INFLATION IS DOWN, BUT STILL AWFUL:

In a report released earlier this month, the Mexican Association in Defense of the Consumer (AMEDEC) declared that the cost of basic necessities had risen over 22% during the year beginning April 1996. While this was a distinct improvement over the previous year’s report, it still represents a crushing burden for the Mexican consumer.

To round out the picture, here are some other statistics: the minimum daily wage (about 26 pesos, or $3.29 usd) is enough to buy only one third of the minimum daily needs of the average household; the cost of this mythical minimum has risen more than twelve-fold in the last ten years while wages have only tripled; the real wages of all workers have fallen by 70%.

Since “non-essential” goods and services includes household gas and electricity, telephone service, clothing and medicine, the real story is a good deal more appalling.

DIRTY POLITICS AS USUAL IN MEXICO CITY MAYORAL RACE:

In the hiatus between May Day and Cinco de Mayo, the PRD struck back at PAN accusations that Cardenas’ mother benefited from a land deal in Michoacan while he was governor. Pointing out that former PAN presidential candidate Diego Fernandez Cebollo has been much more credibly accused of doing the same, for himself, PRD president Lopez Obrador promised that Cardenas would make a complete discosure of his financial history within a few days.

PRD submitted some – but not all – of what they had promised, but what they did supply seemed to be enough to stop the PAN from pursuing the matter. In any case, the voters in MexCity don’t appear to be all that upset about it: Depending on the poll, Cardenas as of today is from 2.5 to 20 percent ahead of his PAN rival, trailed by PRI in a weak third place.

PEELING AWAY THE NARCO-PRI ONION: CONASUPO BACK ON THE FRONT BURNER:

Those of you who have been following this bi-monthly screed for a while, may remember the Conasupo scandal: Raul Salinas, the goat for all that his brother did or did not do, was shown to almost everyone’s satisfaction to have systematically looted the government’s program for buying essential supplies and distributing them at subsidized prices to poor campesinos through “retail” stores. One of the scams was siphoning off most of the money for the purchase of dry milk solids to him and his cronies, and using the balance to buy product that could not be sold in the US because it had been accidentally irradiated — and putting it down in the books as full-price regular quality stuff.

Aside from Raul, many were named, several of them prominent ruling class mucky-mucks including billionaire Carlos Hank Gonzales, Raul’s “rabbi” and mentor, and secretary of agriculture during the period in question; and Carlos Hank Rohn, his son, a “junior” if there ever was one. It was Interior Secretary Chauyffet’s closeness to Hank Sr. that many credit for Chauyffet’s rise to be the right hand (the hand, some say, that makes the head nod yes or no) of Ernesto Zedillo.

When it looked like they couldn’t keep others like Hank out of it, the PRI dominated legislature simply decared that there was no need to carry the investigation any further. This was no cover-up, folks, this was a 21-gun burial.

Now, the Conasupo dirt is flying again, behind leaks from the US Department of Justice that a joint task force of government bloodhounds, led by top Justice Department apparatchiks, is about to hand down indictments for using US bank accounts belonging to Conasupo to launder money for the Gulf Cartel. Hang on to your hats, folks, but don’t worry, your ride couldn’t possibly be as rough as Ernesto’s is bound to be. He must be feeling real sheepish about the timing of the announcement, coming as it does within days of Bill Clinton’s 2-day Mexican photo opportunity. And to think that Ernesto’s folks did such a good job of posing the kids waving flags, repressing any embarrassing demonstrations by El Barzon, and everything.,,

CONASUPO HUMOR – LA JORNADA’S RIGHT THERE:

Rocha, in a panel entitled “cocasupo”, shows Raul looking through his bars at two DEA agents. One says “And worst of all, is that we adulterated the cocaine with radioactive milk solids”. The other agent says “Shit!”

El Fisgon shows a campesina returning home to her husband with an empty food basket, handin him a peso. She says “Take this, husband. The Conasupo didn’t have beans or corn, but they did buy a gram of cocaine at the guaranteed government purchase price”.

MEXICAN STRAWBERRIES ARE STILL GETTING KICKED AROUND:

On Tuesday (day before yesterday) the News in English published an article about a plan recently unveiled in the US, to “ensure food safety”. Part of the 423.2 million dollars in the package earmarked for the FDA’s “surveillance of imported foods”. The case used to justify this expenditure is the infection of 107 schoolkids in Michigan who ate “tainted strawberries grown in Mexico”.

No mention is made that such inspection could not have detected the hepatitis A virus in the strawberries, since they were infected in the US processing plant where they were cut, frozen and packaged, having entered the US totally clean from the substantial efforts of Mexican packers to ship only carefully disinfected produce.

That the Reuters news agency which put this story on the wire in D.C. was so sloppy as to appear anti-Mexican is not nearly as disheartening as that the News, a Mexican newspaper, should so carelessly print it. To all those who promote the image of Mexican produce as being dangerous, whether on purpose or inadvertantly, I for one say Basta Ya!