Saturday, March 21, 2015

Today's Mexico City Headlines: Summer re-runs

Spring in Mexico City is what summer is to most of the rest of the northern hemisphere. For the next month or two you can pretty much count on dry warm days and a pleasant outdoor life before the seasonal rains start to take over some time in May.
    The first full day of primaverano (you might call it) dawned like a reward after a cold snap marked by hailstorms that pockmarked the leaves of ornamentals. As I type, the sky is blue, the bougainvillea bracts are bright, the fruit trees are blossoming and the jacarandas are flushed with purple, as is the ground beneath them. A good mood might be possible.
    Until you read the morning papers, of course. The lead headlines today take us back to Groundhog’s Day. Not the one with the shadow. The one where we’re reliving yesterday  . . .  again.
    To wit, Excelsior: “Peña confirms belt-tightening.” Or Milenio: “‘Do more with less’ is the new reality: Peña.” Or El Universal: “Oil prices will cause adjustments again in 2016.”
    We’ve all got the picture by now. The bottom dropped out of worldwide oil prices. So Mexico, a petro-nation, has had to reduce revenue expectations. Upshot: immediate spending cuts in 2015 and a commitment to zero-based budgeting for 2016, implying much deeper cuts.
    So why are we hearing about it again? For one thing, it really is important. Economic inequality leads most lists of Mexico’s core problems, and the approach to it in recent decades — other than ignoring it — has been through social programs that even to die-hard liberals seem heavy on the handouts. Supposedly they’re not to be touched, but if zero-based budgeting means anything, nothing is safe. You can almost hear the Peña Nieto administration preparing the populace for when the axes start falling.
    Another reason we’re getting the same spending-cuts story again is that the president gave a speech about it yesterday in Acapulco, at the Annual Banking Convention, the major yearly gathering of the industry. Since coverage of such speeches are mostly stenographic, the stories and heads read like we’re hearing this stuff for the first time. Only that word “confirms” in the Excelsior headline hints at the history.
    Reforma gives us a break by leading with the hosts rather than the president, under the headline “Bankers read Peña the riot act.” If that sounds exaggerated, it is. According to the story, speakers voiced frustration with the lack of progress in tackling violence, corruption and impunity. The president’s heard that before. But the bankers also praised his economic reforms and the belt-tightening measures he was about to re-announce.
    And who says there’s no context in typical coverage? Here’s the final paragraph of the Reforma story, meant to reinforce the “riot act” angle, assessing the mood as the president arrived almost an hour late:
    “Not even the pleasing aroma of roast fillet of huachinango or the chocolate timbales could erase the attendees comments about the delay.”
    There are people who get paid for writing sentences like that. Others blog for free. And the spring sky is graying over now. We'll try again Monday.

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