The Mexican Pulse

By Glenn Holland

Mexico City, Jan. 12 ­ The Secretary of Public Investigations found irregularities in the National Commission for Free Textbooks (Conaliteg) amounting to US $36.87 million, the equivalent of 22% of its 2003 budget. When ex workers testified, it was found that they could not prove their innocence in the crimes for which they will be charged in the following weeks.

Directors of Conaliteg showed favoritism to certain providers, charged taxes when they were not applicable and contracted services at more expensive prices than normal. An interesting detail in the case is that the crimes that date from 1996 to 1998 can not be punished since the law establishes that there is a period of three years in which charges can be filed against a public official. When the three years has passed, the official gains impunity.

--Jorge Carpizo, ex Federal Attorney General (PGR), feels very uncomfortable with the work of the present PGR administration. Recently this department exonerated Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iñiguez on money laundering charges. Carpizo was ordered to testify in the investigation during which he gave information that tied the Cardinal to two donations that came from the hands of two drug lords. One of the donations was used to build a church in Ciudad Juárez.

When the PGR exonerated the Cardinal, Carpizo demanded to see the investigation records. The PGR denied him access to the information; they did not even allow him to see his own testimony. The ex attorney general doubts if the PGR has investigated the two donations and plans to contest the exoneration before the Public Prosecutor’s office. The PGR says that they do not recognize Carpizo as a plaintiff and therefore he can not intervene in the case.

Carpizo has complained about the role played by different governors, bishops, cabinet members of president Fox and secret exonerations.

--The federal government recently turned over strategic information to U.S. intelligence personnel. The information deals with the supply and the risk prevention for oil installations. Several senators fear that a large part of the country’s sovereignty has been given up while others think that it was done with the intention of collaborating in the antiterrorism fight. Good intentioned or not, the Americans already have very delicate information about Mexico’s heritage.

--Since the beginning of the Fox administration, the federal government has cut 150,000 jobs and hopes to cut an additional 50,000 this year in an attempt to have a more fluid, faster and cheaper government. The cutbacks will result in US $4 billion worth of savings for a government that has been criticized for its heavy bureaucratic load. For many this is good news, but for those affected it is an injustice. In several states there have already been several protests in front of government buildings to confront this action.

--The country’s campesinos are active again. A group of campesino legislators will present an initiative in the House of Representatives for them to review more quickly agricultural articles in the NAFTA agreement as well as demand that the federal government fulfill on time their obligations established in the National Farmers Agreement.

In Veracruz, the Náhuatl Indigenous Organization of the Sierra Zongolica is calling other indigenous groups from the region to unite forces to get the government to help them. They have 10,000 members now but hope to amass about 20,000. The indigenous people are demanding help to stimulate rural areas in their region as well as projects that will confront the high immigration rate and the erosion of the family unit.

With a stronger hand, the National Campesino Confederation has just formed a new alliance with some of the country’s largest companies. Grupo Maseca, Nestle, Pulsar International, the National chamber of Industrialized Corn and the National Agricultural Council will be involved in an attempt to solve rural social and economic problems. The goal of the alliance is to compete on a global level while preserving regional culture.