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President Calderon cools rhetoric in low-key State of Nation address

September 9, 2011

A sober and reflective President Felipe Calderon vowed to continue the fight against organized crime in his fifth State of the Nation address at the National Museum of Anthropology.

During his 90-minute televised address, the president boasted that “thanks to the efforts of all Mexicans, we have healthy public finances, a solid financial system and a competitive economy.”

Formerly a public holiday, the annual Informe served as an elaborate propaganda opportunity in which the president would crow about his achievements, especially during the 70-year unbroken rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

This year, in an apparent mark of respect for the victims of the recent casino attack in Monterrey, the president decided against delivering the address in the National Auditoriom, where it was due to take place, and opted instead for a more low-key setting.

Speaking only before invited guests and party members also enabled Calderon to avoid the embarrassing protests and heckling that have dogged presidents giving their annual national report in recent years.

Eager to stress any positives, Calderon claimed Mexico will achieve universal health coverage in 2011 through the Seguro Popular program, which helps those who receive no health care benefits by providing them with subsidies for medicine and medical care.

Yet the veracity of such a statement is in doubt, given that as of January, eight percent of the country’s municipalities still lacked any kind of health facility.

Unable to escape the topic of mounting drug violence, the president pledged to continue the fight against organized crime and endemic official corruption during his final year in office.

“Like all Mexicans, I’m outraged at the level of opacity and corruption that the Monterrey tragedy has brought to light,” Calderon said, warning that if the gangs aren’t checked, organized crime and the government will become “practically the same thing.”

However, the president cooled his rhetoric somewhat, declining to reassert that the casino firebombing was an act of “terrorism.”

Calderon also announced the creation of an Office for Victims Assistance, an acknowledgment that many of the 40,000 people killed in the drug war were not criminals but innocent victims.

This acknowledgment appeared to be a reversal of earlier statements in which Calderon claimed most of the dead were criminals killed by criminals. In light of recent events it would have been difficult to maintain this argument, given that all but ten of the 52 victims in Monterrey were women.

Calderon’s change of tack was no doubt a response to the widespread public outrage at the casino fire and the growing influence of the poet-activist Javier Sicilia, who has led mass protests demanding recognition for the thousands of innocent victims in Mexico, following the murder of his son earlier this year.

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