Gov. Jesse Ventura has completed the first official day of his six-day trade mission to Mexico. Ventura met outgoing Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo at the Mexican Presidential Palace and later gave a speech to the American Chamber of Commerce in Mexico City. He and many Minnesota company representatives who've joined him on the trip, finished off the evening at a reception at the residence of the U.S. ambassador to Mexico.
Outgoing Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, flanked by Gov. Jesse Ventura, meets members of Minnesota's trade delegation to Mexico. (MPR Photo/Andrew Haeg)
MONDAY'S BUSINESS was dominated by speech-making and ceremony, all designed to impress Minnesota commerce on the minds of the trade mission's Mexican hosts. Ventura's meeting with Zedillo took place just weeks before he's scheduled to hand over power to president-elect Vicente Fox. The two leaders mainly exchanged pleasantries, and Zedillo highlighted Mexico's growing relationship with Minnesota.
"We are very happy to know that more than 100,000 persons in Minnesota are of Mexican origin, and that this community is contributing to the very significant economic growth that Minnesota has had in recent years," Zedillo said.
Ventura later gave Zedillo some gifts, including the statue of an eagle and a miniature hockey stick. Zedillo, meanwhile, walked into the audience and shook the hands of each of the trade delegation.
After Zedillo left, Mexican journalists queried Ventura on his policies, his populism, and his stance on border issues.
Ventura said Mexicans help keep Minnesota's economy strong by filling thousands of otherwise unfilled jobs throughout the state.
"I would welcome all immigrants as long as they go through the proper channels to come to Minnesota," Ventura said. "We have jobs for them, certainly there's work available."
Ventura's entourage next sped off to Mexico City's University Club, where Ventura explained the purpose of his visit to some 200 members of the American Chamber of Commerce.
"We're not in Mexico looking for instant gratification this week. I don't want the doors we open to hit me on the way out when we leave. We are here in the pursuit of common ground, in pursuit of common interests that can lead to strong, long-term relationships that can benefit both sides of the border," said Ventura.
United States' ambassador to Mexico, Jeffrey Davidow, invited the delegation to his home Monday night.
Davidow's sleek, modernist residence opened out onto a manicured lawn, where a mariachi band serenaded the delegation. They mingled in close conversation about commerce, trade and politics. The ambassador's caterers served Minnesota turkey, Hormel meats, and Haagen Dazs ice cream from Pillsbury - symbolic reminders of the mission's larger purpose.