Perilous times loom across the border

Denise Dresser, Miami Herald, 1/6/09

As the saying goes: When the tide goes out, you find out who has been swimming without a bathing suit. Few countries have emerged as naked from the receding waters of the global economic crisis as Mexico. Saddled with an economic contraction of 8 percent of GDP, higher than any other Latin American country, Mexico is also slipping in the global competitiveness index, lags behind in key social indicators, is being downgraded by investment ratings agencies and faces the prospect of declining oil revenues, owing to a dramatic drop in production.

According to recent official data, 50.1 million Mexicans — out of a total population of 104 million — live below the poverty line, and 17.5 million do not have enough money to eat. So a country that has managed to produce Carlos Slim, reckoned to be the second wealthiest man in the world, produces millions of others who scrape by on two dollars a day.

Mexico has long considered itself the leader of Latin America, but Chile, Colombia and the rising regional giant, Brazil, are increasingly leaving it behind.

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