Letters to the Editor
Vicente Fox? Not on Our Campus! Student Group Protests Speaker
While some students surely are excited that former Mexican President Vicente Fox is coming to speak at UC Irvine on April 8, many of us are opposed to his visit, and outraged that his talks are being given under the auspices of “democracy.”
President Fox’s victory over the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), which ruled Mexico for nearly 80 years as a one-party democracy (which Peruvian poet Mario Vargas Llosa in 1990 termed the “perfect dictatorship”), was seen by many as the shining light of Mexican democracy. Even before President Barack Obama, Fox ran on a platform of “change.”
However, the reign of the former Coca-Cola executive quickly came to be seen as more of the same: Fox is responsible, directly or indirectly, for paramilitarism and repression of social dissent in Oaxaca, Chiapas and Tlaxcala, femicide in Ciudad Juárez and the displacement and dissolution of indigenous communities, all of which have had lasting consequences for the people of Mexico and the United States. Additionally, Fox openly supported violent police action against student protests at the National University in Mexico City, for which some students remain in jail nearly 10 years later.
Finally, the culmination of Fox’s disgraceful sexenio was widespread fraud in the 2006 presidential election, which placed his party’s candidate, Felipe Calderón, in power; Calderón “won” by less than 1 percent, despite revelations of entire ballot boxes being discovered in landfills and videos of poll workers stuffing multiple ballots for the Partido Acción Nacional. Indeed, Calderón has continued Fox’s legacy as repression continues in the south and drug cartels tied to the government run rampant in the north. Because of the atrocities committed, Fox must be held accountable, and not be hailed as a distinguished, praiseworthy democrat, which he is not. He should be given jail time, not a podium.
The highlight of Fox’s visit is an invitation-only reception and $500-a-plate dinner. This is only too fitting a metaphor for the “democracy” and economy of both the United States and Mexico; the only ones who can afford to eat at the table of democracy are those who accumulated their wealth from the exploitation of the people, while the rest of us go hungry. It is no secret that the Board of the Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD) consists of executives of City National Bank (responsible for home foreclosures), PacifiCare and Pacific Life Insurance (responsible for the high cost of health care), the Irvine Company (responsible for the high cost of living and social engineering through civil planning, gentrification and displacement of poor people and people of color) and several law firms. Once we understand the vision of democracy desired by donors to CSD – that of invitation-only democracy – we can understand their motives for bringing Vicente Fox to speak on a topic for which he is clearly unqualified.
It is not just moral indignation that places us in opposition to Fox’s presence on campus. Many students and workers on this campus lived in Mexico during Fox’s rule, and have expressed their outrage because of the injustices they suffered; some were even forced to migrate here as a direct result of Fox’s policies. Additionally, some of us have personal friends who were tortured and held as political prisoners in Mexico during that time. The fact that he would be invited to Irvine to be honored is a slap in the face to all of us in the UCI community who have seen and felt first-hand the terrible consequences of Fox’s presidency.
Therefore, we call on Chancellor Michael Drake and the CSD to immediately cancel all of Fox’s speaking engagements. Students and members of the campus community who wish to organize against Fox’s visit should contact WelcomeFox@riseup.net.
Sandra Flores, Cristina Flores, Chris Kopitzke and John Bruning. Each author is a member of the Radical Student Union.
Writer Does Not Appreciate Donor Funds in Study Abroad Piece
Nathan Tumazi’s opinion piece in your March 2 edition inaccurately characterizes the relationship between UC Irvine and its donors, specifically Donald Bren. Describing Bren as “a really rich person who bought a part of the university” shows a fundamental lack of understanding about educational funding.
Donors do not “buy” any part of UCI or the education provided here. However, they do provide critical support by funding research, student scholarships, instruction, campus improvements, endowed chairs and more. While some donations come with a “naming opportunity,” this in no way constitutes a purchase of anything.
Tumazi’s readers might be interested to learn that almost $130 million of UCI’s $1.6 billion annual budget comes from philanthropists such as Mr. Bren. Turning his back on that kind of generosity is certainly going to make Tumazi’s crusade as a self-described “tuition abolitionist” much more difficult.
Media Relations Director, UC Irvine