Marcelo Ebrard Mayor of Mexico City
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Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard
A liberal reformer and pragmatist
By Adriana Maciel, Mexico Editor
25 November 2010: Marcelo Ebrard, a skilled public administrator educated at France’s elite ENA, was elected as head of the Federal District government in July 2006. Since then he has been dedicated to fight against climate change through ecological measures, and to the creation of liberal inclusive policies and women and minorities’ rights defense with no fear to challenge Mexican orthodoxy. Mayor Ebrard was awarded the 2010 World Mayor Prize.
Interview with Mexico City's mayor
Ebrard was born in the Mexican capital in 1959, the son of an architect. Educated in the city, he obtained a degree in international relations from the prestigious College of Mexico and then studied public policy at the Ecole Nationale d’Administration (ENA) in Paris, France. On returning to Mexico, he joined the city government in the office of planning and budget. Ebrard first made a name for himself in his disaster relief work during the September 1985 earthquake which hit the city, joining in the rubble-strewn rescue efforts himself. He then worked on rebuilding homes affected by the disaster, coordinating construction efforts across the worst effected zones, with some neighbourhoods rebuilt and receiving utility services again just 10 months after the event. A year later he worked on the city’s pioneering ecological balance programme, the first government in the country to take the issue seriously.
In 1992, at just 33, Ebrard was appointed internal affairs secretary in the city government, the second most senior in the administration. During this time he became known for his internationally award-winning ‘one tree, one family’ scheme and the physical improvements enacted in the city centre. He also led ceasefire discussions with the EZLN (Zapatistas) during their 1994 insurrection against the federal government concerning the fate of the indigenous of Chiapas state.
In 1997 he was elected as a federal deputy to the Mexican Congress on behalf of the now defunct Party of the Democratic Centre (PCD), having previously held membership of the country’s long dominant Revolutionary Institutional Party. As deputy he denounced the unconstitutionality and big fraud of Fobaproa (Banking Fund for Savings Protection) with a cost of more 80 thousand million dollars, equivalent to 19 years Mexico City’s budget. He strongly opposed the conversion of the banking rescue into national debt and demanded transparency. Ebrard also denounced the mismanagement taking place inside the Secretary of the Treasury and Public Credit.
In 2000, he participated as Advisor of the Savers’ National Board that grouped the majority of the 230 thousand families affected by the crisis of the popular savings system provoked by the government’s actions. Ebrard’s intervention was decisive and so the Congress destined resources to indemnify with the 70 percent of savings to 160 thousand people of whom 90 percent were old people who had invested all their life savings in the popular savings system. This struggle provoked a reform to the savings system that culminated in the creation of the Law of Protection to the Popular Savings.
Ebrard resigned his membership of the PCD when Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) emerged as the candidate for the multi-party Alliance for Mexico City, who spectacularly won the elections in July 2000. Ebard then accepted AMLO’s offer to become public security secretary in 2002, later working with former New York City Mayor Rudi Giuliani on a zero tolerance policing strategy for the capital, lowering the crime rate but increasing the prison population exponentially. He then served as social inclusion secretary from 2005, where he oversaw the ‘Progress With Justice’ policy of increasing supported public housing and also medical aid for the elderly.
Having joined AMLO’s Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) a year earlier, he resigned from the city government in order to fight for the party’s nomination as head of government for the capital, which he won comfortably as AMLO had already become the party’s presidential candidate. In the July 2006 elections in the city, Ebrard won by a massive margin as the candidate for the PRD-led ‘Good of All’ coalition, with almost twice as many votes as all other candidates combined. The coalition also won 14 of the 16 borough mayoral races and took the lion’s share of seats in the city’s legislative assembly.
Since assuming duties as head of the city government in December 2006, which was returned from federal oversight in 1993, he has outlined his priorities as tackling financial crime in the city, creating more places in public care for street children, decentralising education policy from the administration to schools, securing a constitution for the city, building a 12th Metro line and using energy efficient vehicles for the city fleet. He has also spoken of the need for a new television channel to provide a public space for residents and keep them informed of the city’s workings.
Since Mayor Ebrard took office in 2006, he has continued the work of his predecessor, regarding infrastructure programmes, as well as the monthly benefit payments to single mothers, the elderly and scholarships to high school students. Mexico City has in fact changed its physical appearance, starting from its very heart, the ancient Zocalo square and the surrounding streets with a total investment of approximately 53m dollars. It is now a clean and free of street vendors, a pleasant area to walk about, shop, eat and admire.
