MEXICO CITY: In Mexico City in the days prior to the inauguration of new President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), the man on the street Mexicans show little concern over the new president. They feel he will no more care for them than the last. He will become one of the elite. Just as American politicians are the elite. The French leaders are elite.
President Obrador has promised to end corruption, and this is why the Mexican people have voted for him. This, at least, according to a taxi driver. They hope, he says, that AMLO will govern as a common man ending decades of secrecy, heavy security and luxury enjoyed by past presidents.
That maybe he will not become one of the ‘político corrupto.’
Asking the driver why do so many Mexicans and Central American’s want to come to America, the look in the rearview mirror is like I just grew a second head. “Democracy,” he says. “The American government cares about the people. The people are important.”
The feeling this man, and others have, is that life is inherently better in America. Jobs are easier to obtain. Housing, with running water, is accessible. And for the have not’s, they are right.
The Mexican Institute for Competitiveness calculated that each year corruption costs the country between 2% and 10% of its GDP, reduces foreign investment by 5%, and wipes out 480,000 jobs from small and medium-sized businesses. It frustrates any sense of meritocracy, resulting in a serious brain drain that severely depletes Mexico’s skilled labor force.
Above all, corruption eats into the security of human rights, whether civil, political, economic, social and cultural. And its criminal perpetrators use the most brutal of methods to escape scrutiny: 62% of journalists murdered in Mexico since 1992 had investigated cases of corruption, political or otherwise, and 86% of these homicides have gone unpunished.
The world’s working classes revolt
Selling the government’s luxury Boeing Co. 787 Dreamliner fulfills an AMLO campaign promise. And it is a flashy thing to do. This president is comfortable flying commercial and does not need a $200 million aircraft.
But how will that help the poorest of the poor? Will that money be earmarked to help those that cannot afford a house, much less a car.
With the recent riots in France, the elite ruling class is being put on notice. In America, the election and continued support for President Trump have the political elite going into the third year of flummox.
In Nicaragua, there is yet another people’s revolution. President Daniel Ortega’s family runs everything. The Ortega’s own the ruling Sandinista Party. They dominate the media. The Ortega regime monopolizes power, skims profits and loots the nation. They are living proof that “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
When will the elites see the working class as more than a piggy bank
In France, the Yellow Jacket protestors are angry over many things. Beginning with a gas tax that has a gallon of gas costing over $7 U.S. Macron has imposed a gas tax in order to support his environmental goals. People who can barely live week to week are not going to be happy about paying 60% gas taxes.
So when will the government finally see those that have long been ignored? And not just in Mexico.
The poor are ignored by governments everywhere. In 2015, Pope Francis went Ecuador, Bolivia, and Paraguay. On this eight-day tour, the pope emphasized that we all have a connection to those living in poverty.
Pointing out evils of leaders who take too much at the expense of people living in impoverished conditions, the Pope says that the poor are being sacrificed at the “altar of money,” as the rich worship a “golden calf.”
Those that live by the golden calf or politics drive more people into slums.
Mexico – the haves and the have-nots
Mexico, like its southern neighbors in Central America, is a place where there are plenty that ‘have’. Unfortunately, there are far more that have not. Mexico City is the seventh largest city in the world. Surrounded by mountains, Mexico City encompasses 573 square miles with a population of 21.587 million residents. There is a total of one million US immigrants in the entire country. As of 2017, estimates were that 700,000 Americans are living in Mexico City.
In contrast, Mexicans are still the largest foreign-born group in the U.S., accounting for 25 percent of the 44.5 million immigrants as of 2017.
With its fast growth over the past century, Mexico City has faced numerous problems, including the inability to keep up with services and housing which led to huge shantytowns on the outskirts of the city without basic services. This includes one of the largest shantytowns in the world, Neza-Chalco-Itza, which has an estimated population of 4 million. In 2004, a World Bank study found that 11% of the urban population in the country was extremely poor, while 42% was moderately poor. Mexico City is also located between two large mountain ranges, which act to trap pollution
Mexico’s Mega Slum – Neza-Chalco-Ixta
The Shanty Town Neza-Chalco-Itza, with four-million souls, is ranked by The Richest as the second largest slum in the world – before Mumbai, India, Port-Au-Prince, Haiti and Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya. First-hand evidence, as well as images provided by The Richest, show that two things, regardless where these slums are, is inadequate housing and infrastructure.
