Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Between Diego and the principal figures that today dominate the PRI --from Carlos Salinas to Manlio Fabio Beltrones, along with Beatriz Paredes and the governors-- there is a level of understanding and historic confidence. The PRI-PAN alliances in Salinas' sexenio, when Diego was chief of the PAN caucus in San Lázaro, remain until now the most lasting and influential pact in national politics, despite their electoral conflicts and cyclical disputes and everything else.Fernández de Cevallos' influence also helps explain why the initial burst of senatorial opposition to Chávez Chávez petered out.
"The only panista that we trust to negotiate with, because he gives his word, is Diego," one of the PRI chiefs who remains in power once said. And that's why that Calderón has had to rely on Fernández de Cevallos and his group, despite the fact that at the beginning of the sexenio, Calderón requested that his advisors avoid any contact with the ex-presidential candidate because he felt that his images took points way from the new government.
With the arrival of Fernando Gómez Mont to the Interior it was clear that that distance between Calderón and Diego had ended. But with the much-questioned arrival of Arturo Chávez Chávez to the PGR there is no doubt that the politician with the beard and the cigar is back and his relevance isn't limited to the cabinet, rather he is the symbol and the point of liaison in the new alliance between the PRI of Salinas and the government.
Everyday the bad news hits the citizens of this country who are passing through very difficult moments. The expectations have become more pessimistic each day. It becomes difficult to imagine that the immediate future could be a little better.And César Cansino, from Saturday:
Our country suffers from a very grave economic and insecurity crisis. Nobody doubts that. But still graver, much more shameful, is that we citizens don't have expectations for exiting the crisis nor for neutralizing crime and violence.The above sentiments are quite common among Mexican analysts, and there is most certainly a current of pessimism running from Cancún to Tijuana, but said sentiments are also rote. It's an easy narrative to jump on for a column, but it's far too simplistic to be accurate. More on this later.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Update: The Times ran a story on Juanito today. Good for them.
I was going to use the above as an illustration of how screwed up the US immigration system is, but this is such a bizarre case that I think extrapolating any broad points from it would be unwise.
Busloads of teenagers descend on this sweltering agricultural town 500 kilometres west of Mexico City every few months to participate in self-improvement seminars. The seminars supposedly impart values, build self-esteem and condemn vices such as drug use, according to Father Andres Larios, a Catholic priest working with young people in Apatzingan.
Unbeknownst to the participants, a quasi-religious drug cartel known as La Familia Michoacana promotes the seminars and underwrites the expenses.
Which begs the question: what would shake your faith? Swinging at subordinates was enough to get Patton hauled out of the Mediterranean, and he'd just conquered Sicily. The Lobos are 0-4, the same coach has a sexual harassment suit pending against him. Is Krebs waiting for the proverbial dead girl or live boy before he reconsiders?
Monday, September 28, 2009
"As to the event that transpired with the two deceased people in the metro station, it was because they repressed me from broadcasting the truth." That is the simple explanation of Luis Felipe Hernández Castillo, the man who killed a civilian and a police officer at the Balderas metro stop, once the latter objected to him making paintings on the walls of the station in question.
The worry thing about all this is that the justification of his conduct that the murderer makes reflects a vision of daily life and of politics that is tremendously ingrained among the Mexicans. In fact, it's something that is taught since elementary school: the ends justify the means. That's how violence is exalted as a way to resolve conflicts with the argument that the pursuit of justice legitimizes any instrument. The torture and deaths inflicted on other human beings are the collateral and irrelevant cost before the greatness of the cause: Independence, Revolution, the struggle against tirany. As such, the walls around Congress have in letters of gold the names of people who in this age would be on the lists of the most wanted by the International Court of Justice and of human rights organizations. The reasoning is always the same: they were cruel and murderers because that was the nature of the era and because the enemy was the same. It's the same argument of those who today strike out against the rights of the rest, based on the justice of their cause. It's the argument of those who take over public institutions, kidnap busses, light cars on fire, block avenues, or set bombs: the crimes of the government are greater; the "bombs" of the government, like the fiscal adjustments, are more harmful than the bombs in banks or oil pipelines.
