JUNE 16-22, 2008

1. CONGRESS REVISES MERIDA INITIATIVE
2. PEMEX PAID 93% OF INCOME IN TAXES
3. CALDERON FREEZES PRICES ON 24 PROCESSED FOODS


1. CONGRESS REVISES MERIDA INITIATIVE
Political parties across the Mexican spectrum hailed a new version of the Merida Initiative, passed this week in the US Congress, which removes some oversight provisions included in the Senate version.  The US$465 million military aid bill includes US$400 million for Mexico, with the rest designated for Central America.  The bill includes US$215.5 million in direct military aid, including helicopters, advanced radar and weapons, and US$116.5 million for “military to military cooperation.”  The original Senate version called for withholding funds from army or police units that commit human rights abuses or are involved in narco-trafficking.  The new version calls for a series of periodic “consultations” with Mexican and US officials and non-governmental organizations concerning human rights violations.  The bill also expresses concern for the failed investigations of “police responsible for the violations of human rights, including sexual abuse and sexual violence against women in San Salvador Atenco on May 3 and 4, 2006, and Oaxaca between June and December, 2006.”

Human Rights Watch supports the new bill, claiming consultations will reveal human rights abuses committed by army and police units involved in narcotics operations.  The bill includes US$20 million for “construction of institutions and assistance for civil society,” including US$3 million in “assistance for non-governmental organizations and civil society,” perhaps accounting for comments by Jose Vivanco, Executive Director of the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch, who claimed the US Congress “has a long tradition of not providing assistance to security forces that commit human rights violations.”  The House approved the legislation by a 268-155 vote as part of the military spending bill for the war in Iraq.


2. PEMEX PAID 93% OF INCOME IN TAXES
Pemex paid 93% of its income to the federal government in taxes during the first trimester of 2008, compared with 69% the previous year, according to the Treasury Secretary.  Pemex paid US$32 billion into the federal treasury during the first four months of 2008, compared to US$17 billion a year earlier.  The de-capitalization of PEMEX is part of the Calderon administration’s strategy to privatize the petroleum monopoly, arguing that PEMEX is unable to modernize infrastructure and invest in new development and processing plants.  In recent years, PEMEX has provided about 40% of the federal budget, but the recent dramatic increases indicate that PEMEX may be providing as much as 70% of the budget.  Federal officials are unwilling to explain how the windfall is being spent.


3. CALDERON FREEZES PRICES ON 24 PROCESSED FOODS
In the face of rapidly rising food prices worldwide, the Calderon administration froze retail prices on 24 processed items through the end of 2008.  Included in the list are premium tuna, sardines, preserved peaches, three kinds of spaghetti sauce, strawberry jam, flan, canned beans, selected fruit drinks, instant coffee, catsup, prepared jello, shrimp soup, dehydrated parsley, garlic salt, and two kinds of pepper.  Not included in the list are tortillas, cooking oil, corn, rice, sugar, powdered milk, wheat flour, bread, meat, eggs, cheese or vegetables.  The Confederacion de Camaras Industriales (Concamin), a leading business organization, approved the measure.