Leader Urges Cooperation Against Ills Mexico Faces
President Felipe Calderón on Wednesday listed a catalog of misfortune that afflicted Mexico over the past year. In his annual state of the union address, he described a country tested by the global economic crisis, the swine flu pandemic, rising drug violence, drought and plummeting oil production.
Mr. Calderón used his address to make a strong defense of his battle against drug traffickers and organized crime, ending with a call for cooperation from the opposition-dominated Congress to take on the country’s mounting problems.
“I am the first one to recognize that what has been done is insufficient when we look at the view of the Mexico we aspire to,” Mr. Calderón said.
“What I propose is to move from the logic of possible change, limited always by the political calculus of the actors, to the logic of deep change that will allow us to break the inertia,” he said at the National Palace.
Mr. Calderón is besieged on many fronts, and there have been few signs that the opposition will heed his request for cooperation.
In a defeat attributed to the slumping economy, Mr. Calderón’s party suffered sharp losses in July midterm elections to the Institutional Revolutionary Party, known as the PRI.
The PRI, now the largest force in the legislature, is led by politicians who rose in the years before 2000, when the party had a monopoly on power.
Mr. Calderón devoted the first part of his speech to describing his government’s achievements in its battle against organized crime. To many Mexicans, the rising count of gruesome drug-related murders is evidence that the government’s strategy is not working. Newspapers estimate the number of killings at more than 13,600 since Mr. Calderón took office in December 2006.
In response to critics, Mr. Calderón said his government was the first one to take on the drug trafficking organizations. During his administration, the government has arrested 70 top traffickers, seized 50,000 weapons and almost 22,000 vehicles, and confiscated enough drugs to provide more than 80 doses to every Mexican between the ages of 15 and 30, he said.
The strategy “has not only reversed the rising trend of crime and drug trafficking, but it has also weakened the conditions that allowed them to reproduce and to expand,” Mr. Calderón said.
Drug-related violence continued late Wednesday with one of the bloodiest episodes Mexico has witnessed to date. Gunmen armed with automatic weapons burst into a drug treatment center in Ciudad Juárez, killing at least 17 patients and wounding several others. It was the fourth attack on such a center in the last two years.
The president and Congress will face their first tussles over the 2010 budget, in which any attempt to find new money to stimulate the economy will be limited by falling tax and oil revenues.
Most forecasts suggest that the economy will contract by 7 percent this year, making Mexico one of the countries that has been hit hardest by the global crisis.
The Mexican economy’s dependence on the United States has made it especially vulnerable to the American recession. Manufacturing exports, long the most buoyant part of the economy, have suffered as American demand has dried up.
In addition, the swine flu pandemic, which made its first wide-scale appearance in Mexico, took its toll as the economy all but shut down for a week in April and tourists fled.