Déjà vu - The University of Arizona and UNAM
By Rodolfo F. Acuña
Carlos Slim is not the richest man in the world because of his good looks. He got there the old fashioned way, he used government resources. Slim derived his fortune from his extensive holdings through his conglomerate, Grupo Carso, that is heavily invested in telecommunications, education, health care, industrial manufacturing, food and beverages, real estate, airlines, media, mining, oil, hospitality, entertainment, technology, retail, sports and financial services.
The money maker is the telecommunication company, Telmex, that he and his partners bought in 1990 from the Mexican government at fire sale prices. By 2006, Telmex controlled 90 percent of the telephone lines in Mexico. By March 2015 Slim’s fortune was an estimated $71.2 billion much of it accumulated through privatization of publicly owned groups.
One of his most controversial ventures was ASUR (Aeropuertos del Sureste) through which Slim controls a dozen Mexican airports. Slim reorganized his various enterprises using vertical integration and market consolidation strategies.
By this time, you may be asking what does this have to do with the University of Arizona and UNAM? In February, Ann Weaver Hart, the president of the U of A, released a statement saying: “The UA has been selected by the National Autonomous University of Mexico as the site of a branch center focused on collaborative research. This new center is a culmination of a relationship of many years with UNAM in areas ranging from astronomy to arid lands studies. The UNAM Center for Mexican Studies at the UA will be a unique expression of the depth of our relationship with one of Latin America’s premier research institutions.”
Coming at the end of a two year fight over a similar arrangement between CSUN and UNAM, my first reaction was here we go again.
Most of us remember that in 2010 UNAM along with many institutions in Mexico broke relations with Arizona and the UA in protest of SB 1070 and the rabid anti-Mexican climate in Arizona. UNAM and Mexico wanted to make a statement condemning this abuse. However, five years later most were for letting bygones be bygones, and for 1070 to join the waste basket of forgotten memories.
No matter that the aftershocks of 1070 were still being felt; that Arizona was still trying to rewrite history; and the nation’s premier K-12 Mexican American Studies program had been eliminated. That the Minute Men and the Tea Party still controlled Phoenix and Governor Doug Ducey refused to repeal anti-Mexican legislation. Despite this Arizona was being given a fresh start.
Ducey led a trade mission trip to Mexico City. “At a reception he acknowledged Mexico as our friend and neighbor.” Ducey told anyone who would listen that “he was representing our Tucson Hispanic Chamber and affiliated chambers in SierraVista, Douglas and Nogales. Repeatedly during the trip, Ducey spoke to the 45 business leaders and cabinet members and Mexican guests about a “‘new day and a fresh start’ for Arizona in Mexico.”
The bottom line was Arizona trade with Mexico amounted to over $15.9 billion dollars a year. Ducey made it clear that Arizona business leaders on the trip included leaders in industries such as transportation, legal, metal fabrication, real estate development and mining products.
At Mexico City the University of Arizona and UNAM exchanged memorandums. Reading between the lines, absent were speakers addressing President Enrique Pena Nieto’s federal reforms and his self- vaunted energy reforms. There was no mention of any resolution of Los Normalistas de Ayotzinapa disappearances– and it did not seem as if anyone cared.
Even when addressing the border crisis, the focus was on the imbalance in trade between the two countries. Carlos Slim hosted a reception for over 250 business and political leaders. It was clear that human rights were not a priority of the “Hispanic” leaders who took the opportunity to take selfies with Slim.
Meanwhile, the UA center was called Mexican Studies. The prime movers, according to sources, were the Arizona Office of Tourism and the UA Eller College of Management Economic and Business Research Center. They had conducted a study that found that visitors from Mexico contributed $7.3 million daily to Arizona’s economy.
