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Calderon flaunts record on economy and security

September 7, 2012

With just three months left in office, President Felipe Calderon used his final state-of-the-nation report (Informe) on Monday to put a positive spin on his legacy.

Calderon took credit for stabilizing Mexico’s economy and confronting organized crime during his six-year term.

“It’s been our generation’s job to assume the costs and risks of making urgent changes in politics and security,” he said in a speech at Mexico City’s Palacio Nacional. “The reform has begun to bear fruit, but real results will only be seen in the future.”  (The written Informe was delivered to Congress as required by law.)

Despite the global economic crisis, Calderon said his government had overseen the creation of nearly 1.9 million jobs, accumulated 159.8 billion dollars in international reserves, and brought in 126 billion dollars of direct foreign investment.

He also used the occasion to discuss reforms to the federal Labor Law that he presented to Congress on Saturday.

“The aim is to enable millions of people who are unemployed to have access to work, particularly women and young people,” Calderon said of the bill, which will facilitate recruitment via outsourcing, introduce 180-day “learning contracts,” limit the right of workers to strike, and increase the accountability and democratization of labor unions.

Labor Law has not been significantly altered in four decades. Presently, it is both difficult and expensive to fire workers, a fact that discourages small businesses from taking on new staff. Moreover, union leaders are not directly elected or required to reveal the fate of tens of millions of dollars that they receive each year.

Calderon hopes to push the bill through before he steps down on December 1. He introduced it as a “preferred initiative,” meaning the Chamber of Deputies must discuss and vote on it within 30 days.

Regardless of whether such reforms are passed, Calderon will be remembered above all for his war on the nation’s drug cartels. Of Mexico’s 37 most-wanted drug traffickers, 22 are now either dead or in prison, he boasted, but this strategy of targeting kingpins has led to splits in many cartels, with new factions emerging. There are now aound twice as many drug-trafficking organizations operating in Mexico as when Calderon took up office.

Authorities have confiscated 14.5 billion dollars in assets, including one billion in cash from drug gangs, Calderon said, while the federal police has been expanded from 6,500 officers to 37,000. However the police remain dogged by allegations of corruption and the murder rate has also soared, with over 50,000 dead since Calderon first sent the Army to combat drug gangs in December 2006.

If the July 1 election served as a public referendum on his presidency then Calderon will not go down in history among Mexico’s more popular leaders. Having won the previous two elections, the National Action Party (PAN) slumped to a disappointing third place, allowing the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) to reclaim power after a 12-year absence.

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