Over $3 billion dollars for the "Free and Sovereign State of Michoacán de Ocampo"
President Enrique Peña Nieto and most of his Institutional Revolutionary Party cabinet arrived in Morelia, Michoacán at mid-day, amid heavy security provided by federal police, troops and the Estado Mayor Presidencial, Mexico's Secret Service. It was the PRI administration's second visit to the state since Jan. 13, when the government announced it would assume responsibility for local policing in an area known as the Tierra Caliente, or hot lands, where powerful drug cartels and community militias of questionable reliability present a threat to the president's fast track political and economic reform agenda and an embarrassment to the chief executive himself.
The arrival of federal security forces in Michoacán is not a new story. The first wave entered the state in December 2006, dispatched by former National Action Party president Felipe Calderón. Peña Nieto delivered an encore last May, when it became obvious things were getting worse, not better. Fiasco in Michoacán. And he did so once again in January, as the state erupted into the flames of a virtual civil war. Michoacán security accord more of the same old song.
The administration recognizes domestic security is dependent upon economic prosperity, or at least the potential for such. Michoacán's impoverished masses - farmers, ranchers, lemon and avocado growers and those who harvest the crop, small storekeepers - have been so thoroughly extorted for so long by drug cartels like Los Caballeros Templarios that thousands have abandoned ship and left the embattled state. Those who remain live in terror of the derecho de piso - the weekly "floor charge" - and the consequences of not being able to pay the unsmiling men who come to collect it. There is no credit, and there are no second requests.
Peña Nieto told a packed Morelia convention center that his government was earmarking 45.5 billion pesos for Michoacán economic and social programs, an amount equal to $3.4 billion USD. He promised to return to the state once a month, and directed his top cabinet officer to personally monitor progress. "We'll be here for as long as necessary. Michoacán has to roar back; it's the heart of Mexico," said the president, who outlined the package's primary components:
*Aid to small business backed up by 12 billion pesos in loan guarantees from Mexico's Development Bank. From a separate fund Michoacán agro producers will be eligible for 3.5 billion pesos in direct aid.
*More than 2.5 billion pesos to construct new primary and secondary schools and award hundreds of scholarships to deserving students, "to keep kids away from the sources of criminal involvement."
*Highway and infrastructure improvements throughout the state, to connect isolated communities and promote economic development, plus construction of low income housing projects and the expansion of several existing hospitals.
*Increasing the ranks of citizens 65 or over eligible to receive federal pensions, and the construction of 400 community kitchens which will feed the poorest of the poor every day.
Whether Peña Nieto's New Deal for Michoacán will be enough to free the state's four and a half million citizens from years of entrenched narco culture is far from certain, but the rest of the administration's bold plan for modernizing the nation will ride heavily upon its success or failure in the violent no man's land called Tierra Caliente.
Feb. 17 - Michoacán belongs to organized crime: 55% of Mexicans
Dec. 2, 2013 - Enrique Peña Nieto at one year: a marathon, not a sprint
Apr. 11, 2013 - Mexico's policías comunitarias will prompt some to argue failed state theories
Peña Nieto in Morelia: "Together we can get the job done"
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