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MEXICO BROUGHT TO ITS KNEES Editorial from El Observador de la Actualidad

The rise in the price of gasoline, the announcement of the rising costs of utilities-gas, telephone-and the virtual liberation of the price of the tortilla have brought the Mexican people to their knees, facing a black 1999. On their knees and without any power to make demands. The increase of 15 percent in the price of gasoline happened from one day to the next.

Link about to Crack

Who would believe that after 15 years, 20 years of “painful, even bitter measures,” that this time the corrective would function? In honesty, no one in the country even remotely trusts that ’99 will be the last pit where we would have to tighten our belts. The deterioration of the relation between the government and Mexican society has arrived at its greatest expression: the link is about to crack.

Salaries provide seven times less than at the beginning of the decade; the inflation of ’98 was three or four points above the increases of the minimum wage, the basic shopping basket is far from the reach of 40, 50 million human beings; poverty increases at an astronomical rate.

And, of course, the government must maintain its level of expenditures, maintain its sound finances, come what may, though antipopulist, “but necessary.” And the question we all ask is: Why is it more necessary to keep the bankers, the investors, and the market happy than the millions of poor people in the country?

The population does not understand-nor has any reason to understand-the fall of the price of petroleum; neither do they understand the necessity to keep the deficit in governmental expenses stable. They understand, oh yes, that the austerity measures are directed to them, that those who make these “painful” decisions abstain from carrying them out in their own environments, their own lives, and that, finally, someone is using them as cannon fodder. This they understand very well, And there is no one to give them any satisfaction.

Because they are not going to come to tell us-at this stage in the game-that neoliberalism (in the United States known as neoconservatism) is interested in the human person in his or her concrete circumstances. The people matter as much as a radish, and they will always be sacrificed, so that the numbers multiply geometrically and Wall Street (“gualstrit”) will not have a bad opinion of our country, a banana republic, under-developed, Native American, and, worst of all, Catholic.

Here we have the authentic reasoning of the bad ethics that consists in putting the government, the state, the party, over the people. Here we have, if you haven’t noticed it, the real problem of neoconservatism in its savage version; that more children die of hunger, in order that sound finances and our international reserves keep growing….

El Observador de la Actualidad is a lay Catholic weekly published in Querétaro, México.

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XIX, No. 1, January-February 1999.