Mexican official addresses class

Mexican foreign minister Carlos Rico outlined his counrtry’s economic and foreign policy at the Mexican embassy Monday night. About 50 students attended the lecture, organized by GW political science professor Mark Croatti to help his students learn about politics outside his comparative politics classroom.

Rico said Mexico’s economic successes were a result of Mexico’s membership in the North American Free Trade Agreement. He said NAFTA has greatly increased economic ties between Mexico and the rest of North America.

He also said NAFTA has made a significant impact on the U.S. economy, adding that 90 percent of Mexico’s exports go to the United States.

Rico said Mexico has experienced tightened immigration restrictions on the U.S.-Mexico border since the September 11 attacks.

“We are trying to get our policies in tune with U.S. concerns,” said Rico, adding that he has been focusing more on security policy since the attacks.

Rico also said Mexico has assailed Cuba’s human rights policy. “We’ve been tough on Cuba in terms of human rights,” he said.

Cuba has drawn heated criticism from the international community as it cracks down on dissidents following a short-lived democratic movement.

Students said they have enjoyed participating in Croatti’s program. “Professor Croatti sets up these embassy visits himself and they go on throughout the year,” sophomore Jennifer Locane said. “I really enjoy (the embassy visits) and his class because he’s really animated. It’s an 8 a.m. class and I come to it – that alone says something.”

Croatti also plans educational excursions for his other classes – earlier this year, Croatti’s Urban Development class met D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams for an informal discussion. He said Monday’s lecture was helpful in providing insight to another country’s foreign affairs.

“If you’ve ever sat in a class and wondered why something happens in a country, it is beneficial to talk to a national of that country,” Croatti said. “You get to hear the country’s approach and opinion and then you can question it and engage in dialogue, and that is one of the most positive things about all this.”

Croatti said he believes his students learned things from the embassy visit that they wouldn’t have learned in class.

“In lecture, students probably would not have learned that Mexico disagrees with U.S. policy and believes that we have to engage and not isolate Cuba, despite not agreeing with its political agenda,” Croatti said.

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