13 June 2008

Mexico's Accidental Incompetent President

Felipe Calderón’s every step has been marked by his accidental coming to power in December 2006. From the start his rule was questioned by large parts of the population, especially those who voted for Manuel López Obrador who obtained 35.15% of the votes against the 35.71% of the election winner.

He sought out plans and actions that would lend him legitimacy. Calderón was the first President to enter and leave through the back door of Parliament for taking office. From then on, has sought the banner of social justice from his rival. For this, he has put into practice populist policies: helping the poor, pension for the over 70s and help for single mothers.

At the same time, he has literally obeyed the demands of big businesses to promote structural reforms that these sectors demand: reform of the pension system and of the petroleum sector, looking at privatising refining, something that is expressly forbidden by the Mexican Constitution.

In the economic field, Calderón has served the richest and, at the same time, has carried through an important part of social policies proposed by his rival. That, however, has served not to reduce poverty and marginalisation but to increase it.

In the field of security and what is called the “war against drug trafficking”, an important section of the population at first viewed the military actions positively. Little by little, the perception has been more critical not only for the impressive rise in the number of deaths – from the start of this years 9.2 Mexicans have died daily from organised crime – but also for the constant violations of human rights by the military.

Recently Amnesty International referred to impunity and lack of commitment and leadership in the matter of human rights on Calderón’s part. Confrontations between security forces and the drug traffickers have not reduced criminal activities. It seems he has only blindly struck out at a beehive and does not know what to do now that the bees are swarming about and stinging.

Despite the fact that this policy had the endorsement of White House, relations with the North American administration are not smooth. This was shown with what happened with Plan Mérida (a type of Plan Colombia). The conservative sectors of society welcomed the decision to draw up a plan among Canada, USA, Mexico and Central America. Nevertheless, the U.S. Congress has attached a series of rules about human rights and corruption that make it unviable.

In the field of education, Calderón decided to leave it in control of the worst trade union bureaucrat, Elba Esther Gordillo, renowned for her fortune amassed in an inexplicable manner.

It appears that Calderón’s only achievement is being seated at a negotiating table with the Popular Revolutionary Army which is demanding proof that two of its disappeared members are alive. At least, while these talks last, the guerrilla organisation has promised not to take military actions.

Regarding the other rebel organisation, it appears that Calderón’s government has decided to needle the Zapatista community that would provoke a military response from the Zapatista National Liberation Army. Some days ago, the security forces entered a settlement which, till some time ago, had been presented as a meeting place for the Zapatista command.

It is not clear what Calderón would look for in such an action. On the other hand, the economic situation of the country is problematic. The food crisis has led to another increase in the price of tortilla, fundamental to the diet of the Mexicans. Moreover, if there are surplus dollars from the rising prices of petroleum, remittances that Mexicans send from the USA are falling.

Calderón has benefited from the errors of the institutional Left which does the same that it criticises. Four months after the primaries to elect the leader of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), it is still not known who the winner is. The extent of cheating and fraud makes it impossible that there will be a solution with a degree of legitimacy. In middle of all this, the PRI (Revolutionary Institutional Party that ruled Mexico for a long time) is rubbing its hands for the 2009 elections. Few in Mexico doubt that the PRI will regain control of both the legislative chambers.

Source: El Público

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