Foreign Affairs

Below is a letter I send before the Summit Of The Americas to our minister Hon. Edward Fast

Minister of Foreign Affairs

125 Sussex Drive

Ottawa, On, K1A 0G2

April 14, 2012-04-13

Dear Honourable Mr. Fast

This is to express my agreement with the views of Globe and Mail’s Colin Robinson expressed in his article of April 3, 2012 titled: Americas Strategy? It Takes Three To Tango.

The article suggests that our current (Harper) Canadian government takes a rather hypocritical position of the South American nations’ request to discuss at the Summit of the Americas conference the potential legalization of, at the very least some, illegal drugs, such as pot.

The majority of users for which the drug trade is developed, live in the US, Canada and Europe and outside of the South American nations and Mexico. In my view it is, at the very least, akin to putting our head in the sand, when we insist  as a north American nation that we do not want legalization of drugs, while continuing to  insist at the same time that security is the more important issue on the table at the summit.

The current militarized approach to battling the illegal trade in drugs by criminal cartels has taken a heavy toll in many deaths on those American nations, especially in  Colombia and Mexico, but not on our nation, Canada. It is only fair and reasonable that those nations be heard when they want to put on the table the issue of legalization and regulation of drugs, and hopefully, followed by the end of total prohibition. Clearly, the war on drugs has failed and our nation is unable to stop the stream of drugs coming into our nation, as is the US. Other measures must be discussed.

I am a frequent visitor of Mexico and intend to retire for part of the year in the Lake Chapala area within the next two years. I have spoken with the Canadian Ambassador to Mexico and Ms. Hradecky encouraged Canadian citizens to express their opinions, in an attempt to dismantle much misinformation circulating in the media about the war on drugs and the perceived danger to tourist to that country.

Shortly before I left the town of Ajijic last week, another three Mexicans were executed in the small town of Ajijic, suspected to be a revenge killing by a cartel, in this case the Zetas were suspected.

It was a time of celebration of the most important religious holiday in Mexico, Easter, and many Mexicans from the nearest city, Guadalajara, were in town. It was a blemish on an otherwise peaceful three-week vacation. At no time did I feel personally threatened or in danger. However, one of the victims was the son of a local citizen and a wake was immediately organized the next day.

Last summer, the same thing happened in my hometown of Kelowna, were rival criminal gangs on a weekend trip day duked it out: 3 people suspected were shot on a morning in the middle of the art district in front of the casino. I did not feel personally threatened, but innocent bystanders could have been hurt.

Let’s face it, legalization is a real option to reduce some of this gang violence that increasingly destabilizes our daily life and affects many more people that have nothing to do with drugs, but who are affected through relatives. Especially this is the case in the poorer countries such as Mexico, where the need to make a living by any means is much more urgent than here in our rich Canada.

I hope that in tandem with developing easier trade routes and easier entry of Mexicans including the needed temporary workers to Canada, the legalization of drugs will be brought to the table in a substantial an honest discussion by our government.

Respectfully, Johanna van Zanten


Since that letter, we have learned that the Summit of the Americas was bogged down and the main focus became about whether or not to allow Cuba’s participation as a member at the next summit of the Americas. Again, also here the US and Canada were against it and vetoed that proposal.

The voices were loud and clear that questioned the need for participation by Canada and the US in future summits, as these nations seemed to want to rule the agenda without seeming to have any interest in solving real problems. Oh, right, the US is otherwise occupied with their elections of a president and the Summit was not their priority. What is Canada’s excuse?

Today, I saw a report from the Canadian Centre  for Policy Alternatives on its website that discussed a paper from Lars Osberg titled: Economic and Social Inequalities: causes, implications and remedies, presented in Milan , Italy, on October 27, 28, 2011.

It concludes that Mexico  as a middle-income nation is experiencing a growing middle class, as well as overall economic growth, while the US and Canada are not. In fact, in Canada and the US the very different rates of growth of income among the bottom 99% and the top 1% of the income earners is alarming, cannot possibly go on indefinitely, and is changing the consumption and savings flows. It will follow without a doubt by increasing economic instability.

On the other hand, in Mexico, lower and middle incomes increased, and income differences decreased between the richest and the poorest, due to the rural migration to urban centres, increased rates of educational progress including secondary education for its people, increasing female participation in the labour force and decreasing birth rates. All these factors made that nation’s  lower income and middle income earners more prosperous. Together with large transfer of government funds to social programs,  the inequality between population groups has decreased in Mexico: the wealth is significantly more spread among its population during the last 30 years. The discussion can be read at the website:

Although these three countries of NAFTA (North American Trade Agreement) are interdependent, they have very different realities in economic terms within the scope of global capitalism. The US and Canada has had levels of inequality that gradually increased between 1970 and 1990 between the top and the bottom earners, but  sharply increased over the next decade: the real income went down for the 99% while the rich 1% got indeed even richer. We will not talk in this post why that is. That’s for another day. In Mexico the reverse trend has happened during that same time: the lower and middle income earners are  better off.  The paper uses complicated language, but in summary said that the top 1% got richer in the US and Canada in relation to the 99% and that there’s no reason to see any changes soon in the opposite direction.

