Photo: Protests in NY (@allisonkilkenny)
A group of activists demonstrated in New York against Mexican magnate Carlos Slim, who is accused of using his dominant position in Mexico’s telecommunications market to impose exorbitant rates.
Members of the “Dos Paises, Una Voz” (Two Countries, One Voice) organization marched to Saks’ flagship store on Fifth Avenue Tuesday to alert New Yorkers of Slim’s business practices and call for a boycott against the retailer, in which Slim - the world’s richest person - holds a 16 percent stake.
“We want Mexico to know that we’re raising our voice here to urge Slim to act with greater social responsibility even though there’s no law to force him to,” Juan Jose Gutierrez, an activist and spokesman for the group, which is backed by Occupy Wall Street and Latino politicians in the Big Apple, told Efe.
The mobilization, which says on its Twitter account that it is a movement of “unified voices across the U.S. and LatAm to hold Carlos Slim accountable for his monopolistic actions,” also includes individual members of Mexico’s Yo soy 132 student movement.
Nearly a score of the roughly 100 demonstrators gradually trickled into the store and, once assembled, shouted “Attention shoppers! We’re part of the 99 percent!” referring to the slogan of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
After 10 minutes, they left the establishment without incident.
Gutierrez also told Efe that the activists plan to request a meeting with Saks executives to discuss “the monopolistic practices of Slim” and his America Movil company, whose subsidiaries have a roughly 70 percent share of Mexico’s wireless market and 80 percent of the country’s land-line subscribers.
The activist said it is regrettable that Slim, “who has the reputation of a philanthropist, has not considered it prudent to invest in Hispanic organizations in the United States” to spur community development.
In late January, the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development released a study saying the lack of competition in Mexico’s telecoms sector has resulted in overcharging to the tune of $25.8 billion annually, as well as low penetration rates in services and infrastructure.
“The welfare loss attributed to the dysfunctional Mexican telecommunication sector is estimated at $129.2 billion between 2005 and 2009,” or 1.8 percent of gross domestic product annually, the OECD said.
The study also said the monopolistic practices of Slim’s fixed-line company Telmex and wireless firm Telcel - units of regional telecoms giant America Movil - have caused the take-up of new services to be slowed and scared off foreign investment.
Slim discredited the study by saying it was a “rehashing of many things” and that a serious report should use information updated to 2011 rather than figures from 2007 and 2008.
“I don’t know what model was used but it’s totally false to say telecommunications cost the country that sum ($25.8 billion per year). That’s a fantasy, craziness, a totally exaggerated figure because Telmex and Telcel combined sell a total of $17.5 billion annually,” Slim said.
He also said the fact the study had been commissioned by Mexico’s telecoms regulator Cofetel cast doubt on its validity.
But the OECD defended its figure and said the estimate “represents the opportunity cost of the lack of competition in Mexico” not the profits or sales of any company in particular.