Sunday, December 10, 2006

Mexico City: Let's cut Calderón a little slack, shall we?

Let us not do unto Felipe Calderón as was done unto Vicente Fox. That is, expect a string of miracles to occur almost overnight. It ain't gonna happen because it cannot happen. What kicked off this latest gem of prose was a comment left at a previous post concerning the arrests of several Oaxaca state policemen by federal officials. The commenter said that a "wait and see" attitude would be adopted until the policemen either really served time or walked away scott free.

That's not in the president's hands. There is only so much he can do. If the judges that may or may not hear the cases get bribed or threatened or both and throw out the charges, there's not much Calderón can do about it.

Several years ago, Rudy Giuliani's team arrived in Mexico City to great fanfare to advise Mayor AMLO on cleaning up crime in that vast wasteland. When Giuliani's team told AMLO that the city needed 30 years just to clean up its own municipal police force, they were sent packing. No one wanted to hear that.

Everyone, and I am no exception from time to time, is looking for the magic bullet. The key, the code, the E=mc2 which will explain it all and fix it all, yesterday. President Fox is being labeled a failure for not making more progress during the last 6 years. Now, Calderón faces all the same challenges as well as the judgements.

I believe that President Fox fulfilled his duty. His niche in history will forever be that he pried the PRI out from behind the president's desk. And that single act proved to all who would follow that it could be done. That doesn't mean that he did all he could have or should have. But it does mean that he's not a failure.

Here, quite briefly and definitely non all-inclusve, are some of the problems that Calderón faces.

1. 500 years of mismanagement and incompetancy. Read that again. 500 years.
Mexico had governors and mayors and legislatures and cities and towns and highways and hospitals and taxes and all those other "civilized" trappings for fully 100 years before the first English colonists began to drop dead from desease and starvation in what would become, 180 years still later, the state of Virginia.

2. 30 state governments and the municipal government of the world's largest city born, bred and ensconced in an environment of corruption and crime. 2438 municipalities are all lined up at the trough as well.

3. One quarter to one third of the country under the control of narcotics traffickers.

4. A shattered infrastructure where highways fall apart as soon as they are completed and opened to traffic, bridges collapse into gorges and freeway mountain tunnels are closed soon after opening with victims' bodies still buried inside. And no one is ever held responsible for any of it.

5 The banking and financial services and insurance sectors with only a few members operating honestly and efficiently because foreign companies own them.

6. At least 3 states comprising almost all of the southern third of the country with 40%+ illiteracy rates.

7. A federal budget which sucks 25-40% of its total annual income from a single company, which it also happens to own -- Pemex.

8. That company estimated to be only 6 years away from bankruptcy.

9. A country where 1 in 10 native born citizens has fled, is fleeing or will soon flee to another country.

10. A country where 1 in every 7 working men and women has fled, is fleeing or will soon flee to another country.

11. A country where the average state governor's salary is higher than the average state governor's salary north of the river and only 2 have offered to take pay cuts along with the president's and one wants yet another pay raise.

12. A country where the average state legislator's salary is higher than that of their "counterparts" north of the river and where none, zero, zippy, have offered to take pay cuts along with the president's.

13. A country where monopolies rule, making billionaires of a few at the expense of some of the poorest people on God's green earth.

14. A country where one powerful political party, the PRD, wants Wal-Mart, the company that brought affordable everything to the average Mexican citizen, thrown out of the country or legislated out of existence (that sounds just a bit familiar, no?)

15. A country where everyone, from the merchant to the politician to the local beat cop, knows that to go along is to get along. To not do so is to get shot dead.

I could go on but you get the idea.

Calderón can't fix all this. He can't rewrite the constitution which is another of those classic Latin American constitutions which guarantees everything to everybody and is capable of delivering nothing. That would require a whole series of 2/3rds votes in the Congress and he'll never get even one And just look what Calderón had to do to carry out the raid on the state attorney general's headquarters in Oaxaca.

He had to break the law. That's right. The PFP/AFI/Mexican Army raid was illegal as hell. Calderón hasn't had to try to defend it because no one, neither the governor nor the attorney general, has made a peep. And they won't because they know their hands were smudged and they don't want to see these types of raids being conducted from one state government agency to the next. Also, Calderón hasn't said a word about it either. His new federal attorney general would take any heat, if any heat were to come.

I cannot imagine what kinds of plans Felipe Calderón has formulated or is mulling around in his pea-brain to try to correct, or even to begin to correct, these problems. After thinking about it for awhile, I've come to the conclusiion that he's insane. Nutz. Certifiable. Loco. Crazy as a loon. You'd have to be to take on an impossible mission like this.

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