The barrio, or slum, is composed of three cities–Nezahualcóyotl, Chalco and Ixtapaluca–and is Mexico‘s largest slum.
The settlement is built on land that was once Lake Texcoco. This is the area where the Aztecs built the city of Tenochtitlan, on an island within the lake. After the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, the Spanish tried to control flooding of the area by draining the lake. Mexico City, the capital of the present-day nation of Mexico is no located on that lake basin.
The area started to populate in the early 1900s as people, now able to ambulate thanks to trains, began to seek affordable housing and “city” living.
With four million inhabitants, it is among the largest, if not the largest slum in the world.
The slum is a Ciudad Perdida, or lost city, and it ranks as one of the largest mega-slums in the world. One thing that sets Neza-Chalco-Ista apart from slums in other countries like India, Brazil, Indonesia, Venezuela or Sub-Saharan Africa, is a lack of basic amenities.
Basic things like garbage collection, clean water, sewage management are not afforded to all residents. Garbage is collected by donkey cart, and then taken to the dump, but still, much of the garbage is left on the ‘streets’ and in the water. The people live well below the national poverty line of $117 per month. Daily life is filled with a high crime rate thanks to drug cartels who prey on people seeking any form of wealth or basic comfort.
Although this region has access to water, electricity and other amenities, most residents live well below the national poverty line of $117 per month.
It would be remiss to not note that the slum is changing.
Mexico’s Ciudad Neza rises from slum to success story
Reuters reports about the successes in Ciudad Neza, short for Neza-Chalco-Ista. Industrious people are changing the slum from the inside out.
By staying in Neza, once a dried-up lake bed of shanties set up after World War Two, residents have built a community of contrasts, where the comfortable and the destitute coexist.
Neza, now home to 1.2 million people, is an example of how slums – rather than being bulldozed – can be supported and upgraded to create thriving suburbs.
Trim homes sit alongside hovels covered with tattered rags, and horse-drawn wagons filled with garbage clatter past shiny late-model cars.
This, say experts, is the urbanization of the future.
The crime rate in the barrio
The crime in rate is among the highest in Mexico, due in part to the popular “cholo” culture inspired by gangs in Los Angeles and other major U.S. cities. In most parts of this “mega-slum,” garbage is collected in carts pulled by donkeys. Houses are made of unpainted cinder blocks.
Neza-Chalco-Izta is changing because the people are changing it. The garbage dump, a place of great filth has been reclaimed, contained and is being used to harvest methane as a natural gas.
Poverty begins and ends with a lack of a living wage
Mexico’s minimum wage, raised on Dec 1, 2017, is now $88.36 pesos per day; At today’s exchange rate that is $4.36 US per day. For those working in Mexico’s Santa Fe region, that is less than an America will tip for a meal.
Driving through Mexico is not unlike traveling through Guatemala or Nicaragua or Belize. Many people subside through street businesses. Selling trinkets or providing a roadside restaurant. Things are not as easily done in America.
Like all countries with a populace struggling to escape poverty, tourism is important. And like all countries, Mexico needs to step up its infrastructure efforts. Place money into small, authentic towns to make the tourist friendly. Great food can be found, but if the government is not ensuring that the roads to the town are safe to travel. Or that the food and water is clean.
Or that banos (toilet) facilities are not modernized. The average tourist seeking to visit the state capital of Toulaca will most likely not stop in small roadside towns like Marquesa, despite the abundance of heritage found in the battlefield site of the 1810 Battle of Monte de las Cruces, one of the pivotal battles of the early Mexican War of Independence in New Spain.
