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MEXICO: Problems & Progress

2 minute read

In Mexico City, a friend asked President Adolfo Ruiz Cortines: “What is your greatest single problem?” The President smiled wryly. “It is the great problem of Mexico,” he said. “Look out that window and you will see Mexicans living in shacks, with nothing to eat but tortillas, with no shoes, no education for their children, no hope but one. That hope is that their President will somehow make things better for them.”

Last week, halfway through his six-year term of office, President Ruiz Cortines reported to the Mexican Congress—and by radio to the nation—on his progress in solving the great problem of Mexico. His voice was flat, his prose dry. But there was a hint of justified pride in his tone as he ticked off some of the accomplishments of his administration:

¶The real national income increased 7% in 1954, 10% in the first half of 1955.

¶Mexico’s dollar reserves stand at $305 million, highest since he took office, despite his controversial devaluation of the peso (TIME, April 26, 1954).

¶In 1954, electric power output went up 10%, manufacturing increased 9.8%, crude-oil production 15%.

¶In agriculture, which Ruiz Cortines and his eager, able Agriculture Minister Gilberto Flores Muñoz (TIME. Aug. 1) have emphasized with increased loans, irrigation appropriations and fertilizer plants, the President was able to report a 20% increase in production and alltime record yields of Mexico’s basic export crops, coffee and cotton.

Coming to the presidency on a wave of national reaction against the free-spending glitter of the Miguel Aleman regime, Ruiz Cortines had recognized the need for a cleanup. He first weeded out corrupt officials, then went after the root causes of corruption: inadequate official pay and bureaucratic inefficiency. After devaluating the currency, he clamped on price controls, still spends several hours a week personally checking them.

Under Mexico’s constitution, Ruiz Cortines can never be re-elected after his term runs out in 1958. But a dedicated man can get a lot done in three years, and it was very much in character that the President ended his midterm report with a renewed call to action: “Poverty, ignorance and disease still plague many of our countrymen … It is our obligation to face these problems, even though we know we cannot end this tremendous task.”

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