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Mexico’s Hidden War

Mexico’s Hidden War
Mexico‘s poverty rate fell 0.6 percent between 2010 and 2012 to 53.3 million people, the government’s social development agency Coneval said. Factoring in the population growth for Mexico, the ranks of the poor grew by half a million people at that time. This statistic shows the startling conclusion that half of the country’s population lives in poverty, signifying Mexico’s hidden war.

President Enrique Peña Nieto has to help lift millions of people out of poverty and boost growth in Mexico, but there continues to be a large wealth gap. With his approval hitting an all-time low, the problem seems worse than it appears.

In Zitlaltepec, a village in the municipality of Zumpango toward the south of Mexico, 86 percent of residents are poor and 30 percent live in extreme poverty. This is the highest rate of poverty in the state, the total area being Mexico’s fifth poorest. Almost all people living in the area lack unemployment and retirement benefits.

The Coneval defines poverty as living on no more than 2,329 pesos a month ($135) in cities, and 1,490 pesos ($86)  a month in rural areas. The benchmark for extreme poverty was 1,125 pesos in cities and 800 pesos a month in the countryside. Coneval also takes other factors like health care and education into account.

While the number of people living in extreme poverty fell to 11.5 million by the end of 2012, or 9.8 percent of the population, many more Mexicans are now worse off than they were when former President Felipe Calderon entered the last two years of a six-year term in which poverty swelled by nearly three percent.

“The only feasible, permanent answer to reducing poverty in Mexico is through economic growth,” Mexican Finance Minister Luis Videgaray said in a press conference after the Coneval data was published.

However, there are efforts to revitalize the current situation in Mexico. Government policy is underway to try and address the issues of poor-quality jobs, retirement benefits and care for those below the poverty line. In 2013, UNICEF worked with the Mexican government to research the factors that address child poverty within the country.

While these efforts are gradually making a difference, it will be a long way for Mexico to recover. However, as long as these and more programs come into effect, hopefully Mexico will see a brighter future.

Alysha Biemolt

Sources: Coneval, Al Jazeera, Poverties, UNICEF, WSJ
Photo: Al Jazeera