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Economy

In Mexico, A Lesson In How Red Tape Feeds Black Markets

Mexico seems to be returning to more regulations, paperwork and taxes, which fuels the underground economy and encourages the government to overspend.

Open markets in Mexico City
Open markets in Mexico City
Luis Rubio*

MEXICO CITY — The comedian Groucho Marx used to say that politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies. Governments are particularly good at identifying technical problems, but tend to be profoundly ignorant about what motivates ordinary people. They assume people will respond to their instructions without batting an eyelid or even doubting the government's altruism.

But Mexicans have seen governments come and go for centuries, and their response has not changed: They obey without following orders. They just adapt. Human nature is stubborn but predictable, and people do not go against their interests or willingly comply with bureaucratic preferences. Therein may lie a logical explanation of the country's current, pathetic economic performance.

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Firefighters work to put out the fire in a mall hit by a Russian missile strike

Shaun Lavelle, Anna Akage and Emma Albright

Officials fear the death toll will continue to climb after two Russian missiles hit the Armstor shopping center in the central Ukrainian city of Kramenchuk. According to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, more than 1,000 people were inside the mall Monday at the time of the attack.

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For the moment, the death toll is at 18 with 36 people missing and at least 59 injured, reported a regional official on Tuesday. The search and rescue operations continue under the rubble.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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