June 2006 article
June 2006, "Mexico Leftist Presidential Candidate Says He'll Protect Farmers from NAFTA," AP, Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico
"Mexican leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took a hard line against the North American Free Trade Agreement on Saturday, saying if elected, he'll refuse to eliminate tariffs on U.S. white corn and beans, a looming requirement of the trade deal that could have a devastating effect on Mexico's staple crops.
"We are not going to accept this clause that they signed," Lopez Obrador told supporters in Chiapas, an extremely poor farming state.
Tariffs on all agricultural products must be removed in 2008 under NAFTA. But Mexican farmers said hefty agricultural subsidies in the United States give that country's white corn and beans an unfair advantage over the Mexican market, which depends in large part on small-scale and mostly subsistence farmers.
Mexicans worry if these farmers can't sell the country's signature crops at a price that competes with trucked-in produce from the United States, they'll go out of business altogether. That could severely damage Mexico's agricultural economy, which farmers said has already suffered since the trade deal went into effect in 1994, forcing many to migrate to the United States.
Mexico's agriculture minister pleaded with Canada and the United States this month to reconsider removal of the corn and bean tariffs but U.S. undersecretary for agriculture J.B. Penn flatly rejected the appeal, saying: "We have no interest in renegotiating any parts of the agreement."
Despite the concern, the administration of outgoing Mexican president Vicente Fox has stood by NAFTA, saying Mexico honours its trade commitments.
Lopez Obrador said he would have no such allegiance to a deal he said harms Mexican farmers.
"This clause will not go into effect."
With two weeks to go before the July 2 election, the fiery ex-Mexico City mayor also attacked (Vicente) Fox and the "technocrats who govern our country badly," saying they do "nothing more than copy the bad from abroad."
Lopez Obrador said he's confident many Mexicans will vote against rival Felipe Calderon of the conservative governing National Action party, or PAN, because they are angry with Fox for not fulfilling his campaign promises, which included creating millions of jobs. Calderon and Lopez Obrador are running about even.
Lopez Obrador has promised to raise the income of poor families by as much as 20 per cent by providing them with subsidized power and basic goods. He also has promised to extend free pensions for the elderly he established in Mexico City to the rest of the country.
Lopez Obrador has said the handouts - estimated to cost the equivalent of about $8 billion Cdn - would be funded by cutting the salaries of Mexico's army of government workers, particularly of the top earners, and he has promised to draw one-half the salary of (Vicente) Fox, who received $265,000 last year."
Added: 2006 Mexico presidential election featuring pro and anti-NAFTA candidates became "too close to call." Pro-NAFTA candidate Calderon ultimately won by slightly less than 0.6%.
July 6, 2006, "Mexico vote result on knife-edge," BBC
"Mexico's presidential election is too close to call as electoral authorities work round the clock to verify vote tallies from Sunday's ballot.
With counting almost complete, conservative candidate Felipe Calderon overtook his leftist rival Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador by a fraction....
With more than 99% of votes verified, Mr Calderon held a narrow lead over Mr Lopez Obrador, but appeared confident of winning many of the remaining votes. The gap between the pair has come down to just thousands of votes out of an electorate of 41 million.
But whatever the outcome, the candidate that loses will inevitably challenge the outcome, says the BBC's Daniel Lak in Mexico City. Mr Lopez Obrador took the lead as the verification process started, only for Mr Calderon to pull slightly ahead as results came in from his electoral strongholds.
The recount has involved checking the tallies attached to ballot boxes, which were sealed after Sunday's election. Individual ballots have not been reviewed unless the boxes appeared tampered with or if the tallies were missing, illegible or inconsistent.
Mr Lopez Obrador, the candidate of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), refused to accept preliminary results that gave Mr Calderon a narrow lead. He alleged there had been "inconsistencies" and "serious evidence of fraud", and said that if he lost he would call for a ballot-by-ballot recount....The successor to President Vicente Fox is due to be inaugurated on 1 December."
Pro-NAFTA Calderon won by "just under 0.6":
July 2006, "After Victory Calderon Pledges to Address Deep Social Problems," AFP
"Calderon garnered almost 36 percent of the vote and a lead of just under 0.6 percentage points over Andres Manuel Lopez Obradror, who insisted the process was marred by irregularities and demanded a complete recount of the 42 million ballots."...
Within Mexico, high walls are used to keep those on one side safe:
"Physical separation is a hallmark of wealth in Mexico, where high walls often form a barrier between rich and poor....Those with money seek to protect themselves with high gates....With the passage of NAFTA, the availability of luxury goods has soared in Mexico."...
Nov. 19, 2006, "Mexico's wealth gap shows few signs of closing," Houston Chronicle, Jeremy Schwartz, Cox News
"Ranks of the rich grow in Mexico. Wealth gap shows few signs of closing despite leader's promises."
