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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mexico: heading towards a revolution?

Mexico doesn't make it to the headlines too often but it's a most important country: it is the third largest country of America (and the 11th worldwide) and its GNP ranks among the largest in the world (12th or 14th, depending on the system used), being the third or fourth power in America in economical terms, after the USA and Brazil (Canada is lower in one scale but higher in another). Additionally Mexico is a most important neighbour of the still first global power: the USA.

But it is extremely unstable. And the situation has grown worse in the recent years after the controversial ascension to power of the tory Felipe Calderón in elections that way too many consider to have been rigged.

A most interesting critical window to Mexican reality is the bi-weekly magazine Contralínea, self-described as making "research journalism". The current number alone is an excellent, yet often terrifying, outlook to a country that looked about to explode even before the global economic crisis came into the scene.

Just some brief excerpts here:

In the opening article, Narcotraffic, destabilization and lost war, Z. Camacho and Y. Tinoco say: Official informations offer account of the catastrophic failure of war against narcotraffic, the main offer of Calderonism: 10,000 dead (10% of them from the Mexican Army, the Navy or some of the police corps), fall in the erradication levels of marihuana and poppy crops, and inability to improve the levels of decomissioning of drugs traded in Mexico. DEA unhappy with the performance of Sedena in the erradication of psychoactive crops.

Later they mention the opinion of José Luis Sierra, a Washington Post advisor, who says: It seems there is not consistent policy from the state to fight drug traffickung and its causes, the only thing that matters is image. (...) The consequence of using the armed forces in a war that apparently has no end and lacks sense of victory will be the demoralization of the armed forces themselves. Furthermore, the other big cost is that it is being paid with the lives of soldiers themselves, who are given orders to fight against an enemy that is protected by parts of the goverment itself.

One of the main components of the problem is the absurdly high benefits that narcotics yield, precisely because they are illegal. According to Guillermo Garduño: a kilogram of heroin has a market value of USD 32,850; that of cocaine is worth USD 7,280. And the real cost of heroin is 500 dollars and that of cocane 300: the profit level is monstruous and there is absolutely no product that can have such margins. For a peasant, a single poppy harvest is worth 10 good corn ones.

In another article E. Ramírez analyzes the economic situation of Mexico, whose growth has dropped from 4.8% to 2.7% in the last year, while the food prices have been steadily climbing some 8-9% every year since 2005. Overall inflation has also been growing, together with unemployement, while the direct foreign investment (mostly from the USA, followed by EU) has dropped significatively. The author complains that there is no system to provide small credits to the common investor and that overall the government lacks of any consistent economic policy.

This opinion is shared by N. Egremy, who in another article ponders the Mexican foreign policy, that in her opinion, based on that of political analists, works with patches and oscilates between 'deep integration' with the USA and European 'neocolonialism'. She considers that Mexico, once a relevant regional actor has been replaced in the eyes of the USA by the more independent and dynamic Brazil and Argentina. This chaos in foreign policy has caused greater interventionism by the USA but has also allowed for a huge meddling by Spain and Spanish companies, benefitted from the loss of the anticolonialist sense of history that dominated the 'old regime' of the PRI.

Back to the internal context, P. Monroy thinks that the disastrous socio-economic situation is warming up for a massive explossion like the ones that shattered Argentina some years ago. While the 38 richest Mexcian families (including the second richest man of the World, Carlos Slim) concentrate almost 15% of the GDP, the less affluent 10% of the population only controls 1.6% of it. Everybody seems to agree that the tolerance of Mexicans is at the limit. Historian and social researcher C. A. Aguirre is quoted claiming that the country walks, as in the last period of the Porfirian regime, towards a social explossion like the one that happened in 1910. She mentions the many many popular mobilizations hat have affected the country in the latest years and how the guvernamental response has been basically that of militarization and repression. No real solutions are provided though.

Finally it's worth mentioning that the labor union UNT is preparing a massive general strike for September that may cripple the country. The union leaders complain that the working class has lost like 70% of their purchasing power since 1970 and that the goverment is ignoring their plea. Public servants will join the strike because
most of them don't earn enough to subsist and many have to even rely on begging in spite of having a job.

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