News and Analysis: April 11 - 17, 2011

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1 - NEWS FROM THE OTHER CAMPAIGN

2 - MARCOS SUPPORTS SICILIA-INSPIRED MOVEMENT

3 - MEXICAN MILITARY BUDGET EXPLODES, ECONOMY SUFFERS UNDER CALDERON

4 - AMERICA MOVIL FINED FOR MONOPOLY PRACTICES

5 - LABOR REFORM APPEARS TO BE DEAD

6 - SME PROTEST

 

1 - NEWS FROM THE OTHER CAMPAIGN

  • Government repression against San Sebastian Bachajon: On April 9, about 600 heavily armed local, state and federal police attacked members of the Other Campaign from San Sebastian Bachajon and took control of a toll booth established on collectively owned lands at the entrance to the Agua Azul waterfall.  Local residents aligned with State authorities want to sell the land for an eco-tourist center. [link]
  •  The Junta de Buen Gobierno in La Garrucha denounced efforts by local, state and federal authorities to charge real estate taxes on collectively owned indigenous lands in Ejido Cintalapa. [link]

2 - MARCOS SUPPORTS SICILIA-INSPIRED MOVEMENT

Subcomandante Marcos joined the national chorus of support for poet and journalist Javier Sicilia after gang members killed his son and five friends in Cuernavaca in late March.  "The pain and anger of Javier Sicilia ... reverberates in our mountains.  We hope that his legendary tenacity, which has inspired our own words and actions, is able to bring together the pain and anger that is multiplying in the lands of Mexico," wrote Marcos in a letter addressed to the academic Luis Villoro.  "The collective tragedy of a senseless war, made concrete in the particular tragedy that he suffered, finds Don Javier in a difficult and delicate situation.  There is much pain that hopes to find echo in his demands for justice, and there are more than a few doubts and ignored voices of indignation that his words encapsulate... His demand for justice, and all those demands that find common ground in his words, deserve our respect and support...." In the days following his son's death, Sicilia published a series of commentaries directed at Mexico's notoriously corrupt and increasingly distant political class, condemning the senseless violence of the "war on drugs" that has claimed more than 35,000 lives in the past four years.  Sicilia's words inspired a series of public demonstrations in more than two dozen cities, the potential beginning of a national movement against President Calderon's program to militarize large segments of the country.

 

3 - MEXICAN MILITARY BUDGET EXPLODES, ECONOMY SUFFERS UNDER CALDERON

Mexico's military spending increased by 44% during the first three years of the Calderon administration, from US$4 billion in 2006 to US$5.9 billion in 2009, while the education budget remained stagnant and health spending increased by only 1.6%, according to the World Bank.  The nation's poverty rate increased from 42.6% of the population in 2006 to 47.4% in 2009.  Mexico is an anomaly in Latin America - the only country to experience a jobless recovery from the 2009 recession.  While Mexico is "a star" in terms of macroeconomic data, the World Bank says it is "a mystery" why the country's economy is not performing better.  Macroeconomic data refers to balanced budgets, low inflation and high levels of foreign exchange.  The Mexican economy is the 14th largest in the world, but its growth rates are among the lowest in Latin America. Per capita income places the country at number 78 worldwide.

 

4 - AMERICA MOVIL FINED FOR MONOPOLY PRACTICES

Mexico's Federal Competition Commission (CFC) levied a US$1 billion fine on Friday against America Movil, the operator of Carlos Slim's Telcel network which controls about 70% of the country's cell phone market.  The fine was the largest in the history of Mexican telecommunications.  Slim is the wealthiest person in the world and much of his fortune came from his communications businesses, including TelMex which controls 80% of Mexico's land lines.  The CFC found that America Movil regularly dropped cellular calls from competing companies.  Slim is also involved in an ongoing dispute with Iusacell, Televisa and other telecommunication operators that accuse TelCel of charging excessive tariffs for interconnection with other services.

 

5 - LABOR REFORM APPEARS TO BE DEAD

Pending labor reform legislation would have devastated independent unions, lowered the minimum wage, and decreased job security for workers.  However, the PRI appears to have buried its labor reform initiative under a lengthy and complicated consultation process instead of supporting its "fast track" approval.  Javier Lozano, the current PAN Labor Secretary, accused the PRI of cutting a deal with the opposition PRD to drop the labor reform in exchange for the PRD rejecting a PAN-PRD electoral alliance in upcoming gubernatorial elections in Mexico State.  The conclusion may be pure political speculation on the part of annoyed PAN officials who were counting on the electoral alliance to end historic PRI control in Mexico State.  Yet, at some level, the move makes sense.  It was always difficult to understand why the PRI would introduce an unpopular labor reform bill after rejecting similar bills introduced by the PAN over the past decade, especially in anticipation of presidential elections the PRI hopes to win in 2012.  PRI and PRD officials denied a deal.  Lozano made his accusations via Twitter, his favorite political platform in recent years.

 

6 - SME PROTEST

A year and a half after the Calderon administration closed Luz y Fuerza del Centro (LFC), the federally-owned electrical company, the Electrical Workers Union (SME) held a protest on Sunday in Mexico City that turned violent.  At least five vehicles were torched, several apparently owned by SME members, and two reporters were beaten.  Police caused havoc in the Zocalo metro station, the largest station in the subway system, when they launched a tear gas canister that landed at the entrance, causing thousands of commuters to stampede for the exits.   Police arrested eleven SME members, but union leaders accused provocateurs of initiating the violence.  All eleven arrestees were indicted by a federal judge on Friday for rebellion, robbery, assault and property damage, and will be held for investigation.