Monday, November 15, 2010

can mexico be saved?

WSJ | Cleaning up the mess here will require the proper diagnosis, and I ask the mayor to share his. "If you have the biggest consumer of drugs just beside your [border] and you have a lot of people here who have no opportunity, you have the culture for insecurity," he tells me. But the mayor doesn't dwell on what he cannot change. Instead he zeroes in on Mexico. "The real causes that are generating the insecurity in Juárez and all over Mexico are lack of opportunity, lack of education, lack of [necessities], impunity, lack of justice. It is a mixture of a lot of problems where we Mexicans haven't done our homework," he says.

"People who think they are going to fix [the problem] with policemen and arms are completely crazy." Instead, he wants to see Mexico "make the changes in the fiscal policies to encourage investments that create jobs."

To capture the desperation of Mexico's young, the mayor-elect shares an anecdote: "Last week, at a gas station here, I met an 18-year-old. He told me 'Teto, you politicians don't know anything. You don't understand that without hope we have no future. We prefer to die in one year standing up than living all our lives on our knees.'" Summing it up, Mr. Murguia says, "When people lose hope they will do anything [to improve their circumstances]."

By Mr. Murguia's measure, Juárez was a place of hope not so long ago. "Juárez for 40 years, from 1965-2005, was the city that generated the most jobs per capita in all of Mexico. And those jobs were not only for juarenses," he says proudly. "People came from Oaxaca, Zacatecas, Veracruz because they couldn't find jobs in their own city. Some of them tried to cross the river but a lot of them found a job in Juárez."

What went wrong? The mayor-elect blames Mexico's revenue sharing model. "The investment that the federal and state government makes in Juárez does not correspond to what the city sends in federal taxes." He complains that though the city created jobs for the nation, investments in "public services, streets, schools, parks, community centers and health-care centers haven't corresponded to the job growth. We were forgotten." He wants the federal government and the state "to return to Juárez what they owe us."