There may be something to the assumption, but I don't think the Balderas murders are the best supporting example, since the shooting provoked such universal horror among Mexicans. For that matter, most of the ends-justify-the-means extremism in Mexico, even that which stops well short of terrorism (i.e. takeovers of public buildings), inspires much disdain for the actors, but there's no question that a significant current of this philosophy infects Mexico's politics.
I'm also not sure that the celebration of deaths for a worthy patriotic purpose (as well as the exaltation of shady "great men") is a particularly Mexican phenomenon. I believe that I learned in high school that there were some 500,000 American deaths in World War II, but the factotum was used to show what an awesome (in both senses of the word) conflict it was, rather than a war that caused half a million separate American tragedies. Likewise for other American conflicts, including the ones far less noble, far sillier than World War II.
Looking to poke a hole in that theory, José Antonio Crespo recently analyzed the PAN's electoral performance in states where Calderón is highly regarded, and determined that even in those areas, the PAN mostly declined from 2006 to 2009. This doesn't entirely negate the coattails-do-exist argument (it remains possible that it would have been worse without Calderón in office), but it certainly does undercut it a bit. One of the places he mentioned was Coahuila, where (in Torreón, at least) I think the lack of presidential coattails comes from the fact that the dissatisfaction with the local PAN is much more profound than the approval of Calderón's performance. In places where the PAN has governed locally in recent years (Guanajuato, Querétaro, Jalisco), I imagine a similar dynamic is at play.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
He said that [tolerance of celebrity drug use, i.e. Michael Phelps] "sends the message to Americans that the use of drugs in the US is OK, but not the traffic of drugs from Mexico, and that's why the US must adopt coherent policies with a position that deals with a shared problem".I'm sympathetic to his predicament, given that he is a man whose city has gone to hell (I'd like to write "quite literally" here, but of course that isn't true; however, figuratively, Juárez has gone to hell to a degree much more significant than, say, New York under Ed Koch) and whose life is at no small degree of risk because of American addicts. At the same time, the sentiment is sorely misplaced.
He added that given the above, both nations must have policies that transcend borders, "the present American administration recognizes that this is a mutual problem, and it is confronting it as a bilateral topic, but I don't think that we now have a policy that is coherent with that".
First of all, the statement is premised on the idea that the US is not acting with a firm hand as it is. There are some developed nations whose drug policies are stricter than the US's, but there were, by one count, 60,000-85,000 people behind American bars for marijuana crimes. Famously, the US imposes penalties for crack use that are 100 times harsher than the corresponding penalties for cocaine. The US has never struck me as having a particularly lax drug policy. And, of course, Mexico just decriminalized drug possession (in small amounts), which makes Reyes' comments seem a little bit hypocritical.
In any event, to help Juárez, the US needs to have less addicts and drug users, and of course there's no real proof that, staying consistent to our ideals (i.e., not executing people for smoking pot), a hard line does much to lower drug use. If he's just making a rhetorical argument about the US being hypocritical, well, that's a perfectly reasonable point, but again, locking Michael Phelps in jail isn't going to do much for Juárez.
Evander Holyfield has no intention of hanging up his gloves. In fact, he'll have a new nickname the next time he climbs into the ring.
The Real Deal is now the Lean Green Fighting Machine.
Refusing to give up on his goal of retiring as heavyweight champion even as he approaches his 47th birthday, Holyfield said he'll travel to South Korea in November for his next bout -- he's not even sure of the opponent -- and bring along a message of preserving the environment.
Boxing, it seems, has another odd partnership.
"I guess I'm lean and green," Holyfield said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "I'm pretty much going to do all I can to fight against global warming. I'll see what I can do to help and try to help other people who want to do the same thing."
1) The ability to understand and measure popular concerns.The first one is hard to measure accurately, and I haven't been in Mexico long enough to perceive a real change on that score, but it's definitely something you hear a lot, notably from Vicente Fox. The second two definitely ring true; it's easy to go overboard about parties needing ideas (in 2004 the Democrats were consigned to a permanent minority status because of their lack of them, if you remember), but some debate over a party's philosophy is surely a sign of health, and the PAN has virtually none. Nor do the PRI or the PRD engage in much vigorous philosophical debate, for that matter.