Water is free, however getting water not affordable
A primary problem within the slums is the lack of water. A 2000 census found that 1.8 million Mexican people live without water in their homes. For households that can afford water, it is delivered by truck. In Mexico 94% of surface water is contaminated. The bottled water industry in Mexico is one of the largest in the world. This causes huge environmental concern as to the amount of waste plastic being produced.
In Mexico City the government provides potable water for free. However, the distributors charge between 80 ($3.96 usd) and 500 ($24.77 usd) pesos per truckload delivery. Remember, the minimum wage is equal to less than $5 US daily. The result is illnesses from drinking and cooking with unclean water. Furthermore, water rationing leads to sickness particularly in the young and elderly.
While past governments have tried to install basic programs to help people living in the slums, the people are still struggling and are in poverty. As a result, crime rates are still extremely high.
Writing about the Power of Water, the NGO Water.org highlights how a lack of water keeps poverty in a generational crisis.
Water connects every aspect of life. Access to safe water and sanitation can quickly turn problems into potential – empowering people with time for school and work, and contributing to improved health for women, children, and families around the world.
Today, 1 in 9 people lack access to safe water and 1 in 3 people lack access to a toilet. We can change this. Let’s work together to make the power of water available to all.
Something as simple as sending garbage trucks forty minutes out of a city center to collect trash would make a significant difference to the people of the slums. It would better their living conditions and their health, diminished by piles of filth. Providing them with clean water is also not impossible as we have seen
So why are Mexicans and Central Americans fighting to enter America? Quite simply because the elites in their countries truly do not care about them. But are they foolish to think the elites, even the democrat elites, in America will care about them.
The Democrat party in America cares no more about what happens to the caravan people than Ortega’s socialist government cares about people in poverty in Nicaragua.
Presidential Plans for Prosperity
One project the new President plans to cancel is a new international airport and the Maya train line. Projects that have been plagued by corruption. Officials do not say what will be done with the vast airport foundations being built on the former lake bed known as Texcoco.
But further work is needed to keep the slabs from decaying or sinking. Because the lake bed on which they are building is the stormwater reservoir for the entire city.
The cancellation of the project has as much to do with costs versus return on investment as the corruption that sees money earmarked for development costs landing in private pockets. There are also the many contracts given in return for political support or favors.
Lopez Obrador has promised to protect investors who bought bonds to fund the construction, but the airport fund issued an auction offer to pay off $1.8 billion of $6 billion worth of outstanding bonds at a price as low as 90 cents on the dollar. How this will affect the Mexican economy is, as yet, unknown.
However, the Mexican economy is growing.
According to NGI Daily Mexico’s Economy to Grow 2.1% This Year, Says Federal Reserve:
Mexico’s economy grew 3.6% year-on-year in the third quarter on the back of broad-based growth, including in the industrial sector. The forecast for the year remains steady at 2.1%, according to the Federal Reserve Board of Dallas.
In the first nine months of the year, Mexican oil exports were up nearly 40% from the same period of 2017, mainly because of higher commodity prices.
The positive figures come as welcome news for Mexico, which saw GDP contract by 0.6% in the second quarter, with just under a few weeks to go before socialist and President-Elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador takes office on Dec. 1.
Abel Hibert, an economic adviser to López Obrador, said recently that the incoming president’s recent decision to cancel the partially built Mexico City airport would cost the country 0.7% of GDP. The benchmark stock index subsequently touched a three-year low and left many speculating as to how the new president would handle economic affairs including matters pertaining to energy policy.
Billionaire Carlos Slim – the elite of Mexico’s elite
One of Mexico’s elitist elites, Billionaire Carlos Slim, wants to see the new airport built. He is eyeing the land now occupied by Benito Juárez Airport. His goal is to develop a Paseo de la Reforma, or Mexico City’s main avenue. Slim’s proposal is for a district of hotels and dense real estate development colored in yellow. Also a much smaller portion for lower density housing in orange, an enormous medical center in burgundy, a university in purple, and a commercial zone in red.
