The former president of Mexico on Tuesday pointed to the European Union, where there are softer borders, a common passport design, and only one currency — the euro.
Mexico, Canada and the United States need something like that, said Vicente Fox, wrapping up a two-day visit to Atlanta at a conference at Kennesaw State University.
“Walls don’t work,” Fox said repeatedly, “There is a sense of fear in this nation after Sept. 11, and I understand that, but building walls is not the answer.”
Fox spoke to a group of about 150 who attended open panel discussions on the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement. They included my AJC colleague Mary Lou Pickel, who filed the information above — and below.
Outside, a handful of protesters gathered to tell Fox to go home. One sign read “No American Union.” D.A. King, president of the Dustin Inman Society, an anti-illegal immigrant group in Marietta, said he did not organize the protest. King sat quietly inside, listening to the panel discussions and taking notes.
Fox spoke to graduating students at Emory University on Monday and received an honorary degree there. At KSU, state Rep. Pedro Marin (D-Duluth) presented Fox with a state certificate that declared him an honorary citizen of Georgia. The gesture was stuffed with irony.
The certificate was signed by Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, who strongly supported a new law this year demanding that new voters show written proof of citizenship before they’re allowed to register.
Proponents of that law said it would cut down on fraud and make sure that illegal immigrants do not vote. Opponents said it amounted to a poll tax against the poor and elderly, who would have to pay to get documents proving they were born in the United States, rather than simply swearing to it, as has been the practice.
Handel is now running for governor. Marin, a Democrat, just smiled when asked about the citizenship certificate. “I want him to keep Georgia on his mind,” Marin said.
The H1N1 virus was another topic of conversation. In Mexico, and here.
(Mulligans, a bar in nearby Marietta, known for its controversial messages on its sign out front, had this one this week: “Swine flu – another Mexican import!”)
Fox said his country was prepared to handle a pandemic, which the outbreak was not. But the country has seen a 90 percent drop in tourism, Fox said.
Cruise ships no longer want to stop at Mexican ports. “Oh, Mexicans have influenza! Right away – everybody hide!” Fox joked.
“The Chinese say, ‘We don’t want Mexicans for the moment,’” Fox said. Mexico, insulted by China’s stance, chartered a plane to pick up about 43 Mexican citizens who did not have the flu, but were quarantined in China nonetheless.
“It’s time to invite everybody to come back to Mexico,” the former president said. He plugged a festival in early June sponsored by his “ El Centro Fox,” a kind of presidential library he founded in Guanajuato, as a lovely reason to visit Mexico soon.
He did not say whether he would now attempt to register to vote in the 2010 race for governor of Georgia.
While you ponder that, consider these articles found while perusing this morning’s ajc.com:
State colleges and universities get power to furlough faculty. State vital records’ chief fired for gross mismanagement. With governor’s signature, Sonny Perdue and the Legislature seize control of transportation spending from the DOT. The governor appointed to help grade “Nation’s Report Card.” Cobb County weighs a penny sales tax to reduce property levy. Atlanta school board okays a budget that includes 200 job cuts. Oxendine airs a “real deal” campaign radio ad. Atlanta foreclosures up, home prices fall 25 percent in past year.
Cynthia Tucker says “Don’t ask, don’t tell” must die faster. Bob Barr declares that protecting spies wasn’t meant to protect torture.
Elsewhere in Georgia:
SMN: The State Elections Board asked prosecutors to investigate 145 allegations of illegal actions by Fulton County election officials. ABH: Bill Shipp says Sonny Perdue is an albatross for GOP gubernatorial candidates.
Politico: GOP, RNC to rebrand Democrats as “socialists.” WSJ: Social Security, Medicare face insolvency sooner. WP: Officials knew of AIG bonuses months before firestorm. NYT: U.S. retail sales fall for a second month.
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