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Posted at 12:03 PM ET, 03/ 3/2011

Mexican President Calderon, the Middle East and building democracy

By Jonathan Capehart

The hour-long meeting President Felipe Calderon of Mexico had with The Post editorial board and reporters covered a range of topics, from the battles with drug cartels to the damage WikiLeaks caused to the relationship with the United States. But it was discourse on democracy -- how it is a process with components that must be learned over time -- that perked me up.

Considering Mexico's path from one-party rule to democracy, Calderon was asked what advice he would give to the nascent democracy movement sweeping across the Middle East. Near the outset, he said he wasn't sure what lessons Mexico could offer -- and then proceeded to expound on the ingredients needed to nurture and grow a democracy.


"We switched from autocracy to democracy without firing a single shot," Calderon noted. He said this was possible because of his country's principles of nonviolence. "We used the weapons of peace, but it took us 60 years to get them."

"You cannot build democracy without people who have democratic values," Calderon said. These are people who don't advocate, among other things, discrimination or segregation. "Tolerance is a learning process for everyone." He would later ask rhetorically what are the political values of the people in those Middle Eastern countries who are clamoring for democracy? And what are the agencies promoting democratic values in those countries?

"You need to learn the democratic process," Calderon counseled. "It's really hard to do. We're still learning." In watching the unfolding events in the Arab world, he wondered how hard, how violent could that process be. And he offered a wonderful truism upon which all successful democracies rest: "You need to learn to win and to lose."

Calderon did offer a word of caution. Just because people long denied a say in who leads them elect a president through the democratic process doesn't mean mission accomplished. "Democracy is a continuous process," he said before relating the story of the princess who kisses the frog who becomes a prince.

The 2000 election of President Vicente Fox in Mexico, which broke the 71-year hold on power of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and that of other leaders in Latin American led people to think that their work was done. But, as Calderon pointed out, suddenly some realized that they'd elected someone who was setting up a dictatorship, killing people and doing other nefarious and undemocratic things dictators like doing. This was an unusual and a not-so-veiled shot at Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. From what my colleague Jackson Diehl tells me, veiled or not, it is very unusual for one Latin American leader to slap another in such a public forum.

Calderon might not have thought he had any useful advice for democracy-seekers in the Middle East. But in a few sentences he presented a useful guide to turn their ideals into a government that finally gives their people a say in who runs it and makes it responsive to their needs and concerns.

By Jonathan Capehart  | March 3, 2011; 12:03 PM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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Good advice from a man whose country has seen more than its share of upheaval. I hope they listen.

Posted by: 1toughlady | March 3, 2011 12:23 PM | Report abuse

The Artcle in the magazine on Immigartion has a article on the constitution right next to it.

The Constsitution is a grinding of Natrural Laws.

The Constitution is interpretable till' anarchy. Why should i exist?

The Constsitution is a small pamphlet yeah big and yeah wide""

It if anything denotes' the size of the frame workers of a Nation. The first Nation!

What is a nation?

Clothing and money are questions to ask your parents not your neighbors.

The Constitution is a good read. Like any famous novel or favorite Hip Hop song. it has a novel government plan which is to say that Nature cannot work on its own -Nature cannot make monsters endlessly.
Nature gets boring.

Nature grows traps and entrapments and switches entrapments for traps.

Immighartion is a non sensical word just as much as asking your neighnbor for sugar.

Immigration is related to a unique nation and cannot be voiced anywhere else without making sense.

The partition between Man and Nature is much the same as the partition between The United States and the world.

The partition is United Staes Constsitution.

It is an experiment that provides for alternatives even Tyrrany!!!

Otherwise you ask what is Tyrrany or What is Nature without having a nature to ask it with!!!!

Posted by: kadija1 | March 3, 2011 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Tae Kwon Do is a way of life That is much as enigmatitic as Nature.

What would prevent you from Zombie hypnotizm or anything else that nature throws at you?

Posted by: kadija1 | March 3, 2011 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Coming from a country where presidents are being considered kings, amassing huge unexplained fortunes and hidden properties and who can oblige media to sack reporters, Calderon talking about democracy is like expecting G.W. Bush to explain advanced nuclear science.

Posted by: quatra | March 3, 2011 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Building Democracy?


Get real.

Now end the Two Wars of Republican Foreign Adventure and bring our troops home before our debt takes our country down a rabbit hole it will never emerge from.

Remember Great Britain? If we don't clue in soon, we'll end up like they did.

Posted by: WillSeattle | March 3, 2011 8:06 PM | Report abuse

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