2) The deeper theoretical or philosophical debate beyond merely winning elections.
3) The grass-roots strength at the local level, and the corresponding focus on building local institution.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
I've nothing interesting to add, but these two do.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
A couple of quick items: Nava stands ahead of his predecessor Germán Martínez's position in the previous PAN populómetro. That's a greater indication of Martínez's grating style than anything positive that Nava has done, but it's worth noting. Also, Creel's high position is far more indicative of name recognition than popularity; for panistas thinking that his number two spot should make him a presidential favorite, the fact that he ranks ninth in terms of personal popularity should be a giant red flag. I guess Creel would be a reasonable sacrificial lamb in an election whose circumstances won't favor the PAN in 2012, insofar as he is a respected figure that won't single-handedly sink the party. But if the goal is to win, Creel would be a disaster for the PAN.
Unlike in the spring, the upcoming outbreak was inevitable, and officials had ample time to prepare for it. It'll be interesting to see how far Mexico has come in the interim to build its public-health institutions and to prepare for contingencies. Will there be enough hospital beds, affordable flu tests, and, of course, vaccines? If the Guatemala-Chiapas border turns into a crucial hotspot, will Mexico be able to shift resources south and coordinate with its southern neighbor? This is a very different test for Mexican leaders than the outbreak in May, but just as important.
Monday, September 21, 2009
[T]he most vulnerable Mexicans do not form a part of the most relevant political groups. Of course everyone talks about the poorest, but no one really represents them. There are politicians that claim to do so, but in reality they speak in place of the poor, not in favor of them. The poorest 30 percent of the population would surely approve a value-added tax or 10, 15, or 20 percent, knowing that this would mean an increase in their income by 50 or 100 percent. That has happened with Opportunities, which has changed the lives of millions of Mexicans. Not those who write to newspapers, or talk on the radio and television, or work in the university.I believe a scenario like this was once mentioned by Noel Maurer in a comment thread at his blog as a relatively simple and viable way to implement a VAT in Mexico without drilling the poor.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
The stated reason for their acquiescence is that Chávez Chávez deserves the benefit of the doubt. I think it's worth repeating what I said a few days ago about how it's unclear what was his contribution to the flubbed investigations of the Juárez "femicide". If he was merely a cog in the investigative machine, I can see making that argument (though I'm not sure I agree with it). But if Chávez Chávez was a major reason for the investigation's incompetence, then it becomes a lot harder to grant him the benefit of the doubt. So which is it?
The tone of voice rose and he made a sharp gesture when he affirmed: "The citizens are not satisfied with the political representation and they see an enormous gap between their needs and the actions of the governors, representatives, and politicians". On September 2nd in the National Palace, President Calderón criticized his government, and later labeled as overwhelming the need to: "Pass from the logic of the possible changes, always limited by the actors' political calculus, to the logic of deep changes".
I thought that the editing of those words had been preceded by that phrase that some attribute to Guillermo Prieto and others to Lerdo de Tejada when they said to President Juárez: "Now or never, Mr. President". I naively believed that days after the presentation of ten objectives, there would come the announcement of truly significant transformations measuring up to the size of change foretold in the speech. It was not to be.
Three changes in the cabinet owing more to shame than glory and a financial package whose objective is to balance the finances so as to fill a hole of 374 billion pesos, but not to necessarily grow once more, are so far the "deep changes."
As to his fight with Márquez, I think the Mexican wizard could steal some rounds if Mayweather is rusty. I also think Mayweather is going to fight in a style and at a pace that really favors Márquez. He won't put the pressure on him too much, he'll give Márquez an opportunity to make adjustments (which he does as well as anyone in boxing), and the output should be low enough that a few good power shots every three minutes should be enough to carry the round. At the same time, the rust factor will probably even out, because Márquez is fighting so far north of his ideal weight. Furthermore, everything Márquez does well, Mayweather does equally well, but with more speed and power. Both guys are equally smart boxers, so you have to go with the guy with the ample size and speed advantage, which is Mayweather. I think there will be competitive moments, but Mayweather is going to take a relatively comfortable unanimous decision.
