Mexico's New President Cuts Own Salary

The Associated Press
Sunday, December 3, 2006; 9:33 PM

MEXICO CITY -- Newly sworn-in president Felipe Calderon decreed a 10 percent pay cut for himself and his cabinet members on Sunday, echoing a central campaign promise of the leftist rival he beat by a razor-thin margin.

Calderon said in a televised speech that he also would slash government spending on everything from cell phone calls to foreign trips and increase transparency to avoid corruption.

"We will give accounts of every peso that citizens have given to the government," Calderon said. "Transparency and accountability is the responsibility of every democratic government."

Calderon said the spending cuts he signed in the Sunday decree would save about $2.5 billion in the next year, or enough to build 2,500 schools. He also promised to send a public spending bill to Congress to make long term savings.

Mexico's elected officials are among the highest paid in the world. Former President Vicente Fox's salary was about $245,000 in 2006. The full details of Calderon's 2007 salary have not have not been publicly released yet.

A career politician from the conservative National Action Party or PAN, Calderon beat leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador by less than 1 percent in July's fiercely fought election.

Lopez Obrador had promised to slash salaries of Mexico's top officials and uplift the 50 million Mexicans living in poverty.

Calderon focused his campaign on law and order and job creation while accusing his rival of being a radical extremist who would plunge Mexico into crisis.

Lopez Obrador claims Calderon conspired with outgoing president Fox to rig the election and named himself Mexico's legitimate president in a ceremony last month. On Friday, leftist lawmakers brawled with PAN rivals in an unsuccessful bid to block Calderon's inauguration while Lopez Obrador led thousands of his followers in a street protest.

Calderon has promised to unify the divided nation and adopt some leftist proposals. However, he also has signaled he may take a tougher line on leftist protests than Fox, who was keen to avoid confrontation.

On Saturday, Calderon said the military would not be affected by his austerity measures and pledged to substantially raise the wages of Mexico's armed forces, calling them a crucial weapon against heavily armed drug gangs terrorizing the nation.

Mexico's military plays little role in international conflicts and instead is used mainly against drug traffickers, leftist guerrilla groups and natural disasters.

© 2006 The Associated Press