PRESIDENT ERNESTO ZEDILLO proclaimed to the Mexican people in his second annual state-of-the-nation speech last Sunday "that thanks to the efforts of all Mexicans, the country has overcome the economic emergency stage and clearly begun a recuperation." Perhaps.
Direct foreign investment in plants is down but foreign purchase of Mexican securities is up. Of $12.5 billion lent by the U.S. Treasury to save Mexico after the collapse of the peso in January 1995, some $9 billion is repaid, surpassing expectations. Many Mexican businesses and careers were wiped out but industry and enterprise, jobs and hope are slogging back.
The crisis was never merely economic. It was political, judicial and spiritual. Was the government wholly corrupt? Could political assassinations be investigated with credibility? Has the cocaine transit business been nearly run out of Colombia only to root in Mexico, closer to markets in the United States?
The latest shock came days before President Zedillo's address when a brutally murderous revolutionary movement launched raids in five states, killing 16 and wounding 28. The Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) is uncompromisingly Marxist-Maoist in rhetoric. Compared to it, the Zapatista National Liberation Army of southern Chiapas, which rose up in January 1994, is mellow. The EPR claims to support the Zapatistas, who claim to have nothing to do with the EPR.
The ubiquitous, professional and heavily armed character of the EPR raised doubts about its leftist authenticity. Conspiracy theories suggest corrupt police, government or narco-terrorist motives are behind its facade.
Mr. Zedillo is coping with the cascade of emergencies more successfully than many thought possible. But the EPR outbreak, the Zapatistas' recent repudiation of talks with the government and the brazen kidnapping of a U.S.-based Japanese executive add to the troubles piling up. A self-confident, uncorrupt, multi-party democracy with a liberated economy and unfettered trading partnership in North America remains a shining goal for Mexico, but for every obstacle overcome, another springs up like desert cactus.
Pub Date: 9/08/96