New Research on U.S.-Mexico Relations: Dispute Settlement and Expatriate Voting Patterns
Víctor Espinoza Valle, Researcher at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, explored how the issue of expatriate voting by transnational Mexican migrants in the United States is challenging conventional understandings of citizenship, nationality, and democracy in both the country of origin and of settlement. He criticized the mainstream debate on expatriate voting in Mexico as inordinately focused on the mechanics of ballot-casting with insufficient reflection given to the long-term consequences of a process that could enable millions of non-resident expatriates to influence national-level political races. Nevertheless Espinoza acknowledged that expatriate voting levels in the 2006 elections were exceptionally low, with only 0.77 percent of 4.2 million potential expatriate voters actually casting ballots in 2006. Espinoza pointed out that the 2006 results contrasted sharply with national totals, as expatriate voters favored the eventual presidential winner, center-right candidate Felipe Calderón, over center-left candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador by a much higher margin than did all voters. Expatriate voters favored Calderón by 24 percentage points over López Obrador (57.47 percent versus 33.47 percent) while the difference between the two candidates nationally was less than 1 percentage point (35.89 percent versus 35.31 percent
Arutro Sotomayor, Assistant Professor at Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas and Post-Doctoral Fellow at Tulane University, discussed the motivations and consequences of Mexico's decision to sue the United States at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for violating the consular-notification protocol of the Vienna Convention. He explained that Mexico filed a lawsuit in 2003 claiming adjudication before the court for what it said were the illegal convictions of 52 Mexican nationals awaiting capital punishment in various U.S. states. Sotomayor argued the reasons why Mexico sought adjudication before the international court on an issue involving an important neighbor could fall into one of two categories. On the one hand, the principal motivations for the lawsuit may have been due to the special institutional culture of the Foreign Relations Ministry (Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, SRE), which is dominated by lawyers or by a desire to carry out a "principled foreign policy." On the other hand, Mexico may have sought ICJ adjudication on the consular-notification issue because: 1) it represented a viable alternate strategy after prior legal attempts in U.S. courts had failed to halt executions of Mexican nationals; 2) it was in response to domestic and political pressure that the government act to halt the executions of Mexican nationals; 3) by seeking the ruling of an impartial international court, it was an attempt to depoliticize an issue that, left to open debate, could become a political controversy; or 4) to avert perceptions that Mexico was being bullied by the United States.