Mexican President Felipe Calderon announced an ambitious plan last week to confront rising food costs in Mexico and to prevent the type of shortages and inflation surges that threaten the stability of developing countries in other parts of the world. In Mexico, already hit hard by the rising cost of the tortilla, rising chatter on radio and other media indicates that food issues are becoming a general concern. Calderon, flanked by members of his Cabinet at Los Pinos, said his government would lift tariffs on various imports including rice, wheat, and corn. He also said aid would be sent to help boost production among small farmers, and give 120 pesos monthly to the poorest of families.
The response from the left was swift the next day. Both Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and D.F. mayor Marcelo Ebrard criticized Calderon's plan. Lopez Obrador called it "demagoguery" and Ebrard said the federal government should follow his capital model, which has resulted in tons of maize being distributed to the populace.
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Separately, their leftist party PRD proposed yet another "forum" to debate the best methods to confront a food crisis.
Political notes columns in Monday's edition of La Jornada hinted that the conversative federal food plan is facing internal opposition. Columnist Miguel Angel Rivera writes that Calderon's own agriculture secretary, Alberto Cardenas Jimenez, confirmed publicly that the money cited for the new plan would come from projects related to the lower and often defiant house of Congress, the Chamber of Deputies (no link currently available). Rivera also notes that Calderon's plan has been denounced by the leader of the National Front of Legislators from the Rural Sector, Heladio Ramirez Lopez, who has said it would only benefit large private importers.
And on Wednesday the paper said in a sharply worded editorial that Calderon's plan may help stave off food prices in the short-term but does not attack the "root of the problem," a loss of self-sufficiency in food production in Mexico. Read the translated version of the editorial here.
Although there have been no telling signs of a major-scale food crisis in Mexico, the overall picture remains precarious. El Universal has this comprehensive animated graphic page that illustrates the trouble spots.