Of pinatas and pesos

YOU never know what will tumble out when the Mexican pinata is finally whapped open. Toys shower down upon the celebrants from the suspended papier-m^ach'e container, to shouts of cheer and much mirth. But Mexicans are feeling as though some kind of giant, foreboding economic and political pinata is about to open on them. At every hand, events are happening fast, leaving Mexicans uncertain about their country's well-being. Mexico's friends and allies, particularly the United States, need to be especially supportive of the democracy south of the Rio Grande at this time. Consider:

Mexico City has officially devalued its so-called ``controlled'' peso against the dollar. The long-range effect is meant to be beneficial: to boost Mexican exports and encourage tourism from outside Mexico.

The halfhearted OPEC oil agreement just reached in Vienna is only a holding station on the way to lower worldwide oil prices. That's great news for consumers in the industrial nations, such as the United States. US drivers can look for further reductions in gas prices at the pumps. Wall Street is welcoming the news as evidence that inflation will be kept under control.

Both results are of some benefit to Mexico. Lower gas prices in the US obviously help out on the tourism front. But lower oil prices also present difficulties for oil-producing nations such as Mexico that desperately need the earnings from oil exports.

The Bank of Boston decided to write off a substantial portion of its loans to third-world nations. This opens the way for other banks to do the same, and, perhaps down the road, to begin curtailing loans. Yet, developing nations such as Mexico continue to need fresh infusions of bank loans to modernize their economies.

The Mexican government is developing a new round of austerity measures to make its economy more competitive. Spurring modernization is long overdue. But the government's initiatives come against a backdrop of rising public discontent. Mexican unions want large wage increases to compensate for soaring inflation. Can Mexico City get its national economy under control?

Mexico needs calm. Its government's main task now is to fix the Mexican people's attention on economic priorities.

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