Among the infrastructure projects of the Ebrard mayoralty that are being carried out are: the fixing the city’s deep sewerage system, the construction of the 25 km 12th Metro line due to be finished in 2012; Line 3 of the Metrobus system, that will run from the city’s Northwest to the Central-south along 16 kilometres and with 31 station; the toll road Supervía sur-poniente, which has created great controversy among ecologists; the rehabilitation of 13 parks, etc. Alongside Governor of Mexico State Enrique Peña Nieto, Mayor Ebrard inaugurated a vital distributor that runs from that state to Mexico City benefiting 1.2m people, and also two new plants that will increase the capacity of the deep sewerage system as part of a programme of hydraulic works in the capital. They both have shown their political commitment to continue working together in matters of infrastructure, transport, metropolitan development and security in favour of both entities.
Mayor Ebrard’s transport system initiatives are thought to improve and care for the environment, such as the extension of the Metrobus system, the eco-bici programme and the replacement of old taxis and minibuses. In fact, Mexico City was recognized as the greenest city in Latin-America at the World Mayors Council on Climate Change 2010 held in Mexico City last November 21, being considered as the city with the best environment management in the American continent according to the Green Index.
Proclaiming Mexico City as the most liberal and open metropolis of the whole continent, due to the reform to the abortion law and the law that permits same-sex marriage and their right to adopt, and the bill of anticipated death (euthanasia), Mayor Ebrard has faced strong criticism from the conservative federal government and above all from the Catholic Church that has threatened to excommunicate him; he has however been congratulated for rejecting to support the legalization of cannabis in the city that has been proposed by members of his party as means to ease the rise in crime from its sale on the black-market.
More recently, Mayor Ebrard presented the Addictions Prevention Institute of Mexico City through which he plans to reduce addictions to alcohol, drugs and psychotropic substances. The Congress en banc approved the bill of the Integral Assistance to the Psychoactive Substances Consumption that plans precisely the creation of a specialized institute and to lay the foundations to promote the model of specialized courts and judges in drugs matters.
Following AMLO’s defeat in the July 2006 presidential election, won by the conservative Felipe Calderon by less than 1% of the total vote, Ebrard was tapped as the new leader of Mexico’s mainstream left by the French Le Monde newspaper in what has been seen as an attempt by grandees on Mexico’s left to anoint a successor in time for the 2012 presidential polls. Ebrard has openly said he wants to run for presidency in 2012, “If not, what am I here for?” he says.
Mexico City with its cathedral to the left of the photo (Photo by Arrakeen)
Introducing Mexico City
Built on an island in Lake Texoco in the early fourteenth century, the Aztec city of Tenochtitln was the largest city in the Americas. Rebuilt after the Spanish conquest, Mexico City served as the political, administrative and financial centre of a major part of the colonial empire of Spain. During the latter part of the nineteenth century, Mexico City modernized rapidly. The industrial development of the city was facilitated by the fact that it had the best infrastructure of the country, the largest consumer market, and a relatively well-trained labour force.
Due to the devastation of the smallpox epidemic in 1520, Mexico City began its existence with only 30,000 people. Over the next four centuries population levels grew slowly until the spectacular growth of the twentieth century. Migration was more important than natural increase in fueling the population growth in Mexico City. From a population of 1.6 million in 1940, it increased to 3.1 million in 1950, 5.4 million in 1960, 9.1 million in 1970, 13.9 million in 1980, and about 15.6 million in 1995.
This rapid growth in Mexico City was the outcome of policies that greatly favoured the concentration of industrial production in Mexico City. Mexico City had access to electricity, oil and other power sources, the provision of water and drainage facilities, and was the focus of major road investment programmes. The most important industrial activities undertaken in the city include the manufacture of clothing, furniture and repairs, publishing activities, production of rubber, plastic and metal goods, as well as the assembly and repair of electrical goods. Most of this production was for the national and local markets rather than oriented towards global markets, as is now the case due to the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Urbanization has had a serious negative effect on the ecosystem of Mexico City. Though water supplies have increased to 300 liters per day per capita, the city lacks an efficient distribution system. Although 80% of the population have piped inside plumbing, residents in the peripheral areas cannot access the sewage network and a great percentage of waste-water remains untreated as it passes to the north for use as irrigation water.
Pollution is undoubtedly the most serious problem in Mexico City. 2.6 million private automobiles in the city were estimated to be responsible for 50% of traffic congestion and produced about 80% of air pollution.
Though government planning strategies strive towards the decentralization of Mexico City, tax subsidies and other government actions often make the city more attractive than other areas. Furthermore, Mexicans who desire to remain in Mexico City are influenced by numerous social, political, educational and cultural factor, and they often equate living in Mexico City with the image of personal success. It seems unlikely, therefore, that the national predominance of Mexico City will change very much during the remainder of the twentieth century. (Source: UN Cyberschoolbus)