So telecommuncations magnate Carlos Slim, the son of Lebanese immigrants, has been declared the world’s richest man by Forbes magazine, who has a list for just about everything, it seems. Way to go, Carlos! You employ 270,000 of your fellow Mexican citizens in your conglomerate of department stores, restaurants, hotels, oil drilling, construction businesses and banks. You are a significant reason that Mexico’s economy ranks 13th in the world in GDP. And by all accounts, you don’t flaunt your wealth with a fleet of Italian sports cars and Monte Carlo-based yachts. With a net worth of over $53 billion US it would be tempting to own a few world-class toys, but Carlos has an older model Mercedes and has lived in the same Mexico City house for 40 years, while donating over $10 billion to charity since 2006, a portion of which is restoring the historical sections of the capital city. These things speak well of Slim and his family, and they should be congratulated.
But when you look at the living conditions and the poverty so apparent in the country, something doesn’t add up. There have long been allegations that government contacts and favors have created the conditions for some select people to do so well, while most citizens scrape by day by day, with no hope of ever clawing their way up the economic ladder. Many people feel the game is rigged, and not in their favor. Anyone who has traveled Mexico extensively would have to agree with that. People need hope, not the cynicism and despair that permeates much of Mexico society. (I know, what’s a gringo doing analyzing Mexico when the top 1% owns 38% of the wealth in the U.S.?).
Many of these conditions have been grandfathered into the system for decades, being cemented during the 71 years of monopolistic PRI rule. Current President Calderon is a smart and good man, and has vowed to help even the playing field for all Mexicans. I believe it will happen, but it will take much time. Hopefully, the country will have the patience and will to continuously work towards that goal, and the officials will understand that they can’t wait forever.