The only wild card could come if Márquez tries to adopt a more aggressive style, a la the traditional Mexico body banger. He's never fought like that before, but if he's come to the same conclusion that I have above, he might figure that imitating José Luis Castillo is the only way to beat Mayweather. I think that would vastly increase the chances of a knockout victory for Mayweather, but getting out-hustled is the only way I can see Mayweather losing.
On the undercard, I'll take Vicente Escobedo over Michael Katsidas and Chris John over Rocky Juarez, both by way of decision.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Both the women’s and men’s murder investigations were characterized by indifference, irregularities, lost files and evidence, threats against victims’ family members, and no credible prosecutions, in spite of credible leads.Again, that's all damaging and infuriating, but it's not clear if Chávez Chávez is being singled out for singular incompetence, or if it's more a matter of being an important part of an incompetent whole. A lot of the principled opposition to Chávez Chávez seems to come from the mere fact that he headed an office that failed to carry out a competent investigation of a horrible series of crimes and bring the culprits to justice. That's an entirely legitimate complaint, and I think it'd be a fair reason for rejecting his confirmation. It would also have the salutary effect of establishing a more exacting precedent for officials who preside over disasters, even if they aren't acting maliciously or aren't directly responsible. At the same time, if Chávez Chávez is merely a symbol for rather than a cause of all that went wrong in the femicide investigations, I think that needs to be weighed against all that went right in Chihuahua during his tenure (i.e. violence in the region decreased from the late 1990s to the early oughts). Whatever the case, it'd be nice if the contours of the debate were a little clearer.
In 1998, Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) issued its Recommendation #44/98 that held Chavez and other Chihuahua state officials responsible for bungling the femicide investigations. Later probes by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Amnesty International, the United Nations and others reached similar conclusions.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Mexico’s La Familia drug gang, the dominant cartel in Michoacan state, is offering consumer loans, Ovaciones reported.
The criminal organization makes loans against the total value of any assets from the applicant, the Mexico City-based newspaper reported, citing pamphlets said to be from the cartel and interviews with unidentified people.
Loans from La Familia take less than 72 hours to be issued and the debt carries a lower interest rate than banks would give, Ovaciones reported.
Within a week of receiving a loan from La Familia, customers receive a message saying “Thank you for your trust, now you’re part of La Familia Michoacana,” the newspaper said.
The same poll includes lots of data about which values Mexicans attribute to themselves, and to the society as a whole. I always take these kinds of polls with a grain of salt, because the questions lend themselves to gross generalizations. Nonetheless, there were some interesting findings: only 12 percent labeled Mexico a nation of savers, and only 22 percent said that Mexicans were by-and-large honorable. At the same time, 92 percent said they personally were honorable. This confirms something I've long noticed here: a few bad apples aside, Mexicans are a trustworthy bunch, in my experience no different from Americans. Yet Mexicans seem much, much less disposed to trusting strangers than do Americans.
The adjectives that Mexicans were most likely to ascribe to their countrymen were affectionate (46 percent), hard-working (49 percent), and predisposed to solidarity (54 percent).
Monday, September 14, 2009
The problem in question could be defined in one single word: impunity. Nevertheless, that concept simply implies that the state is ineffective in applying the laws but there exists the will in the state and in the society to do so and the truth is that the problem is much more serious. The heart of this whole lamentable situation is that neither the state nor the society cares about the law. The rule of law is simply a concept foreign to our culture.
We could look for the roots of this vision of the world in the conquest of our country on the part of a feudal power. But the truth is that this contempt for the law has been cultivated with much success by Mexicans themselves. During the PRI's reign, disdain for the law was hidden behind noble causes. In that golden era of authoritarianism it was insisted that it a good negotiation was always better than applying the law.
