Mexico News and Analysis: Aug 31 - Sept 6, 2009

1. Worst drought in half a century
2. Drug-related deaths – in US
3. Debt reaches US$360 billion 


1. Worst drought in half a century
Crops are wilting, water is rationed in the nation’s capitol and reservoirs are at historic lows as Mexico enters the third month of an historic drought.  Water shortages come at a time when much of the country is normally soaked with hurricane-driven rains, leaving officials to wonder what will happen when the traditional dry season begins in late Fall.  So far, 2009 is the driest since the federal government began keeping records 69 years ago.  While crop losses already top US$1 billion, Mexico City, home to 22 million residents, is the hardest hit.  Officials claim that without substantial rainfall to refill reservoirs, the city could run out of water by February.  More than a third of the city’s water is lost from leaks in aging underground pipes, yet authorities have done little to correct the problem.  In addition, most of the city’s rainwater is pumped out of the urban area to the Gulf of Mexico, while three-quarters of the drinking water is drawn from underground aquifers with no major source for replenishment.  Over-pumping is causing the city to sink as much as a foot a year in some places.  Mayor Marcelo Ebrard of the PRD wants to privatize the water system to make it more “efficient,” yet appears to be unwilling to address the major causes of the shortage. 


2. Drug-related deaths – in US
Drug-related deaths have dominated Mexico’s news for the past two years, yet little has been written about the comparable situation in the United States.  According to recent estimates published in Esquire Magazine, drug-related deaths in the US undoubtedly exceed 15,000 per year and probably exceed 18,000 (though no one keeps exact statistics), compared to about a third that number annually in Mexico.  So why does Mexico get all the bad publicity while the US appears to get a pass?  Could it be an effort to exonerate US leaders from culpability for a narcotics problem that is centered north of the border, not south?  The US is the largest illegal drug market in the world, yet authorities act as though cartels and mafias somehow impact Mexico yet end at the border, while the drugs mysteriously find their way to millions of users in the US.


3. Debt reaches US$360 billion
Mexico’s federal debt reached US$360 billion this year, equivalent to about 40% of the country’s gross national product and nearly double the debt in 2000.  Despite this clearly unpayable debt load, the International Monetary Fund continues to make loans to the Calderon administration, in part to stabilize a sinking peso, which retreated to 13.85 per dollar earlier this week.

In related news, the economy is expected to shrink by 7% this year, making Mexico one of the countries hardest hit by the global crisis.  Heavy dependence on the declining US market, an over-response to the influenza scare causing a severe decline in the tourist industry, shrinking oil production, and an historic drought combined to make this one of Mexico’s worst years on record.