both countries. Then we chat with Tijuana-born, punk-turned-pop singer Ceci Bastida in her L.A. studio.
Arturo Sarukhan served as the Mexican ambassador to the U.S. from 2007 to 2013--notably, a friendlier time in U.S.-Mexican relations. The wide-ranging conversation explored the beleaguered relationship between the two neighbors; the corruption scandals that have rocked Latin America; the peril DREAMERs find themselves in; and the anger many in Mexico feel about the contradiction between legal cannabis and US international marijuana policy.
On falling public opinion of the U.S. in Mexico: "It's not a surprise that general public opinion across Latin America and the Caribbean regarding the U.S. has collapsed, that the favorable ratings of the U.S. have dropped, and that the current president's favorability ratings compared to his two predecessors are dismal. Mexico, of all the countries in the world -- not only the Americas -- is where you've seen the largest drop of favorable perceptions of the United States. And what's at stake is terribly important because no country -- no country on the face of the earth -- touches the daily lives of Americans the way Mexico does."
On the effect of cannabis legalization on Mexico: "What we've seen from the federal government, or at least the previous federal government, was they let the states legislate and we will monitor, and it is a de facto state-by-state legalization. But international drug control policy paradigms of the U.S. have not kept up to speed. Why? Because the U.S. still demands and expects countries like Mexico to dedicate significant resources to eradicating and seizing cannabis on its way to the U.S. market. So increasingly, public opinion in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America, is saying, 'Why should we be expanding our Churchillian quota of blood, sweat and tears eradicating and seizing cannabis, when you now have 11 states in America that have legalized cannabis?"
On widespread corruption in Latin America: "if you were to ask me what is Mexico's largest, more pressing problem today, I have no doubt in my mind that I'm going to say that it's impunity and corruption….Corruption is a symptom of a social contract that is broken in many countries and of weak rule of law.…It's an issue that has a profound impact on everything from how you open a business, to issues of land tenure, to bribing a policeman because you ran a red light. It goes from the very small to the very big, but it is one of the most important Gordian knots that has to be cut, to be able to enhance the rule of law, enhance transparency and accountability, eliminate impunity and ensure you're providing a level playing field for society at large."
Ceci Bastida grew up in Tijuana, watching migrants cross into the U.S. every day. That experience shaped her music, including the song “Espalda,” which she talks about with co-host Elaine Appleton Grant.
On the complexity of the immigrant experience: "My experience growing up in Tijuana...I was able to have conversations with different immigration officers, since I was little. I noticed that a lot of Latino immigration officers were very harsh and were very, very difficult to deal with. And I always wondered why? I thought that once you're here, you should probably help the person right behind you. But it felt like people were just turning their backs -- and not just immigration officers, but in general, I feel like this need to assimilate a lot of times -- which I understand -- [but] people will go a little bit too far. I think [sometimes they] just want to become something else and get rid of the person that they might have been before, when they were in Mexico."
Los Dreamers, the band, is Shawn King (of DeVotchKa) and Raul Pacheco (Ozomatli). Ceci Bastida wrote the lyrics to the song, “Espalda,” and performs it on Los Dreamers’ eponymous album. King and Pacheco wrote the music for Antonio Mercado’s play “Dreaming Sin Fronteras,” about the experiences of dreamers (those affected by the DREAM Act).