Arrangements on the margins of the law were hailed. You have to negotiate, everyone always said. So elections were negotiated, criminal sentences, and government posts. In the end, the law was a very useful instrument for bothering political enemies --we have to apply the full weight of the law, it was said, as though that were optional-- but a barrier when it came to its own ends. And there exist various generations of Mexicans that grew up beneath this logic and that still behave based on this premise. There are even those who openly argue for negotiating with organized crime with the argument that political system should prevail over the rule of law. The problem is that in a democracy the political system can't exist outside the rule of law. It's that simple.
For decades the country has functioned with the premise that you can violate the rules and nothing ever happens. That's precisely why today everything is happening. That's why Mexico finds itself bankrupt, jobless, without investment, without water, without revenue, without a future. The issue isn't a moral reform of the political class or of Mexicans. It's the rule of law. If Mexicans don't understand that once and for all, the truth is that we can start forgetting about the illusory idea of having a country of our own. We don't deserve it.
Jorge Castañeda's contribution offers a couple of sharp insights, but this is a problematic passage:
The law actually is part of a campaign to justify President Calderón’s war of choice on drugs by stating that drug consumption in Mexico has increased over the past 10 years. But the government’s own unpublished but leaked National Addiction Survey for 2008 shows that this is not the case. The growth of marijuana, heroin and methamphetamine consumption is flat in all categories (addiction, occasional use, at least once in a lifetime use), and while cocaine addiction, for example, did rise from 300 000 victims in 2002 to 450 000 in 2008 (a 50% increase, or roughly 6% per year), it did so from a tiny baseline, for a tiny percentage (0.4%) of Mexico’s population, a much smaller share than for the US, Western Europe and practically every country in Latin America.According to what I've read about the survey, he's incorrect; marijuana use increased from 3.6 to 4.4 percent of the population. That's a marginal increase, but it's not flat. Furthermore, the stats for addiction in major cities are reportedly much higher, both for marijuana and harder drugs. And while the "tiny baseline" does indeed make the situation much different in Mexico than in Western Europe or the US, it also means that the growth potential for Mexican drug use is much higher.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Take ahorita, a diminutive of the word for "now." Ahorita can mean "right now." But it's frequently used to mean five minutes from now, 15 minutes from now, half an hour from now -- anything but now now. Al ratito is another diminutive (see how it works?) that means "in a little while," but don't start checking your watch.
Friday, September 11, 2009
This state of affairs points to a major disincentive for deep, structural telecom, energy, labor, et cetera reform: anyone who is in power (or thinks that they are on their way into power) will want to risk offending the special interests who can make governing (or getting there) much more complicated. That helps explain why such a bold, broad agenda from Calderón had to wait until after the mid-terms, now that the PAN is on its downhill. The logic here isn't absolute (an administration could conflate its interests with a more long-term view of the country's well-being, rather than its party's short-term needs), but under Raphael's explanation, the best we can hope for is piecemeal reform, not one administration determined to weaken the grip of all of the nation's special interest blocs.
The presidential proposal launched toward the rest of [Calderón's] interlocutors --in particular toward the priístas-- aimed at reversing the interests responsible for the present state of affairs. He wanted a broad front against those who have kidnapped education, the energy and telecommunications sectors, labor representation, local politics, and also those who have impeded a fiscal reform with a genuine redistributive objective.
The diagnosis [made in the speech] is correct: in the coordinates where all of these interests can be found you can also find a good part of the anchors of conservative Mexican power. A proposal like that placed on the table by the president threatens, therefore, the actors that protect and defend their authoritarian fiefdoms.
Is the PRI willing to negotiate (allied with the executive the special interests), precisely at this moment when the only worry of its leaders is the construction of a path that will eventually lead them back to the presidency of the Republic?
To fight with Elba Esther Gordillo, if by way of Enrique Peña Nieto the woman is coming back to the PRI? Why lose the support of the unions of Pemex and CFE, or the organizations affiliated with the CTM [a powerful labor conglomerate], if in moments still more difficult they knew to maintain their loyalty to the PRI?
