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reports 130 suicides in the first three months of 1995. \(In all of 1994, 374 were recordeda significant number of them during the Christmas season, after the peso Suicide victims include the prominent \(the head of Mexico City’s troubled transit system and an Institutional Revolutionary unknown: Several of the subway victims remain unidentified. Most suicides are men between the ages of 15 and 39, an age group usually considered “economically active.” But since the peso’s collapse, 20,000 businesses have closed their doors and, according to Labor Secretariat predictions, 1.5 million Mexicans are expected to have lost their jobs by July. “Hope is being extinguished here,” El Barzon’ s Ramirez sadly notes, “all that is left for many is the Metro…” When the banks fail to terrorize debtors into paying up, property is confiscated and put up for sale. Collectors can seize items worth up to 300 percent of the outstanding debt. Two major banks have reportedly taken 10,000 vehicles from debt victims. Ranches, private homes, and industrial properties have been seized. Anything of value can be taken and auctioned off to the highest bidderlibraries and household appliances are listed on the banks’ inventories. Now banks have contracted with U.S. auctioneers to sell off confiscated properties–Lasalle Partners, in conjunction with the National Real Estate Clearing House, has scheduled five auctions. The first, to be held in Mexico City this August, a Lasalle press handout informs, will offer 443 properties worth $225 million US$. According to a spokesperson for Kenneth Levanthal & Co., a Los Angeles accounting firm, Mexican banks will eventually offer 40,000 such properties. “This is an enormous opportunity to buy Mexican property,” Lasalle’s Pedro Ascue announced at a recent San Antonio, Texas, press conference. “There will be exceptional bargains.” Although Lasalle insists that it seeks Mexican buyers, its press campaign has been directed at the U.S. media, with insistent phone calls to U.S. correspondents in Mexico City, urging them to attend press conferences and publicize the auctions north of the border. In any event, in Mexico there is little liquidity available to buy the offered properties. “They are selling off the patrimony of our nation to the gringos,” Ramirez glares. “We are not going to permit it.” EL BARZON’S MEXICO CITY offices are filled from dawn to dusk with worried members seeking relief. The organization seeks a moratorium on confis cations, reduced interest rates and a fiveyear grace period to renew production so that loans can be paid off: “We are not trying to evade our responsibilities,” the national coordinator insists, “but the banks and the government have been deaf to our proposals. They sit there and say nothing when we present our demands.” During a June 16 confrontation at Bank in Mexico City’s Historic Center, Barzonistas were allowed to enter the building to explain what they wantedbut officials summoned heavily armed police to sur GAIL WOOD round the table at which they sat. El Barzon also suggests that the government and the banks follow the organization’s example and suspend payments on Mexico’s ballooning foreign debt \($140 to debt will total $9 billion US$ alone, without diminishing the principal. “These payments are stripping our industrial plant. No one is producing, no one is plantingand we haven’t touched bottom yet. We don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel,” Ramirez reflects, “suspending payment has become a matter of national security.” 6 JULY 14, 1995