Mexico's President Seizes State-Run Electric Co.
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
Let's go next to Mexico, where the president is facing criticism for how he handled a crisis, an economic crisis. Last weekend, Felipe Calderon took over the country's electric utility and fired almost 50,000 employees. President Calderon's decision drew harsh criticism from labor unions. The Mexican president said it was time to end waste and corruption. NPR's Jason Beaubien reports from Mexico City.
JASON BEAUBIEN: On Monday, Adela Morales(ph) was standing outside a locked electricity office with her latest power bill that was about to come due. The 76-year-old says it's inexplicitly six times higher than normal.
ADELA MORALES: (Spanish spoken)
BEAUBIEN: The state-run company had become a significant drain on the federal treasury. The government was pumping more than $3 billion a year into the firm, or almost as much as Mexico spends annually on its army. In announcing the takeover, President Calderon said that in these difficult times, Mexico can't continue to prop up inefficient public enterprises.
FELIPE CALDERON: (Spanish spoken)
BEAUBIEN: For example, President Calderon said, one-third of the electricity generated by Luz y Fuerza was being lost to corruption and inefficiency, and this while Mexico is being battered by the global economic downturn.
CALDERON: (Spanish spoken)
BEAUBIEN: Today, we must change what doesn't function in this country, Calderon said. We have no other options. Resources are almost gone. Fundamental change is the only alternative.
(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHANTING)
BEAUBIEN: Unidentified Man: (Spanish spoken)
BEAUBIEN: Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Mexico City.
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