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February 27, 1997 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1997-02-27

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LOCAL/STATE

The Michigan Daily - Thursday, February 27, 1997 - 5A

British government plans to
privatize London subways

The Washington Post
LONDON - The British govern-
ment has announced plans to sell off
London's vast and crumbling subway
system, the London Underground.
The proposed sale of the world's old-
est subway - all 254 miles of it - is
the latest and probably the last large-
scale privatization for the Conservative
government here. Indeed, its hallmark
during its 18 years in power has been
the sale of government assets, including
the railways, the national airline, the
telephone system, and the nation's
power and water utilities.
"The tube," as it is called, faces a cri-
sis of disrepair, decay and delay, caused
by years of under-investment in modern-
ization by successive Conservative gov-
ernments. It was started in 1863 and
some of its components - track, electri-
cal fixtures and subway cars - are 50
years old. The most famous phrase asso-
ciated with the London Underground is
"Mind the gap" - the refrain reminding
passengers to step carefully on and off
because of the potentially hazardous dis-
tance from platform to train door.

Acknowledging this situation,
Transport Secretary George Young said
the central purpose of the sale of the
system to private enterprise is to boost
funds for improvements beyond what
the government can afford.
He said the process of privatization
would begin this summer, a timetable
that raised the prospect that it might not
happen at all. A general election will be
held by late May. With the opposition
Labor Party far ahead in current polls,
the Tories may not be in office past then
and Labor leaders' response to privati-
zation has been hostile.
"This is a privatization the public will
throw out at the ballot box along with
the government that sponsored it," said
Andrew Smith, Labor's spokesperson
on transportation in the House of
Commons. This is like "selling your
house when the walls are falling down."
Labor has said it would try to attract
private investment to improve the service,
but would keep the system in public.
Rough maximum estimates of the
market value of the system approach
$20 billion. But because of the vast

improvements required - at least SI1.3
billion annually, according to official
accounts - the government will have
to sell it at a substantial discount aid
provide significant subsidies to any
buyer or group of buyers.
Breakdowns caused by electrical
faults are a daily occurrence on many
lines. Few of the busiest stations make it
through a week without escalator, eleva-
tor or safety failures. Passengers, who
make roughly 2.5 million trips per day,
travel in a permanent state of uncertain-
ty about whether their station and their
line will be functioning smoothly. ,
The average scheduled speed is oily
20.5 mph. Poor ventilation and over-
crowding make riding hot and uncom-
fortable at rush hour, even on cold win-
ter days.
The structure of any sale will be?
complicated. Young said the govern-,.
ment is considering a variety of options,
including selling the whole operation to
one bidder, selling track and stations to-
one operator and the trains to another,.
or selling each of the system's 12 lines
to separate operators.

Police officers stand atop a fuel tank that was caught trying to smuggle a ton and a half of marijuana near the city of
terrey, Mexico on Tuesday.
eged corru ption reveals
anti-drug plans to traffikers

1f

Los-Angeles Times
MEXICO CITY - Much of
Wxico's anti-drug strategy - from
informants' names to intelligence meth-
od" developed over the years - has now
passed into the hands of criminals as a
iesult of the alleged corruption of this
nation's top anti-narcotics official, a for-
mer senior official declared yesterday.
The comments by Frandisco Molina
Ruiz, who was Mexico's drug czar until
December, were the strongest public
' ication yet that Mexico's anti-nar-
Mics fight is in a shambles and could
take years to rebuild.
American officials have asserted that
they did not pass on sensitive informa-
tion to Gen. Jose de Jesus Gutierrez
R|ebollo, who was arrested last week
4nd accused of working for the nation's
leading drug trafficker even as he head-
Od Mexico's version of the U.S. Drug
Enforcement Administration.
But Molina Ruiz's comments were
*cked up by DEA Chief Thomas
Constantine. He said the damage from
by the Mexican scandal appears to be
worse than that done by the U.S. spy
Aldrich Ames. U.S. officials, he added,
are trying desperately to assess "who
we can trust" to try to rebuild a critical

anti-drug effort. "My sense is he
(Gutierrez) knew everything that was
going on and he used everything he
knew," Constantine told the Los
Angeles Times in an interview.
The officials' comments came amid
what may be Mexico's worst drug scan-
dal ever. Just weeks after U.S. officials
expressed optimism that they would
soon capture
leading Mexican
traffickers, the We he
anti-drug effort is
now paralyzed, change t
authorities say.
The attorney methods
general's office in
Mexico has -- Franc
admitted that this Mexico'sf
nation's justice
system has all but
collapsed. Meanwhile, the country is
awash in reports of drug corruption
involving current and former govern-
ment officials.
As a result, Washington for the first
time is considering denying Mexico its
customary full "certification" as a part-
ner in fighting drugs. Mexican officials
have warned that such a decision could
sorely strain relations.
Mexican drug lords, U.S. officials

a
is
fo

say, transport 75 percent of the cocaine
entering the United States, in addition
to marijuana and heroin. And they are
believed to be growing stronger.
Molina Ruiz said in an interview that
years of painstaking efforts to develop a
counter-narcotics program appear to
have been destroyed by Gutierrez's
alleged corruption.
He said he
gave the gener-
ve to al a trove of
sensitive infor-
ese work mation before
he left the post
last December
- information
co Molina Ruiz that he believes
rmer drug czar was passed on
to drug lords.
"The most
difficult thing is, they (drug traffickers)
now know the strengths and the
mechanics of the government opera-
tions -- how the government gets intel-
ligence, how it follows certain people,
how it does investigations. We have to
change these work methods," he said.
Molina Ruiz said that, up until
December, authorities had completed
three steps of a l 0-point strategy aimed
at capturing leading drug traffickers.

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