Thursday, November 23, 2006

Mexico City: Local legislature already spending money from AMLO's printing machine

The Asamblea Legislativa del DF (ALDF), the legislature that supposedly rules Mexico City, believes in AMLO's ability to print money and the legislators intend to spend it just as fast as he can pump it out.

Reforma got their sweaty hands on the 2007 ALDF budget and it's an eye opener. The legislators have voted themselves a 35% pay raise to 200,000 pesos per month (a little over $18,000 US). On paper, the legislators' salaries are a mere $6000 per month. But they use the rest of the money at their discretion. You know, lunches, dinners, groceries, vacations, jewelry for the mistress(es) etc. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

The legislators also voted pay increases for their staffs of 10% plus a new overtime account plus a new Sunday bonus account. Much of that money ends up back in the pockets of each individual legislator. Here's how that works and it is common all over the country. This is done in police forces, construction crews, the teachers unions, the industrial unions and elsewhere. If you're a wannabee teacher in Oaxaca with only a primary school education and wish to spend at least one week every year camped out in the Zócalo, you pay Enrique Rueda Pacheco of Sección 22 of the SNTE 50,000 pesos and, presto!, you've got a degree and a teaching license. For a mere 30,000 more (this money is actually handed over in a brown lunch bag to one toady or another) you get to teach in the school that's right next door.

Let's say you're a cop, new to the force. You get assigned to the worst shit hole in the jurisdiction. If you want out of there, you've got to pay your commander, just as he pays his commander who pays his commander etc. So, if you want to join a legislator's staff so that you, too, can ride on this gravy train, you gotta pay.

"Nope. Yuh gotta pay, Frank. Yuh gotta pay."

Cole Younger (David Carradine) to Frank James (Stacy Keach) in The Long Riders after Younger told James he was thinking about writing a book and James replied that he expected a free copy.
Now there seems to be an almost unlimited amount of ingenuity used to funnel money into legislators' pockets. And keep in mind that these same clever strategies, or better, tactics, are applied in 31 other state legislatures as well as the national legislature.

The "party coordinators", something like our majority and minority leaders as well as our caucus leaders, will receive in 2007 some 200,000 pesos for every legislator in his respective clan. I don't know what this money is used for but you can probably guess. Instead of the middle class holiday to the oil stained beaches of Veracruz, the legislators can rub shoulders with rich Gringo widows on the more pristine beaches of Cancún. This increase over the 2006 budget was of a magnitude of 60% on the make-me-Richer scale.

The legislators also increased their budget requests for travel expenses. This money is needed to defray trip costs to Los Angeles to visit with their constituents, I guess. All in all, with salary increases, staff salaries and bonus increases, travel increases and other subsidies, the Mexico City Legislature increased this portion of its budget by a whopping 189% over 2006.

Ah, but it doesn't stop there. The budget for "General Services", light bulbs and the like, was increased by 195%, from 106 milllion pesos to 207 million. In 2006, there was no money at all budgeted for building maintenance, computers, telephones and other office equipment. The legislators did not repeat that grievious error. 29 million pesos this time around. That's about $40,000 US for each of the 66 legislators.

The Mexico City Election Commission and its very own Election Magistrates Tribunal reduced their budgets for 2007. This would seem to make some sense since there will be no elections to monitor this year and last year's elections saw everybody running for office in the city, from the mayor on down. So, the election commission reduced its budget by almost 35%. The commission's president, Isidro Cisneros, was last seen fleeing down Insurgentes pursued by his staff, wife and mother-in-law, all armed with ball bats, machetes and frying pans and hurling pieces of office equipment at him.

The president of the election tribunal, seeing his terrified colleague dash past, reduced his budget for 2007, when he'll have nothing to do but unlock and re-lock his office every day, by less than 5%.

"I am like a river to my people."

Auda abu Tayi (Anthony Quinn) in Lawrence of Arabia.
The Mexico State legislature, not to be outdone by their slimy city cousins, was also spending money as though AMLO's printing machine would never run out of wood pulp from the forests of Washington state. Each of the party leaders in the state assembly received brand spanking new cars this month. Sergio Velarde, leader of the Workers Party (the party of the workers) got a new Durango as did Eruviel Ávila of the PRI (party of the drug cartels); Máximo García, of Convergencia (party of the people), received a new Murano; Alejandro Agundis, of PVEM (party of some other people), a new Trail Blazer; Higinio Martínez of the PRD (party of yet some other people) a crummy new Passat, and Francisco Gárate of the PAN (party of bankers and businessmen) a new Tahoe. These guys all pleaded innocent to gouging the already dirt poor Mexican populace by declaring that the money had been appropriated by "the previous legislature" (of which they had all been a part) and that it would be a grave insult to those fine public servants not to spend the entire 2,600,000 pesos.

Note: Before getting all weepy and vowing to take to the streets to hijack and burn buses which the poorest of the poor use for transportation to and from their hovels, remember that each and every one of these blood sucking leeches was duly elected and then re-elected again and again by those self same dirt poor citizens who sold their votes for a sack of beans or rice or a roll of barbed wire.

My sympathy has its limits.

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