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Mexican president calls on world’s richest billionaires and companies to pay for $1 trillion poverty fund

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in a Nov. 9 speech at the United Nations proposed a global fund to support 750 million people in extreme poverty. (Video: Reuters)
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Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Tuesday called on the world’s 1,000 richest people and 1,000 highest-value private corporations to voluntarily contribute 4 percent of their fortunes annually to a $1 trillion fund that he said would fight “marginalization and misery” and help reverse a global slide “from civilization into barbarity.”

In an address before the United Nations Security Council, which Mexico is presiding over this month, López Obrador said the fund would be used to support 750 million people who live on less than $2 a day, or roughly the World Bank’s benchmark for “extreme poverty.” He also called on the Group of 20 nations, which includes Mexico, to contribute 0.2 percent of their gross domestic product, and suggested that funds be paid out directly in forms such as pensions, scholarships and no-cost medication.

The head of state blasted Covax, the global vaccine distribution initiative, as a “painful and resounding failure,” according to remarks shared by López Obrador’s administration, and attacked what he called a “neoliberal model that socializes losses, privatizes profits and encourages the looting of natural resources and of the property of peoples and nations.” (As of Monday, Mexico had fully immunized about 48 percent of its population.)

López Obrador’s proposal is the latest seeking to get the world’s richest companies and people, whose fortunes have been boosted exponentially during the coronavirus pandemic, to pay more into public coffers. G-20 world leaders in October endorsed a plan to set a global minimum corporate tax rate, and Senate Democrats are considering a new minimum tax on wealthy American households as part of President Biden’s Build Back Better economic package.

The 1,000th-richest person in the world has a net worth of about $3 billion, according to the 2021 Forbes World’s Billionaires List.

Tuesday’s speech in New York marked just the second time that the leftist López Obrador, whose focus has been almost exclusively on domestic affairs, has made a foreign trip since taking office in 2018.

“He doesn’t want to be the leader of the Global South or Latin America. … The only reason he went to the U.N. is because he thought that would benefit Mexico,” said Pamela Starr, a Mexico expert at the University of Southern California. “He’s not Hugo Chávez. His goals are more provincial: He wants to change Mexico and will use the stage that benefits him to that end.”

Mexico’s López Obrador sees his power trimmed in midterm elections

During López Obrador’s tenure, Mexico has dramatically increased its minimum wage while keeping inflation relatively stable until a recent global spike in prices. His other poverty alleviation programs have a mixed record, with some experts and domestic opponents criticizing his management of the country’s social welfare initiatives.

López Obrador has regularly used populist language to attack Mexico’s rich, and despite a recent setback at the polls, his approval rating remains high, as the country’s poorest have applauded policies such as grants for students and pensions for the elderly.

The populism is “more than a tactic; he firmly believes it,” said Starr. “He has always fought for the poor against the rich but always done so within the context of capitalism. … He is an anti-neoliberal but not an anti-capitalist.”

Read more:

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No, the pandemic didn’t sink populism. It might have helped it.

U.S. communities want to share unused vaccines with Mexico, but the White House won’t let them

How two young math geeks solved the mystery of Mexico City’s covid-19 dead