Mexico Waits in Fear under the Volcano
Davison, Phil, The Independent (London, England)
On a clear day, you can see the snow-capped 18,000ft Popocatepetl volcano from Mexico City. Clear days in this smog-choked capital are rare but everybody knows the "Popo" has been spewing the kind of cinders and gases that could precede its first major eruption in nearly 200 years. To many Mexicans, particularly the deeply superstitious Indian population, the volcano's activity is an ominous sign. While politicians, bankers, businessmen, intellectuals and the media muse over the outcome of Bill Clinton's $40bn ( pounds 25m) loan-guaranteepackage now before the US Congress, there is a strong feeling in the streets that, US bail-out or not, something here is about to blow.
The continuing collapse of the peso and of the Bolsa (stock exchange) after opening yesterday were seen as a reflection not just of the delay in the American bail-out but of President Ernesto Zedillo's domestic political woes. The peso, which stood at 3.5 to the dollar in early December, tottered 12 per cent yesterday morning to around 6.5. The Bolsa fell 3 per cent during the morning to its lowest point since 1993.
Even if the US Congress comes through, President Zedillo will still face economic crisis and political unrest. Ironically, the Mexico bail-out debate stars two weak presidents: one, Mr Clinton, at the mercy of a Republican-controlled legislature; the other, Mr Zedillo, under fire from his opposition, his own party's hardliners, his party's powerful provincial bosses and an increasingly incredulous populace.
Mexicans are angered by reports that the US has imposed political conditions on the loan package, notably a curb on illegal immigrants, tougher action against drug lords and a less amicable policy towards the Cuban leader, Fidel Castro. "In front of the United States, humiliation," said this week's cover of Mexico's best news magazine, Proceso.
The leftist opposition and the independent group Civil Alliance, which uncovered widespread fraud in last August's elections, are organising a "plebiscite" on 12 February over whether Mexico should accept the US bail-out.
The focus of Mr Zedillo's domestic political woes is the southern state of Tabasco, which has seen violent civil unrest this month. The populist opposition Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) called on Sunday for a campaign of civil disobedience in the state - refusal to pay taxes, water or electric bills - which could spread across the nation.
The PRD is refusing to accept the result of November's state elections, in which Roberto Madrazo, of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), was declared victor. On Sunday the PRD leader, Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, told thousands of supporters in the state capital, Villahermosa, that he would not participate in dialogue with Mr Zedillo until the Tabasco problem - meaning Mr Madrazo's resignation - was resolved.
The beleaguered President is widely said to have agreed to the PRD's demands earlier this month to get an emergency multi-party "National Political Accord" off the ground. But the local PRI hierarchy rebelled, demonstrating Mr Zedillo's lack of control over his party and …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Mexico Waits in Fear under the Volcano. Contributors: Davison, Phil - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: January 31, 1995. Page number: 10. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.