Saturday, February 21, 2015
Today's Headlines: It's come to this in Guerrero: Coca-Cola has shut down its operations in the state capital. That's what happens when their trucks keep getting attacked and stolen by protesting teachers.
Coca-Cola has stopped delivering its products in Chilpancingo, the capital of the imploding state of Guerrero. The reason? Ongoing attacks on its trucks and employees by protesting teachers and teachers'-college students, known as normalistas. Excelsior alone found this piece of news to be front-pageworthy, its No. 2 head going out of its way to place blame: “Because of the normalistas, Coca-Cola shuts down in Chilpancingo.”
According to Chilpancingo business leaders, at least 200 Coca-Cola delivery trucks have been attacked by the protesters in the last four months, some of them huge semis. In 12 cases, they say, the trucks have been driven off by the teachers and teaching students, with company employees on board.
The last straw apparently came Wednesday, when, according to a government statement, a melee broke out as teachers threw gasoline bombs in an attack on Coca-Cola offices in Chilpancingo. Four police officers, two journalists and four protesters were injured.
A spokesperson for the protesters disputed the government statement, but admitted to The Associated Press that they had held two company employees hostage in an attempt to trade them for five arrested protesters.
Mexico is the No. 1 Coca-Cola consumer per capita worldwide, according to Coca-Cola's own statistics. The average Mexican drinks half a liter a day — that’s two eight-ounce cokes. Stores and restaurants were reportedly stocking up on soft drinks even before Wednesday’s incident.
Although the company said it would evaluate whether resuming distribution in Chilpancingo would be worth the risk, the smart money is on renewed service soon. There's just too much business there to ignore for long. Friday’s announcement looks like another tactic in the private sector’s recently launched campaign to pressure the state and federal governments to crack down on protester violence.
The annual growth rate as measured by GDP may not tell the whole economic story, but it’s a closely watched indicator that always generates news. The 2014 number for Mexico was released Friday, and the three Mexico City dailies that fronted the news (Reforma and Excelsior were content with small reefers to inside coverage) were divided in their interpretation.
For the pro-government Milenio, which led with the story, the glass is half-full: “2014 GDP confirms acceleration: SHCP.” For El Universal, it’s half-empty: “GDP growth was insufficient in 2014: SCHP.” For the critical gadfly La Jornada, the glass is three-quarters-empty and leaking: “Economic growth falls to its lowest level in 25 years.”
The announced 2014 growth was 2.1%, within (barely) the adjusted range foreseen by the Peña Neto administration of 2.1-2.6%, but well below the original forecast of 3.9%. Hence the good news/bad news statements by Luis Videgaray, head of the Finance Secretariat (more formally the Secretariat of the Treasury and Public Credit, aka the SHCP in the headlines).
The 2.1% figure was an improvement over the 1.8% of 2013, but neither lives up to the expectations of the Mexican Moment hype. Average those two GDP figures (PIB in Spanish), and you get growth during President Peña Nieto’s first two full years in office coming in at the lowest level in a quarter century, according to La Jornada.
What we're supposed to be waiting patiently for is the much-promised improvement once the energy and other reforms kick in. The question, of course, is whether that will happen soon enough (assuming it happens at all) before mounting social unrest makes it impossible.
OR IT COULD END IN STALEMATE . . .
La Jornada and Milenio give front-page coverage to former President Vicente Fox, rewarding his speechwriter for a catchy metaphor. La Jornada’s No. 2 headline: “Peña is in check, and there’s a risk of mate, Fox says.” Fox, whose presidential victory in 2000 ended for a time seven decades of PRI rule, was speaking at a business forum in Hermosillo, Sonora.
There’s less to the story than meets the eye. By “check” Fox simply meant the familiar line-up of woes facing the administration — social unrest, rock-bottom oil prices, slow growth, persistent organized crime and a general perception that the public sector is hopelessly corrupt at all levels.
What he meant by the “checkmate” metaphor is unclear. But he wasn't exactly predicting doom. Fox had come to praise Peña Nieto, not to bury him. He said he supported the president and expressed confidence that things will turn around. Fox, it’s worth remembering, called for supporters of his conservative National Action Party to close ranks around Peña Nieto toward the end of the 2012 presidential campaign, once it became obvious that the PRI candidate was heading for victory.