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LAS AMERICAS The Cross-Border Electoral Boogie BY JOHN ROSS alFI very Tuesday after work they gather in the backroom of a politically hip caf to guzzle cappuccinos, write manifestos, paint banners, and otherwise plot how best to beat Bush in November. They are a rainbow bunchstudents and matrons and old lefties, straights and gays, as befits any liberal activist group hell-bent on dumping Bush these days. What is wrong with this picture is that this weekly meet takes place not in a U.S. city but at the Caf de la Red in downtown Mexico City, and all of the participants in this Beat Bush powwow are Mexican citizens who have little to say when it comes to voting this November. Their exclusion from the balloting in El Norte is patently unfair to Beat Bush instigator Nuri Fernandez. “Bush’s policies endanger the whole world so the whole world should have the right to vote,” she argues. “We have to beat Bush to save the world.” But what about Bush’s possible replacement, she is asked. “First we will get rid of Bush and then we will take care of Kerry,” the indefatigably optimistic Fernandez insists. From top to bottom on this side of the border, the Beat Bush bandwagon is cranking into high gear. The U.S. president is mocked in derogatory headlines and denounced on the editorial pages of major Mexican newspapers, his “Bushisms” even translated into Spanish. The prospect of his defeat momentarily unifies the once and future ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party Although he once exchanged ranch visits and dined at the White House, in his heart of hearts, President Vicente Fox of the right-wing National Action Party in the two years remaining in his term \(Mexican presidents serve a single sixElected within months of each other in 2000, Fox and Bush started off their parallel presidencies with high hopes of bilateral accommodation, but the Bush double-cross on immigration reform and war on terror obsession after 9/11 frosted relations. Fox’s strong-willed opposition to Bush’s aggression in Iraq put ties in the deep freeze. Mexico is not alone in the Americas in wanting to see Bush removed from the U.S. presidency in November. On a recent crawl through Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador, I was repeatedly asked if Bush could really be beaten. His arrogance in invading and occupying Iraq has trip-wired global anti-Yanqui sentiment. Even Canada and Europe seem to have signed onto this worldwide thirst for a change in the White House. And although it is true that none of these foreigners vote in U.S. elections, they all have cousins who do. At 40 million strong, Latinos now constitute the largest minority in the United States. Although they still don’t vote in numbers commensurate with their booming population, their concentration in swing states where hundreds of votes and not thousands separated Gore and Bush in 2000, accentuates the crucial Latin twist in the neck-and-neck 2004 race. Whatever their percentages shake down to, these final weeks of the campaign will be jammed with mucho nacho munching, mariachis, tapatio folk dancing, and Corona beer as each candidate seeks to impress Mexican-descent constituents with his amigo credentials. Bush, who speaks fractured gringo Spanish, will trot out his sister-in-law Colomba, Jeb’s Guanajuato-born spouse, and nephew George Prescott Bush. Meanwhile, Kerry’s honorary Hispanic, Teresa Heinz, the scion of Portuguese planters in colonial Mozambique, will spiel the Democrat Dream in multilingual splendor. But many Mexicans inside the United States will be on the outside looking in on this fiesta through a barred window. Citizens of Mexico account for over a third of the 10,000,000 resident aliens living inside U.S. bordersMexicans have a poor record of naturalizing as North Americans, choosing instead to retain their Mexican citizenship in hope of one day returning to their homeland. Combined with an estimated 3.5 million undocumented Mexican workers roaming the U.S. at any given moment, the number of non-voting Mexicans far outpaces those who have sworn allegiance to Gringola,ndia and will vote for Bush, Kerry, Nadei,. or None of the Above on November 2. In recent years, immigrant groups have raised the banner of voting rights as an access route to the American dream. Alien suffrage was common in the late 1890s and early 1900s, when European immigrants poured into the cities to build the nation’s industrial potential. But as the radicalized workers proposed running their own candidates for public office, the practice was quickly curtailed. Since 1992, when. Takoma Park, Maryland opened up the local vote to legal non-citizens, that liberal bastion has been joined by three other nearby towns and Cambridge and Amherst, Massachusetts \(now in legal abyss due to conflicts with state stata similar measure that is guaranteed to be killed in Congress by nativists like Colorado Republican Tom Tancredo. San Francisco will decide in November if both legal and undocumented immigrants should vote in school board elections; one opponent alleges that passage 16 THE TEXAS OBSERVER .10/22/04