The Mexican Pulse

By Glenn Holland

Mexico City, May 10 ­ Opportunities is a federal government program that delivers economic help each month to the country’s poorest people. The Secretary of Social Development (Sedesol) takes polls to see who will and will not be eligible for the program. In Acambay, Mexico State, the money has arrived to help even the richest people of the town.

The mayor of Acambay and his wife, current president of a community social organization, have cashed 292,000 pesos worth of Opportunities checks in the last year and a half. They have a nice two-story brick house with a garden and at least three vehicles. The mayor receives a salary of 20,000 pesos a month.

Both say that it is not their fault that the Sedesol enrolled them in the program and that they are going to “return” the money.

—The U.S. government donated 8 helicopters to the Federal Investigation Agency (Mexico’s FBI) with an average cost of $1 million. The choppers will be used in border states as part of the anti-drug fight.

—Due to its high fiscal obligations imposed by the federal government, Pemex’s earnings have fallen 75% over the last four years. According to company data, in 2000 its net income totaled more than 186 billion pesos. But this year they will only hold onto 46 billion pesos.

—When the federal government made its 2004 budget, it estimated Mexican oil prices at $18 a barrel. It is currently worth $31. That means that in the first four months of this year the federal government took in $10 billion (115 billion pesos approximately) in extra income for its coffers. If the price maintains this level, by the end of the year Mexico will have $30 billion more in its pockets. So, what will the government do with all this money?

—Send dollars to Mexico now. The exchange rate is now at 11.67 pesos in Mexico City. When the U.S. government fixes its internal interest rates, the exchange rate will fall rapidly.

—The National Institute for Genome Medicine will have 1.11 billion pesos this year for the construction of its headquarters.

—Since the beginning of the Federal Preventive Police’s operation in March, 10 illegal fuel distributors have been closed, 38 vehicles and 700,000 liters of fuel have been secured and 45 people have been detained. Each year Pemex used to lose around 12 billion pesos due to the illegal sale of its products.

—According to the International Institute for Management Development, Mexi-co is in 56th place out of a total of 60 countries in regards to its competitiveness. In 2000, Mexico was in 33rd place. The fall, according to the Institute, is due to a lack of structural reforms and a drop in its political perception internationally.

—The National Association for Organisms of Superior Fiscalization and Government Control reported that out of 31 states and the Federal District, only 16 have fiscal laws. That means that 15 states do not report to its citizens what it does with public funds. How much comes in, how much is spent and in what it is spent? Hmmmm.

—According to the Treasury, out of 10 lawsuits that the department files against delin-quent taxpayers, it only wins 3.

—The House of Representatives reported that the parliamentary session that just ended last week had the following results: number of sessions, 15; initiatives presented, 262; initiatives approved, 7; hours worked, 95; average session length, 6.3 hours; average hours worked per day, 2; monthly dietary stipend, 63,000 pesos; average salary per legislator, per hour, 1,050 pesos.