So, in Mexico, the reverse trend is happening: Mexico is an economic powerhouse, expected to be the fifth strongest economy in the world within the near future. Does that surprise you? I wonder if that could just be too positive a message about Mexico for the media, a message that doesn’t sell newspapers and books? Might that just be a reason why the media in US and Canada focus dramatically and consistently on the bad stuff also happening in Mexico: the criminal drug trade and related deaths of warring cartels? What about the real issue, the human rights issue of massive scale: estimates of seven to 20 million Mexicans living in the US without documentation and no rights, keeping the economy going and being treated as second class non citizens?

We  all must realize that those massive quantities of drugs moving north really are to satisfy those with addictions in the US and Canada, although slowly but surely also more Mexicans are beginning to use the drugs — possibly a side effect of becoming wealthier?

By the way, American (and Canadian) seniors are looking increasingly to Mexico as a desirable retirement destination: the weather is great, property cheap, the living is easy, and the personal security is much greater in Mexico for them compared to many areas in the US, considering the crime rates and deaths by guns in the US. (Really, just check the stats!). It is predicted (Guadalajara Reporter) that by 2030 40 million US baby boomer citizens will have retired to Mexico, if the current trend continues. Better prepare myself to join the crowd…

Above and below are some photos of the Easter celebrations in Ajijic. The actor playing Jesus was a 22 year old actor who had filled the role in the previous 2 years as well. His father had the same calling and was the longest running Jesus in the history of Ajijic (Guadalajara Reporter). On Palm Sunday the play begins when the streets of the route through town is cleaned and covered with fresh alfalfa hay before the crowd following the Jesus actor moves through. Little green bouquets and crafted miniatures are sold by the side of the road.

On the following Thursday the play continues with the last supper scene and continues in the garden of Gethsemaneh, which I missed as I was just coming back that night from Mexico City.

On Good Friday the church plaza is filled with spectators and the play continues.  I was shocked to see the realism of the event as the Jesus actor was whipped by a soldier behind him and the end of the wet tails hit his real crown of thorns stuck on his head pushing it deeper into his skin.  The actor stumbled and his face clearly showed his stress. I could not make myself see the crucifiction and let the crowd pass me by….

On  Saturday night after dark a long mass was held in the church plaza, during which the resurrection took place. It was too dark and I could not make decent photos. It was all very moving and surprising to me as a non-believer, as the history of it all was very meaningful for the world whatever you believe. The community people band together while working on the play for a whole year — with pride and reverence — making every year the major event of Christianity come to life.

Further down are some photos of the most known shrine of the Queen of Mexico: the modern church of the Virgin of Guadaloupe who appeared to a poor Indian as the myth goes. Her predecessor Mother Earth breast feeding the world is depicted on the mural in Ajijic, visible in the background of the passion play location on the Calle Paroquia (the road from the centre — Plaza — to the church where the trial and the sentencing took place).  Below is the director of the passion play 2012 with my friends and me.

This Judas (sponsored by Hotel Real) is blown to pieces  (4 different times – 4 paper mache figures) after the resurrection, when the festivities start: fire works, eating, music, and some dancing.

Just to make sure none of the nation’s symbols are left out, the Mayan calendar is embedded in the monumental arch in front of the modern cathedral at the centre of the plaza. Also located surrounding this humongous plaza are 5 other churches or chapels: the original little church for Maria de Guadaloupe that was first built; another bigger church as the first one was not big enough; then another, even bigger one that was visited by pope Paul; and the church for the Indians (god forbid the Spanish folk would have to mix with them, although pretty much all Mexicans are heavily mixed with some form of Spanish/Mestizo/Indio/other) and a bit higher up another church, I forget why that one was built.  And this was only one location in Mexico City. After this trip, I was thoroughly aware of the very devout nature and the power of the RC church in the Mexican nation.

About BABYBOOMER johanna van zanten

My name is Johanna van Zanten. I am a baby boomer, interested in writing and connecting with other writers and readers to engage in discussions and information sharing, to share a point of view about current global issues, writing, and publishing, diversity, immigration, travel, music, life, specific baby boomer issues, and dating/relationship issues. I have written a novella, ON THIN ICE about baby-boomer Adrienne and will link this blog with the information website for this novella. Right now, I am trying out the blog.
This entry was posted in Babyboomer, Dealing with aging and dating, Diversity issues, Immigration, International politics, latest news items, Mental health, Music, Relocation to mexico, travel, Uncategorized, war on drugs, world issues and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Foreign Affairs

  1. Malou says:

    These holy week pictures of Mexico is so much like how it is in the Philippines. The Spanish legacy at work. 😉

  2. Thank for your appreciation. Yes, the colonial time was an ugly one and it was no free will that people turned away from their beliefs to accept a new religion. Anyway, we live with it now and I really got a new appreciation for its influence in Mexico. Compared to that the Netherlands is a pretty god-less nation, Canada a little less so, maybe one day you’ll visit, Malou.

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