Seeking an honest man
The goal was to find anyone willing to speak about the new president and the caravan that has gone past Mexico’s southern border to land at America’s back door. And it was not easy.
Speaking to one man in Santa Fe, the question asked was how do you feel about the caravan illegally entering Mexico.
“Our Southern border has always been open. We welcome our brothers and sister from Central America, only, this is wrong. This giant border that is too large to provide support. And America has the right to close their border to a large number of people attempting to enter the US.”
Others simply shrug their shoulders. It does not effect them here in Mexico City, even in the surrounding towns of Metapec and the State Capital of Mexico, Toluca.
To be honest, this city is no different than many. There is still evidence of the February 2017 earthquake, but mostly in the areas around the airport. In Santa Fe, Mexico’s version of Beverly Hills there is the development of tall buildings and road infrastructure. With the amount of stifling traffic and seeming lack of rules of the road, this is a very good thing.
Asking a business leader in Mexico City why the government does not do more to increase tourism infrastructure. Or to support their poor, the answer is the same as it is wherever in the world you may be. The poor are the poor. It is their lot.
Mexico’s economic freedom score is 64.8, making its economy the 63rd freest in the 2018 Index. Its overall score has increased by 1.2 points, with improvements in trade freedom, investment freedom, and fiscal health outpacing declines in business freedom and government integrity. Mexico is 12th among 32 countries in the Americas region. Its overall score is above the regional and world averages.
Mexico’s $2 trillion economy has quadrupled in size since the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. The government continues to emphasize economic restructuring, passing and implementing, for example, sweeping energy, financial, fiscal, and telecommunications reform legislation with the long-term aim of improving competitiveness and economic growth across the economy.
Growth is constrained by lower oil production, weak oil prices, low productivity, a still-large informal sector that employs over half of the workforce, weak rule of law, and corruption.
Leaving Mexico for America
In 2009, about 38 percent of foreign-born people in the United States were from Mexico or Central America; the next-largest group came from Asia and accounted for 27 percent of the total foreign-born population.
So far, the new president is not speaking about the slums. Despite Neza-Chalco-Ixta being less than an hour from the ostentatious wealth of Mexico City’s Santa Fe region. Or that nearby country seat of political power.
But then neither is America’s President. Or the President of any of the Central American states sending their poor to America.
At the time of the 2017 Point-in-Time count, the vast majority of the homeless population lived in some form of shelter or in transitional housing (360,867 people). However, approximately 34 percent (192,875 people) lived in a place not meant for human habitation, such as the street or an abandoned building. Single individuals comprised 66.7 percent of all people experiencing homelessness (369,081 people), and about 33.3 percent were people in families (184,661 adults and children). Approximately 7.2 percent of people counted were veterans (40,056), and 7.4 percent were unaccompanied children and young adults (40,799).
The migrant caravan did dominate the U.S. midterm elections. And Mexico began to consider solutions to address the migrants. But they are used to this. Mexico has long been a transit country for migrants passing through to the United States.
Stopping in Mexico
Only with Mexico’s recent growth, more migrants are accepting Mexico’s invitation to stay. However, the number of migrants who solicited asylum or legal entry in Mexico is considerably lower than those seeking the same in the United States. One reason is that the U.S. is more friendly for sending money earned in America home.
According to Pew Research, remittance dollars flowing to Latin America come from the United States and for migrants from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, this is very attractive. Of note is that 80% of these migrants live in the United States. Why? Because it is safer for migrants in the United States. Additionally, there are a number of Central American communities in the United States who can provide support and assist with assimilation.
Unwelcome in America
However, things are changing. Not only have the strict immigration policies and hard-line response from the Trump administration created an unwelcoming environment for Central American migrants, but also Mexico’s policy response is offering an attractive alternative to the United States. However, before Mexico absorbs Central America’s poor, they have some homegrown issues to address first.
One thing is sure, whether sleeping on the cold streets of Chicago, the rooftops of Egypt or living in the slums of Mexico City, it is time for every countries leadership to fix their poverty problems, not ship them off to another country.