Friday, April 29, 2005

Politics as usual

Porfirio Diaz wielded power in Mexico for almost half a century. He is also credited with the thought: "Poor Mexico, so far from God, so close to the U.S."

Yes and no. With about $75 billion (compared to $430 billion GDP) in annual remittances from US-based Mexicans each year, the world's largest market and source of capital next door, and a steady opportunity to export unemployment, there are also some benefits.

In recent days, the Mexican powers-that-be bowed to popular demand and backed down from (questionable) attempts to keep Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador from seeking the nation's presidency next year. Lopez Obrador is that popular. And he is no fool, offering monthly cash hand-outs to everyone over 70 years old -- and, according to The Economist, planning to fund the program by diverting funds from Mexico City's sewer system maintenance budget.

The current hero of Mexico's left has plenty of support from the country's greens. Like greens around the world, they only see pollution and crowding as "market failures" and, therefore, favor bizarre economic and social policies.

Their man exemplifies the political failures that help to make Mexico City incredibly polluted and crowded. Like his American compadres (and unlike London's "Red" Ken Livingston), Lopez Obrador has not grasped that there is one (and only one) "solution" to road and highway congestion (and the bad air it creates): proper pricing.

He does know a thing or two about garnering votes, however.