Manuel Zelaya will return to his country, and his country to the world
May 26th 2011 | MEXICO CITY
NEARLY two years after he was hustled onto a flight and into exile, Manuel Zelaya at last looks set to return to Honduras. Mr Zelaya’s presidency came to an abrupt end in June 2009 when soldiers sent him packing to Costa Rica after the Honduran Supreme Court ordered his arrest for illegally pressing on with an informal referendum on constitutional change. His ousting, which a truth commission is expected to describe as a coup when it reports next month, led to many countries breaking diplomatic ties with Honduras, and its suspension from the Organisation of American States (OAS).
On May 22nd Mr Zelaya signed a deal with his country’s current president, Porfirio Lobo, who was elected five months after the coup. The agreement, brokered by Colombia and Venezuela, confirms that Mr Zelaya and his former ministers can return home and practise politics without fear of arrest, and that they will be free to pursue a referendum on the constitution provided they go about it in a legal way. Mr Zelaya, who when in office allied with Venezuela’s leftist president, Hugo Chávez, is expected to arrive in Tegucigalpa, the capital, on May 28th, for an initial visit of a few days. It is now “pretty certain” that the OAS will vote Honduras back in, says José Miguel Insulza, its secretary-general—perhaps as soon as this week.
Each governed by a presidential hopeful, Mexico City and Mexico State seem safer than the rest of the country. What lessons do they offer?
May 26th 2011 | MEXICO CITY AND TOLUCA
THE spring getaway in Mexico sees long lines of cars escaping the fug of Mexico City for the breezy Pacific coast. But recently traffic has been going the other way. Mexico is in its fifth year of a ramped-up war against organised crime, which has caused violence to flare in states that find themselves on the drug route to the United States. Many of those who can afford it are moving to the capital, where the murder rate last year was half the national average and much lower than that in some big American cities, including Washington.
The policing of Mexico City will come under particular scrutiny as next year’s presidential election nears. That is because governance of the sprawling capital is split between Marcelo Ebrard, the mayor of the Federal District, which encompasses the heart of the city, and Enrique Peña Nieto, the governor of the surrounding Mexico State, which mops up just over half of the capital’s 20m residents. Mr Peña is the front-runner for the presidential nomination of the formerly ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, whereas Mr Ebrard is vying to carry the flag of the left-of-centre Party of the Democratic Revolution. (His main rival for the nomination, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, is himself a former mayor of the capital.)
On May 10th Transparency International, an anti-corruption outfit, published a survey of 15,000 Mexican homes on bribery. It found wide regional variations. Palm-greasing was far more common in and around Mexico City than in Baja California Sur, suggesting more-populated areas have more unmet demand for public services. Overall, Transparency reckons Mexicans paid 32 billion pesos ($2.5 billion) of bribes in 2010.
A Latin American giant plans to modernise India’s fleapits
May 12th 2011 | MEXICO CITY
India’s drive-in cinemas need sprucing up
NO COUNTRY is as addicted to the silver screen as India. Every year its cinemas shift more than 3 billion tickets, well over double the quantity sold in America, the next-biggest market. But despite its size, the cheap and cheerful Indian box office doesn’t make much money: takings are less than $2 billion per year, about the same as those in France, which handles one-twentieth as many admissions.
Tickets are cheap because Indian cinemas are often fleapits. Most have only one screen. Just over 1,000 screens out of about 12,000 are in modern, pricier multiplexes. Swanky new cinemas are going up, but slowly: no more than 300 new screens a year, compared with 2,500 in China.
Teaching is improving, but slowly. Getting parents involved could speed things up
May 12th 2011 | PUEBLA
WITHIN the bright-blue and green walls of Emilio Carranza, a three-classroom primary school in a rural part of the state of Puebla, a lesson is engrossed in a book of “Ecological Experiments and Facts”. Hands shoot up with enthusiasm, undimmed even by a drill of singing the lengthy national and state anthems in the baking school yard. The school is an example of how Mexico has been using parents to help improve its education—long overdue in a country where high spending has failed to produce results to match.
By Latin American standards, Mexico’s schools are rather good. According to the PISA survey, an international test of 15-year-olds in reading, maths and science, Mexico has the region’s second-best educated children, after Chile. In maths it is improving faster than anywhere else in the 65-country study. The OECD says Mexico is “well on track” to meet maths and reading targets next year that Felipe Calderón set in 2007, near the start of his presidency.
MEXICAN corporate oligarchs have never had much to fear from the country’s competition authorities. Until recently, investigators politely had to give notice the day before raiding premises. Offenders stalled for years in court before coughing up their fines. Even then, the maximum penalty for first-time violators of competition rules was 85m pesos ($7.3m)—“not even peanuts, but plankton,” one prosecutor admits. And so Mexico’s corporate whales grew fatter.
But last month the Federal Competition Commission hit the country’s biggest whale with a fine of 11.99 billion pesos ($1 billion), the heaviest penalty ever. It claimed that Telcel, which has 70% of Mexico’s mobile-phone market and is controlled by Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man, had abused its dominant position by charging competing networks sky-high connection fees. Telcel, whose connection charges are 44% higher than the average in the mainly rich countries that are members of the OECD, will appeal.