Viva Mexico! From competition to collaboration with Indonesia
April-July 2016
By: Sulthon Sjahril Sabaruddin

Why should Indonesia care about Mexico? The average Indonesian, if they are aware of the country, might consider Mexico as relatively unstable, mired in corruption and swarming with drug gangs. The release last year of “Sicario,” the Hollywood crime-thriller about the fight against Mexico’s drug cartels, with its graphic scenes of smuggling, prostitution, money laundering and violence, might have hardened those opinions. Then there is corporate Indonesia, which may assume that the geographical distance to Mexico, language barriers, inadequate infrastructure, lack of connectivity and other issues would make it hard to do business there.

But this is only one side of the story and not a true reflection of the country, as demonstrated by the many Mexicans who criticized “Sicario” as unfairly smearing Mexico’s image. At least, that was my personal experience while living in Mexico for a short period. And many foreigners living in Mexico would view it as a relatively safe country compared to many other places around the world. Some people even believe Mexico is safer than its neighbor the United States.

Yes, it’s true that there is corruption, drug cartels, prostitution, human trafficking and other serious crimes, but the media reports and exposes are exaggerations. In my opinion, one should not just focus on the dark side, but instead take an even stronger look at the bright side. Indonesia and Mexico have had very cordial and positive relations dating back decades. President Soekarno made official visits to Mexico three times (1959, 1960 and 1961) as part of his official trips to the Latin American region. Mexico is a beautiful country with great potential. Mexico is also a good partner in Latin America and is arguably well positioned to become a strategic partner for Indonesia, in addition to regional giants Brazil and Argentina.

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