Slim had visited Phoenix in September 2014. Among the guests were the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Promise Arizona, and East Valley Patriots for Social Justice, the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, United Cerebral Palsy of Central Arizona, along with various other community and advocacy groups. Slim told the business leaders that they should support Ducey because he pushed for positive business relations with Mexico. Nothing was said about repealing anti-immigrant legislation.
According to accounts, before the event, Slim “was mobbed by people wanting to shake his hand and snap a selfie before the event began; he spent the majority of his keynote address talking about the changing economic paradigms in society.”
For anyone engaged in what Slim called “critical thinking,” the events were disheartening because much of the Latino leadership displayed a lack of a historical memory or ethnic pride. Failing to defend the interests of immigrants and students, they ignored the fact that the schools were being rapidly privatized. What was more disheartening was that no one seemed to care, and the leadership of the Latino community was once more rolling over. The ruling classes in the United States were only too willing to erase history so business could go on as usual.
In conclusion in order not to forget what had happened at CSUN, I spoke to several Tucson community leaders about how the idea of the center had come about. DA Morales pointed out “The UofA, now, after years of ignoring any program that seeks collaborative research with Mexican universities is awakening, but not in the humanities or social sciences....in the business college.” The business college had an economic interest much the same as the CSUN administration and College of Social and Behavioral Science had had. The only difference was that at CSUN ChS fought back.
Activists in Derechos Humanos singularly protested NAFTA since 1990. One said “of course what is happening now is the result of that great displacement and disenfranchisement of workers and their families. In Mexico, the result of Harvard and Princeton trained politicians who readily hand over their country for their personal gain; we find rhetoric of collaboration.” There is a similarity between the latter and the Arizona Hispanic business leaders. She added, “Where is the collaboration in migration? In human rights? In the drug trade?”
The source added “At one level.....[from] faculty and possibly at the Heads level, this whole thing has been kept from sight and certainly from discussion.” The professor added that Ducey’s “backers were the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce here in Tucson as well as the Eller Business College.”
Throughout this process, Slim was the main attraction, and “his role in breaking unions in Mexico, charging exploitive rates in communications and building a huge cartel were forgotten.“ Add to this ChS programs invited Slim to lecture on trade with Mexico. El diablo nunca duerme!
There are many versions of how Slim has been able to accumulate his fortune so rapidly. The stories fill the internet. Daniel Hopsicker, “Carlos Slim & the Narco-Politicos,” Madcow Morning News, Feb 3, 2009. Diligent Bureaucrat, “Privatization Billionaires,” Daily Kos, Mar 01, 2015. http://www.dailykos.com/…/13646…/-Privatization-Billionaires#
Ann Weaver Hart, President February 25, 2015, http://president.arizona.edu/newsletter/february-ua2u
“Arizona’s Fresh Start in Mexico,” 1030 the Voice, http://www.kvoi.com/hispani…/arizonas-fresh-start-in-mexico/
“UofA To Establish New Center for Mexican Studies,” Arizona Daily Independent, June 29, 2015, https://arizonadailyindependent.com/…/uofa-to-establish-ne…/
“The Carlos Slim Foundation Presents AccesoLatino.org to Top Arizona Latino Leaders,” Sep 22, 2014, http://www.prnewswire.com/…/the-carlos-slim-foundation-pres…. Patrick O'Grady, “Carlos Slim, one of world's richest businessmen, comes to Phoenix to talk trade,” Phoenix Business Journal, Apr 2, 2015. http://www.bizjournals.com/…/carlos-slim-one-of-worlds-rich…
Amelia Goe, “Carlos Slim Helu: Arizona-Mexico relations yet to reach full potential,” Cronkite News, April 22, 2015, http://tucson.com/…/article_19210689-7b3a-5354-8fb0-2a91cd8…
DA Morales, “TUSD using Mexico’s economic model? The rich get richer quicker; HT Sanchez & Carlos Slim thrive in poverty,” Three Sonorans, June 15, 2015. http://threesonorans.com/…/is-tusd-using-mexicos-economic-…/