Taxi-driver conspiracy theory on swine flu outbreak

If you’ve spent any time in Mexico, especially Mexico City, then you’ll be acquainted with Mexicans’ love of conspiracy theory.

As Ken Ellingwood wrote last year, "many Mexicans feel their leaders have lied so many times about so many things over the years that it’s hard to believe them, even when they might be telling the truth."

The H1N1 / swine flu outbreak that descended on Mexico more than a week ago has provided an abundance of flammable fuel for those partial to conspiracy theories here in Mexico City.

You don’t have time to read, and I don’t have time to write, all of the theories that I’ve heard over the last ten days. But I would like to share my favorite with you, which came out during a conversation I had with Raul Camacho, a 62-year-old taxi driver, on Tuesday last week.

I asked him why he wasn’t wearing a face mask. At the beginning of last week, face masks and plastic gloves were yet to be mandatory for taxi drivers (that happened on Thursday), but everyone had been asked by the government to cover their noses and mouths as a precaution.

Camacho said he wasn’t worried about protecting himself because he didn’t believe the risk was as high as both the federal and city governments would have us believe.

"People in power do or say whatever they like to get what they want," he said.

Camacho then went on to explain to me that Mexico President Felipe Calderon was in fact making the whole thing up in order to give Mexicans the impression that he was taking care of them and saving them from certain and gruesome death.

Camacho referred back to Mexico’s controversial 2006 elections during which Calderon beat the left-leaning Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in a voting process that many still claim was fraudulent, and referred to Calderon as "el espurio" (the illegitimate one). Calderon is trying to gain legitimacy with this swine flu "story", claimed Camacho.

OK, I asked, if that’s the case, why is Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, also a member of the opposition PRD party,going along with Calderon’s flu-stopping strategy of closing schools and nonessential services?

Camacho had an answer for that.

"It’s not convenient for Ebrard to fall out with Calderon right now. There are elections coming up in July, and he doesn’t want any trouble before then."

My ride came to an end before I could ask Camacho why the World Health Organization was also in on the plot, but no doubt he’d have had an explanation for that too.

— Deborah Bonello in Mexico City for La Plaza