Vicente Fox, former President of Mexico, will deliver a speech Thursday night in Stephens Auditorium titled “Building Bridges or Walls: Where Do the U.S. and Mexico Go from Here?”
Fox, a former businessman whose presidency is credited with building the economy as well as strengthening Mexican democracy, is expected to talk about trade and immigration between his home country and the United States.
Being both free and open to the public, this event is expected to draw a large crowd. While it is commendable that Iowa State and the larger Ames community are interested, some groups don’t want Fox to speak given his inaction on human rights violations in Mexico.
These objections aren’t unfounded. Though elected as the opposition candidate, effectively ending Mexico’s decades long stint of one-party rule, Fox only reformed part of Mexico’s corrupt government.
Under his presidency, Mexico opened the door to the international community to scrutinize their government practices and policies. That transparency uncovered systemic human rights violations which Mexico failed to address under Fox.
Human Rights Watch’s 2006 report outlined these violations into three categories: “public access to government information, accountability for past abuses, and reforms of the justice system needed to end ongoing abuses.” The report ended by examining the murders and disappearances of hundred of women in Ciudad Juárez.
So what are we as students and residents of Ames to do about Fox’s speech?
It’s hard to encourage people to protest the event. Fox was instrumental in shaping Mexico’s democracy and growing his country’s alliance with the United States through his relationship with President George W. Bush. He helped to improve the Mexican economy as well as bring many citizens out of poverty.
It’s also not easy to encourage people to go listen to a leader who took such drastic steps to reveal the abuses Mexican citizens suffered but then took zero steps to curb those same abuses.
But that’s the beauty of the First Amendment. Despite existing in a community that is incredibly involved in both the local and national political landscape, Iowa State students don’t have to subject themselves to a speaker they disagree with. And for those students who want to go listen to Fox, that opportunity exists as well.
Perhaps the most important thing to learn from Fox’s visit is that staying informed is vital to forming your opinion and arguing for your beliefs. Iowa State and Ames will be hosting many big name politicians in the future and researching these people is the best way to decide whether or not you support their presence on campus.