dead relative. La mitad, cut in half, is their response. A government-sponsored tour of several downtown neighborhoods attempts to bring out the brighter side. At the Casa Blanca, the labyrinthine vecindad where sociologist Oscar Lewis researched his book The Children of Sanchez, construction, crews work around the clock. The project engineer says he is working 18-hour days. The haste is necessary, he explains, because Housing Renovation will be dismantled as an agency in February, after constructing about 42,000 apartments. Curiously, the government predicts, 10,000 will still be homeless in September. The fortunate ones who settle into the new projects will have a governmentstandardized mortgage program, spreading a payment of 2.8 million pesos years. Guillermo Flores Velasco, the CUD representative for the Neighbors’ Union, expects a new role for the coalition as people fall behind on their home payments, an inevitability given the high unemployment. He forecasts a payment strike, legal battles to renegotiate the terms of payment, and continued fights against evictions. It is the same battle that has been fought for decades, but now, with the government in the role of landlord, the confrontation may resound far beyond the walls of the vecindades. POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE One Hand Clapping ci In a fit of statesmanship, former Governor Mark White had a final assessment of his successor, Bill Clements. Commenting on Clements’s intention to have a “meeting of the minds” in January with Judge William Wayne Justice, White said, “That’s going to be impossible. Clements gets confused with even inanimate objects. ” v In case you haven’t been spending a lot of time in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, you probably are not aware that the area serves as a regular home-awayfrom-home for the conduct of U.S. foreign policy for Central America. Not only do intelligence agencies run ads seeking Spanish-speaking recruits from the area, but the Winter Garden serves as a veritable welcome wagon for representatives of governments and businesses supported by U.S. policy. Recent guests of border hospitality were 22 mayors from El Salvador, on a tour of U.S. political institutions sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International something called “the Consortium for Service to Latin America.” The mayors toured Edinburg and the Alamo police headquarters in their effort to learn about democracy. Civil Commotion Insurance r Meanwhile, a nonprofit group using a $2 million grant from U.S. AID met with business leaders in Dallas last fall to try to stir up investor interest in El Salvador. The group, Fusades-Pridex, would provide almost 100 percent financing for U.S. companies who set up new business ventures in El Salvador. The Pridex program is part of the Caribbean Basin Initiative, designed to increase U.S. investment in Central America and the Caribbean. Fusades-Pridex is being managed by Arthur Young & Co., Burkholder Wallender International, and Interna tional Technology Investment. A representative of the group told 50 entrepreneurs gathered at Infomart that investment in El Salvador is good business because the average hourly wage is 60 cents. He also said that, because of U.S. government interest in the project, the group was able to use the Caribbean Basin Initiative to offer business incentives in El Salvador “greater than those in other Latin American or Caribbean nations.” Should potential investors be worried about rumors of disquiet in the region, the Pridex boys assured the Infomart crowd that Overseas Private Investment Corp. would be providing insurance for political risk and civil commotion. 1/ But then there’s always Mexico, where the hourly pay of 50 cents to a dollar is almost as good for business as that in El Salvador. The Japanese are catching on. Furukawa Electric of Tokyo is joining United Technologies of Michigan in setting up an automobile electrical systems headquarters in El Paso with a plant located in Ciudad Juarez. “We have been extensively promoting the Texas border,” Japanese banker Shuichi Takenaka told the Dallas Morning News. He said many Japanese auto parts companies are looking at specific properties in that region, and this is a crucial year for Japanese auto manufacturers in the U.S. to decide on their sources of parts. Nine Japanese firms already are stationed along the Texas-Mexico border, part of the more than 1,100 maquiladora plants existing along the U.S.-Mexico border, up from about 800 plants just a year ago. The largest concentration, more than 250 plants, is in the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez area. U.S. companies estimated that, during the early 1980s, they saved $3,000 per worker by employing Mexican labor. Now, because of the peso’s devaluation, the annual savings per worker is nearly $15,000. v Part of Reagan’s new budget includes administrative costs for allowing up to 3.9 million undocumented people to obtain legal status in the U.S. The one-year application period for the amnesty program begins May 5 and allows legal status for many of the undocumented people who have lived in the United States since 1982. Although many people in this country illegally are here for pressing economic reasons, indigent persons will not be eligible for legalization because of a provision excluding those who are likely to become dependent on public welfare. Word has it that many of the indocumentados will not apply for legal status anyway because of fear of deportation, difficulty in traveling to the processing centers, and general red tape. Reagan Rides Again V The new budget, if approved in its current form, would affect Texas in a number of ways. Reagan proposes to increase the defense budget, and Texas receives a substantial amount of that money. The budget lists $29 million for construction of facilities for two guided missile frigates and three minesweepers at the Port of Galveston and full funding for home ports for naval ships in Galveston and Corpus Christi. Texas receives millions of dollars from the community development block grant program, which Reagan proposes to eliminate. He also proposes to put a cap on grants to the states under the Medicaid program for the poor and to reduce the target prices of farm commodities. This would mean less farm income in Texas and would primarily hit the small farms. Just Plain Greedy V Banks are charging too much interest for credit card use, according to a coalition of Texas consumer groups. The coalition, which includes the American Association of Retired Persons, the THE TEXAS OBSERVER 17
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