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Thursday, 28 March 2013

Army to accompany aid workers into 49 Mexican communities

"To live better" says SEDESOL
In January 21 of this year the Mexican government announced its National Crusade Against Hunger (Cruzada Nacional contra el Hambre), which is specifically targeted at the 7.4 million of Mexico’s 11.7 million people who are living in extreme poverty.

The Crusade will be staffed by the Secretariat of Social Development (SEDESOL) and will address the needs of 400 communities. However, in 49 of those communities the security situation is so bad that government aid workers will have to be accompanied by the army.

The program is set to start April 1 and in its first stage will address the needs of 4.5 million people. It has an overall budget of 294 billion pesos (US$23.8 billion) and will include 70 programs. As a result of the high risk of violence in some areas, it will also involve a security strategy integrated with the Department of Defense.

SEDESOL has assured that the program will be properly supervised, but the risk remains that, as in the past – sorry, as in always in Mexico – the program could turn into a slush fund for the administrators and their friends.

In the past the ruling PRI, which ruled Mexico for most of the 20th century, was notorious for using social programs as a means to solidify political support.

That said, the government insists that the crusade is not a welfare program, but that it is a comprehensive strategy to address poverty in the hardest hit municipalities. Areas to be addressed include: food and water supply, road infrastructure, and health centers.

Youth will also be a key focus, with 10,000 workers planning to go house-to-house to address child malnutrition and school attendance.

Battling the bureaucracy, however, is a huge task. There are 270 social programs in effect at the federal level, and 2,300 at state levels across the country.

The government is also trying to get the private sector on board, and is in discussions with Mexico’s National Association of Supermarkets and Department Stores to control food costs in poor areas.

Despite economic growth, poverty levels in Mexico have remained unchanged in 30 years, leading to frustration as income disparities rise.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

For related stories see:

March 5, 2013: In Mexico, Coca-Cola is more available than water

March 5, 2013: In Mexico, the drug war makes the headlines, but hunger and diabetes kill just as many

February 13, 2013: Mexico’s president Peña Nieto puts US$9.3 billion into crime prevention




Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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