Zedillo, who coined the term "globalphobics" in reference to WSF types at the 1996 Davos get-down, revealed that the bank bail-out he sponsored during Mexico's mid-1990s meltdown and dubbed FOBAPROA, has drained 20% of his country's gross domestic product (PIB), bragging that the 400 trillion peso outlay was triple that of what the Bush-Obama bail-out has cost U.S. taxpayers.
As might be anticipated, the Calderon-Zedillo act did not play well on the homefront. While the Mexican presidents cavorted with the living dead in Davos, a half million of their compatriots were marching through the streets of Mexico City to protest the economic wreckage the neo-liberal ethos has wrought here. On January 25th, former left presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, from whom Calderon stole the 2006 election, and his Movement to Defend Mexico's Oil & The Popular Economy assembled upwards of 200,000 in the great central Zocalo plaza. Five days later, farmers and trade unionists matched that outpouring to denounce the damage done by the current crisis.
Among the crisis indicators: 6% inflation, the highest in ten years, and 340,000 jobs lost on Calderon's watch. (Calderon campaigned as "the president of employment.")
Just what Mexico's unemployment numbers are is deeply obfuscated. Government bean-counters at the National Statistical and Geographic Institute (INEGI) claim it is no more than 4% - but under INEGI parameters, anyone who worked for more than an hour in the informal economy during the previous week is considered employed.
Utilizing such criteria, the emblematic apple sellers of the 1930's Great Depression would not be determined to be jobless.
On the other side of the ledger, Enrique Galvan, who authors La Jornada's "Money" column, calculates that 70% of the nation's 45 million-strong workforce does not have a steady job. A maquiladora industry that assembles consumer goods for the ravished U.S. market and which generated a million jobs in the best of times has gone kaplooy and the Big Seven automakers (including Toyota, Nissan, Honda, and Volkswagen) have shut down their plants for the duration of the downturn.
Meanwhile, workers' pensions, privatized under Zedillo, have gone up in smoke, with those paying in losing up to 30% of their retirement funds in the past six months. To compound the devastation, the peso has sunk to record lows, having been devalued by 32% since last August 4th when it weighed in at 9.87 against the dollar. At this writing, 14.78 pesos will buy you one dollar Americano and the exchange rate is climbing toward 15.
Nonetheless. Mexico's banks, rescued by Zedillo's 15-cypher bailout and subsequently sold to transnational financial conglomerates, registered a 38% profit increase in 2008.
The current blasted economic landscape here bears striking similarities to another period of devastating downturn a hundred years ago. The 1907-08 depression was trip-wired when commodity prices collapsed and money dried up, casting tens of thousands of Mexican workers into the streets and accentuating the monstrous divide between rich and poor. To counter working class rage, dictator Porfirio Diaz cranked up repression, massacring hundreds of striking textile workers in Rio Blanco Veracruz and miners in Cananea Sonora. Synchronistically, workers at Cananea, the eighth largest copper pit in the world, have been on strike for the past 18 months in spite of Calderon's efforts to break the walkout.
Despite the shattered economy and his deep-rooted unpopularity after 34 years in power, Diaz decided to run for re-election in 1910, stealing the vote that June and jailing opposition leader Francisco Madero, a role model for Lopez Obrador.
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