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Duck

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The Mexican ambassador ducked the drug legalization question as if it were a flying shoe.

During the Q&A at Disney Hall tonight for the Zocalo lecture series, Cal State Long Beach professor Armando Vazquez Ramos wanted to know if the highest ranking representative of the Mexican government was ready to back legalization. Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan's answer? Diplomats and flies both get killed by newspapers. Then he said if that's the conclusion after serious discussions about the issue, so be it.

What did the professor think about the answer? "Bullshit!" "This young student," he said pointing to 21 year-old recent U.C. Santa Cruz grad Fernando Lopez, "is doing a better job citing statistics and studies that endorse the merits of legalization." Professor Vazquez Ramos praised the ambassador's rhetorical reflexes.

The more things stay the same, the more they change, could be the modified adage applied to Mexican politics these days. Thirty five years ago my most vivid memory was a weeping Mexican President, Jose Lopez Portillo, who's tears laced a state of the union address where he railed against the first of many massive peso devaluations. A weak peso to the stronger U.S. dollar was a test of Mexican sovereignty.

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Remember, Mexican politicians came in one shape and size, fiercely patriotic and U.S.-hating to the bone or so they led you to believe. The diagonal red, white, and green presidential sash is worn inside the suit jacket, over the tie. It's a reminder of the Niños Heroes of 1857 1847, the heroic cadets who one of which wrapped himself in the Mexican flag and threw themselves to their himself to his deaths from a hilltop rather than surrender to invading U.S. troops.

At Disney Hall Ambassador Sarukhan neither kissed the American flag to his right nor stomped on the Mexican flag to his left. He did say he'd favor an American-style legal system replace Mexico's clunker 19th Century Napoleonic legal system.

Mexican diplomats and politicians never said things like this in public a generation ago. It would be a betrayal to admit liking anything about the United States, even hamburgers. Hence comments like those from my Mexico City relatives when I visited, "Adolfo's here, get the ketchup!"

Sarukahn said things have changed: in the 1980s during a visit to Singapore, then President Miguel de la Madrid complained that Mexico had to share a 3,000 kilometer border with the U.S. The leader of Singapore, a country then the darling of global capital, answered that they'd give a lot to share one kilometer with the United States.

Sarukhan had the audience with zingers like this and the one where the Israeli Ambassador flipped the famous Porfirio Diaz saying: "Israel, so close to God, so far from the United States.

Los Angeles is one of the top five Mexican cities, if you count how many Mexicans live here. Sarukhan's the highest ranking representative of Mexico in the United States. 288 people showed up to hear him talk. Lots of Mexico City accents upstairs at the wine meet and greet afterward. As I returned to take a picture of the Mexican flag a well trained aide with the Mexican consulate, guarding the folded flag, was just about to tell me protocol forbids taking a picture of the flag. It belongs to the Mexican consulate, he said.

I met a 40 year-old real estate broker who pushes Mexican property and a 26 year-old Peruvian American, USC grad who's a budding policy wonk. Writer Gregory Rodriguez created this lecture series, called Zocalo, as a public space for talk and to watch the figurative shoe thrown at the podium every once in a while.

You can view the entire chat on Zocalo sometime soon.

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