Mexico: Austerity and the Army


December6, 2006: Newly installed president, Felipe Calderon, announced that the army will be exempt from the new austerity budget. The troops will get pay raises and new equipment. All this because the army is an essential force in fighting organized crime. Low pay makes the troops easier to bribe. The pay raise won't eliminate bribery, but will reduce its effect somewhat. The new equipment will make the troops more competitive with the crooks, who have the money to buy state-of-the-art transportation, weapons and communications.

December 6, 2006: The Mexican government reported that it had arrested one of the key leaders (Flavio Sosa Villavicencio) of the Oaxaca protests on December 4. Villavicencio is a member of the Oaxaca Peoples Popular Assembly (APPO). Over the last week Mexican authorities have been arresting protestors in Oaxaca. The operation looks like it was calculated to slowly (but effectively) remove the protestors in "small bites" rather than in one huge confrontation. Subsequently, Mexican authorities said that 170 people had been arrested in the Oaxaca area. (APPO and protestors put the figure at 220 arrested.) It is doubtful that these arrests will end the protest movement in Oaxaca. However, the Mexican government issued a statement that it will enter "a dialogue" with the APPO led rebels. APPO has called for demonstrations to obtain the release of Sosa. "Calming" the protests in Oaxaca is a challenge for the new Mexican government. Members of the PRI were originally involved in the protests, but the PRD is now more deeply involved. The protests embarrassed former Mexican President Vicente Fox.

December 3, 2006: Mexico's new president, Felipe Calderon, issued a plan to reduce the Mexican executive branch's spending by $2.3 billion. The press described this as an "austerity" measure. Calerdon will reduce his own salary by ten percent and cut the pay and perks of other officials. The savings will be spent on social programs. The move is designed to undercut protests by the PRD which has demanded more social welfare spending. Caldeorn also promised to wage a war on crime.

December 1, 2006: Felipe Calderon was sworn in as president of Mexico. The inaugural ceremonies were disrupted by protests and street fighting. Fighting included a "brawl" between members of the PRD and PAN just prior to Calderon's swearing in ceremony. Observers described the shoving matches as an attempt (presumably by PRD legislators) to stall Calderon's inauguration.

November 30, 2006: A Mexican radio and TV reporter was found murdered in the city of Veracruz. Mexican reports said Adolfo Sanchez Guzman was the ninth journalist slain in Mexico in 2006. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) on its website said that journalists were threatened by paramilitary organizations and called on the Mexican government to protect journalists. One reporter killed earlier this year was allegedly investigating government corruption in the Veracruz area.




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