The Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS) at the University of California, Berkeley is the locus of activity for a unique working community of Latin Americanist faculty, students and other research collaborators from the United States and Latin America. CLAS strives to enhance the work of UC Berkeley's Latin Americanist community and build bridges to other institutions, groups and individuals throughout the Americas. As part of that effort, the Center publishes two series of papers, CLAS Working Papers and CLAS Policy Papers, which are available both here and on the Center's website at clas.berkeley.edu.
In the spring of 2006, for the first time ever, tens of thousands of Mexican citizens living in the U.S. received absentee ballots to vote for the next president of Mexico, crowning a major transformation in Mexican policy. This paper, published in advance of the 2006 election, explores this form of transnational migrant empowerment as a major step in the redefinition of the terms of Mexican nationality and citizenship which allows for permanent residence abroad and even de facto dual citizenship and binational civic participation—and explores how the new policy may open a new dimension of minority politics in the United States. The arrival of distance voting in Mexico’s elections is part of a larger response to the rise of a new network of Mexican immigrant leaders, activists, and organizations in the U.S.—a network that the Mexican government helped develop and which is distinct from established U.S. Latino leadership. Both the U.S. and Mexico have repeatedly altered their basic policies toward the migration of Mexicans to the United States. This background paper places Mexico’s policy today against the backdrop of the various ends it has pursued, the means it has employed, and the results it has achieved over time. It examines the evolving civic orientation of both Mexican immigrants and U.S.-born Mexican Americans, touches on the role of issues such as guest worker programs, and pays special attention to the role of the Institute of Mexicans Abroad (Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior—IME), a major new government agency.
This paper is an examination of the development and brief history of the Southern Common Market (Mercosur), an initiative of economic integration among Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay begun in 1991. The author reviews the alliance’s initial goals and its actual path stemming from internal challenges among and within its member states as well as responses to international commercial negotiations. Three stages of Mercosur’s development are reviewed: 1) a transition period from the signing of the Treaty of Asuncion in March, 1991 until the end of 1994; 2) the 1995-98 period marked by a shift from the domestic to the external realm; and 3) the period from 1999 until the present, marked by an unprecedented crisis resulting primarily from pressing domestic economic challenges that largely prevailed over the integration agenda. The author concludes that a regional trade bloc like Mercosur can play an important role in international trade irrespective of the outcomes of continuing World Trade Organization negotiations. But success will hinge on its ability to adapt and shift strategies in response to both internal and external dynamics.