In the Spotlight

News & Features
No Politics, Just Business
By Andrew Haeg
October 26, 2000
Part to Minnesota Public Radio's coverage of Jesse in Mexico
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Gov. Jesse Ventura spent a final day in Mexico City Wednesday, meeting with President-elect Vicente Fox. Later he went to a hospital to see how technology, developed by Twin Cities-based Medtronic, is helping victims of epilepsy and Parkinson's disease.

Gov. Ventura meets with Parkinson's victims who can live more normal lives with the aid of Medtronic devices. To see more photographs, visit the Jesse in Mexico section.
(MPR Photo/Andrew Haeg)
ON THE SURFACE, Fox and Ventura are men of the same cloth. Both mounted impressive and successful insurgencies against political establishments. Both possess a pull-no-punches machismo that attracted record numbers of voters when each ran for office. And Fox, a former executive at Coca-Cola, shares Ventura's disdain for career politicians who've never worked in the private sector.

"We're not politicians in the fullest sense of the word," he told reporters after a private meeting with the Minnesota delegation. "We are people with a deep desire for working for our community. We don't get into grillas, into political discussions, we get into business and doing better for our citizens."

Fox said politics wasn't discussed during the meeting with Ventura, but business was. He set the agenda for the meeting, and described five industries in which he thought Mexico and Minnesota could work together: forestry, telecommunications, energy, high technology and agriculture.

Agriculture Commissioner Gene Hugoson attended the meeting. He says Fox wants to develop relationships that profit both sides.

"One of the examples we used is turkey polts. They are hatched in Minnesota, they come to Mexico, they're finished here and they're consumed here. So that becomes employment both for Minnesota and for Mexico," Hugoson said.

After meeting with Fox, Ventura and his entourage got back to business by visiting a Mexico City hospital.

There they saw demonstrations of Medtronic technology that's helping alleviate seizures and shaking in Parkinson's victims and epileptics.

Ventura met Elena Escamilla, who has Parkinson's disease. She said five months ago, she could walk only with great difficulty. But then she saw an ad on TV for the Medtronic treatment. She went to the hospital, where doctors implanted a small device in her head that delivers precise electrical shocks to her brain.

"From the very first day of the operation, I was walking around the hospital," she said through a translator.

Ventura has a personal interest in this medical technology. His daughter, Jade, was born with epilepsy, and the man Ventura describes as his hero, the former boxer Mohammed Ali, has Parkinson's.

These devices are still experimental and aren't yet approved for general prescription. But Ventura says he'd like to see what this technology could do for Ali.

"I'm going to contact him through my people, because I certainly want him to be aware that this is available to him," said Ventura.

Joe Posillico, Medtronic's business director for Latin America, says Mexico's economic expansion is helping this hospital experiment with innovative treatments.

"I've been all over the world and these people have a lot of sympathy for the patients that they treat, and they're dedicated to doing this. This country, because of their recent improvements and development, now is stepping into the area of not just treating life and death, but treating quality-of-life issues," Posillico said.

Ventura and his entourage then traveled to Guadalajara, where the focus is on agriculture. He's visiting a corn products factory, and will meet with local officials to discuss ways to increase agricultural trade between Mexico and Minnesota.