Readers of CounterPunch and other left publications have by now seen the hypocrisy of New York Times columnist Paul Krugman exposed regularly, but his recent junket to Mexico deserves some scrutiny. He spoke on October 25 at the “Annual Convention of Industrialists,” organized by business groups and the government. The host was Miguel Alemán, former governor of Veracruz and son of the first president to break with the legacy of the Revolution, also named Miguel Alemán, in the 1950s.
Here’s what Krugman said: Mexico’s economy is improving, thanks to recent “reforms” and Mexico now “seems more like Canada than like Brazil”. What reforms does he admire most? Maybe the energy reform, which accelerates the return of foreign oil companies (expelled in 1938), invites fracking and shale gas operators into a country that is largely desert and faces severe water shortages, and leads to the seizure by eminent domain of individually-and communally-owned arable lands. The education reform? Sure. Mexico will now have a first-world education system, without having to bother with increasing per-student expenditure, now among the lowest in the world. How? Easy. Fire teachers whose students score low on standardized tests.
Mexico, according to this esteemed columnist, has a booming manufacturing sector, way ahead of Brazil, which depends more on the exportation of raw materials. Which part of the manufacturing sector does he find most appealing? The automobile plants that sprouted when GM, Ford, Honda, and Naziwagen realized that they could break unions and destroy cities like Detroit by moving south? These companies maintain a dual manufacturing system, a little bit less sophisticated than the cyberfraud that VW carries on: most of the cars are exported, but those that are made for sale within Mexico have inferior pollution controls. This practice, condoned by the government, helps to maintain Mexico City’s status as one of the most polluted cities in the world. An estimated 80 percent of the pollution here comes from motorized vehicles. Easy credit provided by the manufacturers and dealers has more than doubled the number of cars in the city in less than 10 years (though the vast majority of people continue to rely on mass transit and to spend an average of three hours per day commuting).
Or maybe he wasn’t talking about cars. Maybe he was speaking of the maquiladoras, foreign-owned factories that make clothing, electrical components, and other goods in border states. On Tuesday, November 3, workers at three maquiladoras in Ciudad Juárez—world capital of state-condoned misogynist violence, just across the border from El Paso—and one in the city of Chihuahua, a few hours to the south, occupied factory entrances to protest management violence against male and female workers and to assert their right to form independent unions. (Most are linked to the PRI, the ruling party to which Krugman’s patrons in Mexico (including Alemán and Carlos Slim—see below) are loyal. Lexmark and Foxconn are the owners of the factories in two cases. Details of the protests and the violations of labor rights carried out by these companies can be seen in the newspaper La Jornada, page one, November 4.
The minimum wage in Mexico is less than five dollars a day. This is one of the lowest in Latin American—lower than in Honduras. Lower than in El Salvador. This means that young people can’t afford to live independently and that young women, in particular, literally can’t move away from violent partners or parents.
Even in mainstream terms like growth projection, Mexico is hurting. El Financiero, a business-oriented newspaper as the name suggests, reported on November 5 that the government just revised growth projections downward. The peso has lost about 30 percent of its value against the dollar since August of last year.
Who pays Krugman?
Carlos Slim, by most accounts the second-richest person in the world and by far the richest in Mexico, owns 16.9 per cent of Class A stock of The New York Times. As such, he is the owner of the biggest share of the business, except for members of the Sulzburger-Ochs family. Before his most recent stock purchase early this year, he had lent considerable sums of money to the corporation. The newspaper has a long history of uncritical or superficial coverage of Mexico, with reporters who apparently never leave the fasionable Condesa neighborhood. The arrival of Slim has made the coverage even worse.
Had he talked to any unbought reporters, Krugman would know that Mexico is a leader in some other dubious categories, like the murder of journalists. Only in Veracruz, home state of host Miguel Alemán, dozens have been murdered in the last two years and current governor Javier Duarte (of Aleman’s party) is credibly accused of having ordered many of these crimes.
Meanwhile, Mexico’s government implements its policy of aggressive speculative development to cover up the aformentioned crimes and the well-known cases of the murder of students and activists, with Krugman as accomplice.