"While poor migrants grab most of the headlines from Mexico, the ranks of the country's rich are growing at a rapid and largely unnoticed pace.
According to the British market research firm Datamonitor, the number of Mexicans with more than $384,000 in liquid assets will jump 50 percent between 2004 and 2009, from 50,000 to 75,000 in this country of 107 million....
The disparities between rich and poor haven't closed, despite the promises of outgoing President Vicente Fox's administration. Statistics show the inequalities are still among the highest in Latin America. In Mexico, 47 percent of the population lives on less than $4 a day.
Mexico's wealthiest residents inhabit a parallel universe of fortified mansions, posh shopping malls and separate movie theaters. They go to the United States not to work illegally, but to shop or attend Ivy League universities.
They live in surreal mini-cities of gleaming, geometric towers. And most are breathing a big sigh of relief that next week conservative Felipe Calderon will be sworn in as president and not his bitter rival, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who vowed to end the privileges of Mexico's elite.
Experts say the expanding wealth comes mainly from the growth of manufacturing and exports under the North American Free Trade Agreement and the burgeoning telecommunications and banking industries....
Physical separation is a hallmark of wealth in Mexico, where high walls often form a barrier between rich and poor.
On the outskirts of Mexico City, billionaire Carlos Peralta is building Latin America's largest upscale housing development, called Bosque Real. Its slogan is "Welcome to the First World," and it is built around a golf club where memberships cost $120,000. Bosque Real's theme is simple: Live here and you may never have to leave. Peralta is planning schools, supermarkets and even a power plant behind the high walls. Security includes a private police force, infrared cameras and a strict visitation policy requiring all visitors to be registered in advance.
Kidnappings and carjackings are common in Mexico City, and those with money seek to protect themselves with high gates, bodyguards and chauffer-driven cars.
"There won't be a safer place in Mexico, not even Los Pinos," Alvaro Matute, Bosque Real's spokesman, said of the Mexican White House.
But as hard as Bosque Real's designers have sought to insulate their wealthy residents, they won't be able to escape completely. The makeshift homes of the poverty-stricken town of Naucalpan creep up to the very edge of Bosque Real's guarded walls.
According to the United Nations, wealth in Mexico continues to be concentrated in the hands of a few. The country's richest 10 percent control 35 percent of the nation's wealth, while the poorest 10 percent have 1.6 percent. That means wealth is more concentrated than in the United States, where the top 10 percent holds 30.5 percent of the wealth.
The result in Mexico is two competing worldviews, known as naco and fresa.
In a nutshell, fresas are usually preppy rich kids, more interested in American culture than Mexican. The naco sterotype is of a less-educated and darker-skinned person who likes Mexican wrestling and street tacos.
That division, more than economics or politics, may better describe the spiritual separation that emerged over the summer between followers of Calderon and Lopez Obrador.
A popular online cartoon, Fresa y Naco, has become a hit on the YouTube site. It bitingly exposes the differences between the two Mexicos....
There weren't many self-described nacos on the roof of the Camino Real hotel last month at Fashion Week Mexico, a showcase for designers.
As club music thumped, Mexico's beautiful people stalked the roof, smoking cigarettes, talking on their Nextels and sipping flavored waters....
And more Mexicans are actually able to afford the glittering garments parading down the runways at Fashion Week. With the passage of NAFTA, the availability of luxury goods has soared in Mexico.
Just off of Avenue Presidente Masaryk, the Rodeo Drive of Mexico, sits the Mulsanne luxury car dealership. Inside is the crown jewel, a bright yellow Lamborghini Murcielago that sells for $300,000.
The manager, Jeronimo Irurita, says the luxury car business is tied tightly to the whims of the daily news: a rash of kidnappings will send sales plummeting (although his fleet of bulletproof cars do better in those times).
But worse, he says, is the threat of a left-wing government.
"If the left had won, many of my clients would have moved to Miami," he said. "This business would have disappeared, or it would have changed to cheaper cars."
With Calderon's victory, business picked up nicely, and the yellow Lamborghini sold quickly to a Mexico City businessman, he said."
Added: On May 19, 2010, lavish state honors were bestowed on the head of Mexico's slave state, Pres. Calderon, to the embarrassment of US taxpayers:
5/19/2010, "President Obama gestures at the decorative butterflies hanging from the top of the tent during the entertainment portion of the state dinner for Mexico. Charles Dharapak / AP," via Washington Post
First two images above via: 5/20/2010, "Eva and Michelle step out in matching off-the-shoulder outfits as the Obamas hold lavish state dinner for Mexico's President" Mailonline, by Jessica Satherley and Donna Mcconnell for MailOnline