Why confront the Coordinating Business Council or the Mexican Council of Businessmen with a just fiscal reform proposal that eventually could scare off their members? What sense does it make to complicate the relationship with Televisa, if the romance with their directors is just getting started? What would be the reason for confronting corruption and irresponsibility of the local authorities, when 17 governors represent the PRI's most reliable electoral bastion?
Objectively, and not for good reasons, a sincere and positive answer from the PRI to the president seems unlikely.
On to Mexico's Independence Day bouts: in Puebla, I like Edgar Sosa over Omar Soto and Saul Álvarez over Carlos Leonardo Herrera, both by knockout. In Cancún, I think Jorge Arce will win by knockout over Simphiwe Nongqayi, and Humberto Soto will get past Aristides Pérez the same way. Pérez's 16 previous opponents collectively have 13 total wins. How that guy got a title shot is beyond me, but Pérez is going to pay the price for his inexperience.
Gancho is 68-20 on the year.
For its part, the Calderón administration insists that fiscal responsibility will not be achieved on the backs of the middle class.
The author's conclusion is that the growth of the industry is dependent on Mexico shaking its gangland image. I think she overstates that a bit, probably because her reporting comes from Tijuana and Juárez, and doesn't focus as much on Monterrey, which is both safer and, from what I've read, a more developed hub for medical tourism than the border towns.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
This almost certainly means a de-emphasis on combating crime in the promotion of the Calderón administration; social development and anti-poverty may not be the buzzwords for the next three years, but they certainly are for the time being. Less certain is whether the above also means an effort to tamp down some of the more violent areas of the country by reducing the intensity of the government anti-crime operations. Along those lines, it may be noteworthy that Arturo Chávez Chávez, the new AG pick, served in the same position in Chihuahua from 1998 to 2002, a time period that I believe coincided with a drastic lessening of the violence, from the post-Amado Carrillo mayhem to the relative calm that prevailed in the state before the middle of 2008. (Although I hasten to add that the second portion of the preceding is empty speculation. It may well mean nothing of the sort.)
As a side note, looking at polling in Brazil and Chile and the results from Mexico's recent legislative election results, one has to wonder if a new trend in Latin American politics is the death of presidential coattails.*I'm not sure how much of a change this is (after all, Fox's 2003 mid-terms were comparably disastrous), but it certainly is striking.
*I'd thought that broad observations about Latin America's politics were legally required to address the relative strength or weakness of the pink tide, and nothing else; evidently not.
I always think it's odd how Mexico allows/requires criminals to appear before the cameras shortly after they are arrested. There's a long tradition of this, around the country, at all levels of government, and for all manner of crimes. The only purpose it seems to serve is to make internet stars out of rambling crackpots and bumbling drunks, like Monterrey's Dulce Sarahí, or Torreón's own Qué pasó muchacho man.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
The extra money for development spending is encouraging, although unfortunately it is accompanied by a $4 billion cut in education. As with security, improving education is not merely (or even primarily) a matter of spending more, but as an indicator of governmental priorities, such a cut is worrying. Education may be an easy place to decrease spending during a budget crisis, but as El Universal pointed out earlier this week, improving Mexico's educational system is a must for Mexico to become a world economic power around the middle of this century. As long as it remains perennially low on Mexican leaders' list of priorities, the "demographic bonus" will be a dud.
Ricardo Alemán says that not only was the removal of Medina Mora a win for SSP boss Genaro García Luna, but it marks a wholesale recentralization of the PGR away from the attorney general and toward his office, which controls the federal police. In that context, a relative lightweight as attorney general is logical.
