The Economist argues in its November 18th edition that the cure for incoming Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s weak mandate is boldness. It goes on to argue that that would entail a mix of the magazine’s usual market-friendly shopping list of tax reform, allowing private investment in energy, spending more on roads and other infrastructure and beefing up competition policy. It wrote loads of other stuff that got my back up so I put my laptop where my mouth is and wrote them this:
I hate to think how Felipe Calderón might interpret your call for boldness (Time for the real presidency to stand up, November 18th). What Mexican authorities have done so far to striking Oaxaca teachers and their wider support base has already been pretty robust. Several people have been murdered and dozens more are missing, possibly also killed, with plain-clothes police and municipal security officials chief among the suspects. Authorities’ actions against illegal flower sellers in San Salvador Atenco in May, which included a couple of demonstrators killed and the alleged rape of scores of detainees, were barely less muscled. Your description of Oaxaca activists as including “radical groups on the fringes of the law” would seem more aptly applied to law enforcers. Calderón’s chances of putting the sort of lid on things The Economist and friends might like are slim, something you inadvertently touch on when you mention the North American Free-Trade Agreement’s debut in January 1994. That was the date Mexico’s indigenous rebel Zapatistas shot to public attention with their call for grass-roots democracy and civil society rule. They’re still going strong and their message and methods are evident in political ripples running all the way to Tierra del Fuego. It is with their agenda, not Calderón’s or his defeated opponent’s, that Mexico might find its peace.
Who knows what good it will do? There’s so little space in their letters column that even if they do carry it, it will be edited to their taste.
The magazine is a complicated beast, advocating free trade and business as our saviour above all other doctrines yet at the same time writing sympathetically about the Dalai Lama. My verdict though is that they do more harm than good, generally ignoring the inconvenient realities of market-based economics when it comes to environmental destruction, inequality and proper democracy. Good ads though.