Mexico Turns 199, Sees Struggle to 200

On Mexico's independence day, some of its most influential voices urge their fellow citizens to start asking important questions

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As Mexicans gather in their country's idyllic plazas on Wednesday to commemorate the battle cry that ushered in an 11-year war for independence, they will also be contemplating a year that presented them with challenges that could have toppled most any other country. Swine flu, an long drug war, falling oil-export revenues and the U.S.'s economic ills have all dealt serious blows to the Latin country's economy, which is expected to contract by as much as 7 percent this year.

President Felipe Calderon's cure for Mexico's woes is a ten-point plan that includes addressing regulation of the telecommunications industry to make it more competitive, stamping out government corruption and streamlining Mexico's labyrinthine bureaucracy.

Some of Mexico's most influential pundits have taken their country's independence day to weigh in on its uphill battle to reassert itself. What do they think their fellow citizens should be asking themselves on this important day?

Are We Even a Sovereign Nation? 
Rafael Loret de Mola, one of Mexico's most widely read political commentators, finds it difficult to celebrate his nation's independence when it finds itself besieged financially by Spain and politically by corruption.

According to de Mola, the financial crisis allowed Spanish banks to entrench themselves in their "former fiefs, even consolidating themselves into an alternate power in countries with vulnerable governments weakened by opaque democracies and citizens without the capacity to piece together information and draw conclusions."

At the same time, de Mola reminds his compatriots that the historical party change in 2000, when the PAN broke the PRI's 70-plus-year stranglehold on Mexican politics, was nothing more than cosmetic. How else could one explain the close alliance between PRI leadership and the current administration, he asks.

In light of the Spanish "re-conquest" and the questionable politics of Mexico's leaders, de Mola sees today as a day to question -- not celebrate -- Mexico's independence.

How Do We Pay for Our Future?  Macario Schettino of El Universal, a major Mexican newspaper, acknowledges that while Mexico's independence day is important, the world's focus is on the one-year anniversary of the "Great Recession." Schettino reminds his readers that over the last year, Mexico was sent into tailspin by a weak consumer market in the U.S. and the Mexican financial geniuses who bet wrongly on the appreciation of the peso. As things have started to steadily improve, though, the country must remember that it is quickly running out of petro-dollars, which fund around 40 percent of Mexico's federal budget. Mexico needs to find a new way to sustain itself. "We lived off of [petro-dollars] for 30 years ... This is the issue we must discuss now."

Is Change Possible?  Martin Espinosa of Excelsior, one of Mexico's most influential newspapers, is skeptical of how easily Calderon can achieve the lofty goals he has set for the last three years of his six-year term. "Can things change when politicians are unwilling to do away with their privileges and sinecure? When out-sized entrepreneurs monopolize their fields and stifle development?"

Most importantly, Espinosa questions whether the desire to fundamentally change Mexico even exists among Mexico's leadership. These are the questions he hopes all Mexicans will ask themselves as they gather together to shout, "Viva Mexico!"

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