It’s not a matter of reinventing everything or absolutely erasing the past, but we must be clear that what we have done during the last half-century, give or take, cannot be continued. In this period, governments across the world decided to guarantee their citizens certain benefits: education, health, social security, which have implied a very significant increase in expenses. Before, it was enough to collect 12 or 15 percent of the GDP to cover the administrative, defense, and criminal justice expenses that represented the work of government. Later, it became necessary to increase tax collection to levels of 45 to 50 percent to be able to have education for all, health for all, social security for all. In Mexico we liked the idea of giving benefits to everyone, but not the one about collecting taxes, so we never corrected our tax regime, and we continue with extremely low levels, 11 percent of the GDP, but still wanting to spend like Switzerland. We never could do it, but we did spend much more than we had, thanks first to debt and later to oil. That’s what has ended. That’s why it’s not possible to keep doing the same as always. There is no longer enough resources. Less still, as the PRI proposed in its Economic Recovery Law, wants to multiply subsidies and moneys turned over to local government. If there’s not nough for what we’ve always done, there’s much less for novelties.The basic gist of the column was that Calderón should spend less and collect more in taxes. We'll see what Schettino thinks of the specifics, but it seems like that's what Calderón is calling for: less spending thanks to the disappeared agencies, and new taxes on lotteries, beer, and cigarettes.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
The project of the principal political force in Mexico is that of the statist left. It is, without a doubt, the terrain best liked by the priístas, as well as all of the groups that benefit from the active intervention of the state in the economy.
Zuckermann supports this conclusion by noting that of 70 proposals, only four encourage a more competitive market (among them an anti-monopoly plan and a proposal to increase competition among banks to loosen credit awards), while proposals for regulation as well as subsidies and protectionism favoring certain industries abound. The big question for the PRI coming out of the election was whether the traditional statist or more market-based PRI was going to dominate the party, and the above certainly makes you think the former group is prevailing. However, market intervention to spur economic recovery following a year of negative 7 or 8 percent growth isn't necessarily indicative of a return to revolution-era economics. I also wonder how much wanting to mark some separation from Calderón following the elections played a role. Whatever the case, I think the struggle for the economic soul of the PRI remains incomplete, but this isn't very encouraging from the standpoint of bipartisan compromises.Zuckermann's second observation is that the plan would divert a greater share of revenues toward state and local governments:
Note the emphasis on the PRI's spending measures more than on the income of local governments. The PRI, in its project, only mentions that it wants "augment the taxation faculties of the states and cities to increment their income". What does this mean? Until now the local governments have lived in a sort of budget Eden. The collect less than 20 percent of the taxes of the nation without taking into account oil profits, but they spend more than 40 percent of public money including oil profit. They barely collect taxes, but they do spend a lot. And now the PRI wants them to spend more.He also notes that this will mean more local control over federal programs like Opportunities (which wouldn't be a bad thing if corruption weren't a factor), and that the PRI governors worked so hard to swing their local deputy races in large part to swing a larger share of the governing prerogative toward local government. Going beyond that, given that the PRI's success at the local level is on the whole more of a sure thing than at the presidential level, I'd say that this economic package reflects a long-term strategic interest for the party.
Next, I'd like to see a little more about what their recommendations are. Hopefully, that'll come after the hubbub over the cabinet changes dies down a bit, and everyone can focus on the upcoming legislative session.
The decisions must be taken today, because at this point we have the "demographic bonus", which means the ideal conditions of population for the socioeconomic development of the nation, an advantage in opportunity that only opens once in the history of the country and will last until the year 2048, according to the most optimistic projections of the National Population Council.
It is in this period when the whole of people of working age --between 15 and 64 years-- will be able to maintain the group that constitutes the dependent population: children, teenagers, and elderly adults; when this period comes to an end, there will be more of those in need than providers.
There remains little time to beat back the low educational quality and the lack of training for the population of a productive age; the insufficient number of jobs and the labor instability. To turn those who have between 15 and 64 years into consumers of goods and services, into savers and providers for their own retirement, because later there will not be enough young people to maintain the well deserved inactivity of the elderly.
Unfortunately none of what is happening can divert us from the worst fate: a nation both poor and old. Mexicans have complained a lot about not being a member of BRIC, countries considered the next world powers. But we are largely not because we haven't taken advantage of the demographic curve as have Brazil, Russia, India, and China (BRIC).
We are in a countdown. Mexico has three decades to make its GDP grow, at a minimum, by 4 percent annually and give work to the almost one million Mexicans who each year add themselves to the economically active population. There is no space for indecisions.