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Cablegate: Mexican President Announces Strategy to Combat

VZCZCXRO1236
PP RUEHCD RUEHGD RUEHHO RUEHMC RUEHNG RUEHNL RUEHRD RUEHRS RUEHTM
DE RUEHME #1300/01 1202049
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 292049Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY MEXICO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1645
INFO RUEHXC/ALL US CONSULATES IN MEXICO COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RHMFIUU/CDR USNORTHCOM
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MEXICO 001300

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR A/S SHANNON
STATE FOR WHA/MEX, WHA/EPSC, EB/IFD/OMA
STATE FOR EB/ESC MCMANUS AND IZZO
USDOC FOR 4320/ITA/MAC/WH/ONAFTA/GERI WORD
TREASURY FOR IA (LUYEN TRAN, RACHEL JARPE)
NSC FOR RICHARD MILES, DAN FISK
STATE PASS TO USTR (EISSENSTAT/MELLE)
STATE PASS TO FEDERAL RESERVE (ANDREA RAFFO)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON ELAB EFIN EINT ETRD MX
SUBJECT: MEXICAN PRESIDENT ANNOUNCES STRATEGY TO COMBAT
POVERTY

1. (U) SUMMARY: President Felipe Calderon on April 28
announced a new strategy to tackle poverty and social
inequalities in Mexico called "Vivir Mejor" ("To Live
Better"). This strategy serves as an umbrella for
coordinating and improving existing social programs. On the
positive side, this strategy puts more emphasis on reaching
out to the "very poor" who are not currently helped by
existing programs. Apart from this point, the strategy
mostly entails expanding and repackaging existing social
programs. While Calderon,s goal of eliminating food-based
poverty over the medium term is laudable, it is a very
ambitious goal given Mexico,s low tax base and the fact that
the 14.4 million people who live in extreme poverty are
widely dispersed throughout a large country with poor
transportation infrastructure and still-developing
institutions. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) President Felipe Calderon on April 28 announced a new
strategy to tackle poverty and social inequalities in Mexico
called "Vivir Mejor" ("To Live Better"). This strategy will
serve as an umbrella for coordinating and improving existing
social programs. With "Vivir Mejor," the administration
seeks to eliminate extreme poverty over the medium term and
redouble efforts to alleviate urban poverty. (Note:
Officials from Presidencia told Emboffs earlier this month
that Calderon's goal is to eliminate food-based poverty in
Mexico by 2030. Currently, 14.4 million Mexicans, 13.8% of
the population, do not earn enough to meet basic nutritional
needs. End Note.) Calderon said Vivir Mejor was created
under the premise that the market cannot generate the
conditions needed to bring people out of extreme poverty
without some government assistance. He remarked that the
strategy is not populist, paternalistic, or a form of charity
since it was created to tackle the root causes of poverty,
not just the effects of poverty.

3. (U) Vivir Mejor has four key points of action:

-- The creation of a program to feed those that live in the
most marginalized parts of the country called "Food Program
for Marginalized Areas." This program will cover Mexicans
who live in areas so remote that they do not receive any aid
from the government, not even from Oportunidades, Mexico's
principal anti-poverty program. In its first stage, this
program will help 150,000 poor families.

-- Vivir Mejor aims to improve human capital by expanding
the availability of medical services, educational
opportunities, housing, and basic utilities such as water and
electricity. Several existing programs, including
Oportunidades and those that provide benefits to the elderly,
will be strengthened. The government plans to guarantee
medical treatment for all Mexicans under the age of 18 who
have cancer or are HIV positive; improve the infrastructure
of educational facilities; and increase the number of public
works projects in remote communities.

-- The government will strengthen existing programs that
protect the income and savings of families affected by
natural disasters, accidents, and sickness.

-- The fourth action item is to link social and economic
policies so both are more efficient.

4. (SBU) To accomplish these goals, Calderon said the
government will have to maintain macroeconomic stability to
achieve sustained economic growth while avoiding crises and
high inflation. He added that it is essential for Mexico to
invest in its people so they have opportunities for a better
education and well-paying jobs. Calderon also stressed the
need to develop job skills, increase the number of daycare
centers so more women can join the labor force, and protect
the environment since it is closely linked to human
development.


MEXICO 00001300 002 OF 002


-------
Comment
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5. (SBU) Calderon is clearly trying to do a better job of
marketing what his government is doing to combat poverty.
The GOM is trying to sell Vivir Mejor as a new initiative --
when it is mostly an expansion and repackaging of existing
programs. It offers little in terms of new efforts. For
this reason, it is not surprising that some members of the
Party of the Democratic Revolution and the Institutional
Revolutionary Party have described it as a ploy for electoral
purposes. If one separates this strategy from existing
social programs, Vivir Mejor will only yield tangible
benefits for Mexico's poor if the government -- the
Secretariat of Social Development in particular -- follows up

SIPDIS
to make sure progress is being made on improving existing
programs and if the GOM really makes an effort to improve
conditions for Mexico's most marginalized households.

6. (SBU) While Calderon's goal of eliminated food-based
poverty over the medium term is laudable, expanding social
programs to reach over 14 million poor people that are
geographically widely dispersed throughout a large country
with poor transportation infrastructure and still-developing
institutions would challenge any government. This challenge
is particularly tough in Mexico, where tax evasion remains
the favorite national sport after soccer. End Comment.
Visit Mexico City's Classified Web Site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/wha/mexicocity and the North American
Partnership Blog at http://www.intelink.gov/communities/state/nap /
GARZA

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