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Municipal debt mounts up as new mayors take office

September 28, 2012

After Jalisco’s 125 new mayors are sworn in on Monday, October 1, they will soon discover that their predecessors have left millions or in some cases billions of pesos of municipal debt.

According to Spanish-language daily Mural, the municipality of Guadalajara owes a staggering 3.77 billion pesos (293 million dollars) racked up by the administration of former Mayor Aristoteles Sandoval. That equates to 2,523 pesos of debt per inhabitant.

Guadalajara also topped a Hacienda (Mexico’s tax authority) study of the country’s most indebted municipalities in June, with Zapopan ranked fourth in Mexico, Tlaquepaque tenth and Tonala twelfth.

Chapala placed ninth on the list of Jalisco local governments with the highest amount of public debt. But its red column pales in comparison with Guadalajara, showing a total debt of 86.9 million pesos.

Guadalajara’s debt includes money owed in taxes, bank credits and pensions, plus expenditure on public works. Sandoval is unlikely to endure overly vocal criticism from his successor Ramiro Hernandez, as both belong to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

As if major deficits were not challenging enough for university-trained economists, seven of Jalisco’s incoming mayors will have to wrestle with finances despite having no more than a primary school education. Another ten of the state’s mayor-elects dropped out after secondary school, while 95 made it to university or post-grad level.

With 87 mayors, the PRI will be the most dominant party in the state’s municipalities over the next three years. The National Action Party (PAN) will control 23 municipalities, the Citizen’s Movement eight, the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) five and the New Alliance Party (PANAL) two.

Just nine of the 125 mayors will be women, suggesting gender equality is still some way off in Jalisco politics.

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