AMLO outside the Senate, Monday, October 26

Worker's Party Deputy Mario di Costanzo Tears Apart Carstens Economic Plan

Friday, January 30, 2009

Of Drugs and Bailouts

For those of us who live lives of relative privilege in our little Mexican bubbles, it may be hard to actually conceive of how much the country has deteriorated just over the last two years. Besides killing more Mexicans than American soldiers dead in Iraq, little Lipe's misnamed "war on drugs" (or rather, intervention in the drug market to favor certain cartels over others, as Luis Javier Garrido has it) has terrorized the population, shredded the social fabric, and created the conditions of permanent fear necessary for future bouts of "economic shock treatment," in the words of the thankfully-late Milton Friedman. His bungled response to the global economic crisis: raising regressive taxes in a time of recession and continuing to waste government coffers on profligate bureaucratic spending and salaries - upwards of $60,000 dollares a month for the highest functionaries - while the rest of the country goes increasingly hungry has led Mexico to the dubious honor of country with the worse economic growth in all of Latin America, several years running. And worst of all from the standpoint of simple justice, his government's continued violations of human rights, either actively or through turning a blind eye, as well as the maintenance in office of the likes of Ulisses Ruiz ("el gober penoso") and Mario Marin ("el gober precioso") - men with criminal pasts egregious even by the, shall we say, loose standards of Mexican politicians, cynically mocks any advances the nation had made towards rule of the law in the 1990's. And though his attempt to privatize Pemez, the crown of the neo-con strategy for turning Mexico into a backyard oil protectorate, failed in the short term through massive public movilization led by Andres Manuel López Obrador, there is no doubt that, after the mid-term elections in July, Congress will at some point try again.

What is amazing through all of this is that it has taken the American press so long to notice. A rash of negative pieces in elite publications such as Forbes at the end of last year proved themselves to be "shocked" at the country's spiraling drug violence, and a recent Pentagon report has Mexico on its watch list of potential failed states alongside countries like Pakistan, another major recipient of the dubious benefits of US military aid. Meanwhile, at the Davos Conference in Switzerland, in yet another example of breezy cynicism, former President Ernesto Zedillo allowed that the pricetag of Mexico's bank bailout, initiated under his administration, topped even that of the US's. Yes, Fobaproa, the Frankenstinian monster that sucked up 20% of Mexico's GDP to benefit the same people who pillaged and led their enterprises to ruin in the first place, then benefited from free government bailout money, then got them back with freshly-scrubbed balance sheets shining like new, then liquidated or sold them off several years later with just a few properly-targeted bribes to clear the way, capping off the greatest swindle in this nation's (and perhaps the world's, considering the relative size of the bailout to Mexico's economy) history: the conversion of the dirty, private debts of millionaries into the public debt of millions. Sound familiar? Speaking of which, meanwhile, President Obama rails against Wall Street bankers' serving themselves up nearly $20 billion bonuses in 2008 in the midst of the north-of-the-border version of bailout mania, and congratulates himself that his new Treasury Secretary succeeded in talking the Citigroup out of buying a new corporate jet. At least someone's putting their foot down (yes, there is some sarcasm in those italics). In France, two-and-a-half million people marched in protest of the Sarkozy government's decision to inject $26 billion euros into France's banking system, despite the fact that said banks ended 2008 in the black. In the US, Exxon reported a record $45.2 billion in profits for 2008 - sounds like they're ripe for a bailout, too.

Masters of finance, bingers on greed and the white-collar public dole: the whole world is watching.