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For All Nails, pt. 64:  A Meeting of the Minds

21 September 1971

Chapultapec, México Central

The room was full of happy men who tried their level best not to show
it, except in public.  They rarely succeeded.

The presidential suite of the Presidente Hotel overlooked the actual
presidential palace.  Chapultepec Castle had to be the only official
executive residence on the planet located next to a large amusement
park, Russian mountain and all, but there was something fit-tingly and
reassuringly Mexican about that.  [1]  United States Boulevard cut
through the city like a scythe towards Constitution Plaza,
symbolically uniting the seat of of the Executive with the center of
the Legislature.

Congress had passed a symbolic height limit in 1919:  no building in
the Capital District could be higher than Chapultepec Castle.   Since
government was, after all, the primary mission of Mexico City, mere
commerce should not be allowed to overshadow it.  Con-gress had gone
on to pass another series of laws insuring sunlight by requiring
severe set-backs in all new buildings.  Fine intention, lousy
execution:  the result was the squat neon-lit pseudo-Aztec pyramids
lining United States Boulevard between Chapultepec Park and the
Alameda.  Yeah, they were shorter than the Castle on the Hill, but
somehow the animated signs screaming "Drink Peñafiel!" and "Watch
Mercator on IPN!" somehow took away from the supposed solemnity of the
city's purpose.

Not to mention that when Mercator tried to extend the height limit to
the surrounding sub-urbs in 1957, the Mexico Tribunal quickly shot him
down.  [1a]  Which was why the Presidente Hotel, located immediately
northwest of the District line, towered above the presidential palace.
 [1b]

The presidential candidate who occupied the presidential suite of the
Presidente Hotel often liked to contemplate the irony of moving down
to Chapultepec Castle, but now was not one of his more contemplative
moments. The Candidate sat in an easy chair, a solid mountain of a
man, at least six-and-a-half feet high, and almost as wide.  With a
different face, he could have easily been frightening.  But Immanual
Moctezuma's soft features and squashed nose couldn't frighten a child.

Which didn't mean, of course, that he couldn't be absolutely
terrifying to his campaign staff.  The Candiate had a, ahem, temper.
A rather volcanic temper.  Which is why everyone called him "El Popo,"
including the newspapers and voters, in the best Mexican tradition.
Except, of course, when the anger that had earned him the nickname
flared up.

Which it was at the moment.  "Who the fuck is Robert Contreras to get
his meeting re-scheduled for right-goddamn-now!  I fucking flew back
here for him!  I should be in the fucking IPN studios!"

Chewy Enciso still didn't quite know how to handle the volcano,
especially since this time he had nothing to do with the fulmination.
Once the Candidate started to use "fuck" in every sentence, it was
time to pass the dólar.  Anyway, the guilty party here was Andy
Gendrop, one of Moctezuma's campaign advisors.  Andy's lanky frame was
perched on the side of a table in the suite's common room.  He looked
like a tall blond bird.  Chewy looked over in Andy's direction,
helplessly.

Andy Gendrop, unlike Chewy, was used to handling his boss's outbursts.
 Like Mount Popocápetl, there was a lot of noise and smoke, but
usually no lava.  El Popo had been his commander in the Airborne, and
nothing scared Andy.  Well, nothing except Japanese ack-ack fire, but
that was a long time ago and far far away.

"Relájate, patrón," said Andy, "Contreras is the recently-elected head
of the Chamber of Manufacturers.  He's been making some controversial
statements lately, but I think they dovetail _exactly_ with the thrust
of our campaign.  I invited him to make a presentation, y yo let him
tell us when and where."

Candidate Popo glowered up at him.  "Graaaaaaah-yaaah.  You let _him_
tell _us_ when and where?"  You could practically see the smoke
flaring from his wide-set nostrils.

"Yeah, patrón, I did.  Trust me on this one.  You'll want to hear what
this guy has to say, y you'll want him to well-disposed towards us.
IPN is the gobierno's pet network, anyway --- the only people who
bother to watch it will vote for us unless you paint yourself blue and
start singing 'God Save the King' naked in Constitution Square."

Andy knew his boss.  The snorting turned into a chuckle at the thought
of himself singing anything, let alone the North American national
anthem butt-naked.  [2]  Within seconds, the smoulder had ceased.
"Okay, Andy, I'll bite.  Head of the Chamber of Manufacturers, eh?
Why is he special?"

"Two reasons.  First, the devaluation drove a thick wedge between a
big chunk of the manufacturers y the government, patrón, not that
they'll admit it.  Problem is, it also drove a big wedge right through
the manufacturers.  Not that they'll admit that either.  Thing is,
this Contreras vato has been pushing some ideas that could get the
support of pretty much the entire manufacturing sector, and the unions
to boot.  Plus, it dovetails with our campaign planks.  Not that
they're _good_ ideas, but you should hear them."

The Candidate nodded, slowly.  "Ah haaaaah.  You have me curious now."

"Let him tell you himself, patrón.  He'll here in a minute."

"What's the second reason?"

Gendrop raised his eyebrows in a "you know the answer" expression.
Moctezuma nodded.  "Yeah, well, I suppose that's the price we pay for
freeing ourselves from Party funding," said the Candidate.  Gendrop
nodded.  [2a]

Right then, as if on cue, Linda Bricaire's voice came over the
interphone.  "Chewy, Robert Contreras is downstairs.  Should I send
him up?"  Moctezuma gave a slow-motion shrug, and Andy nodded.
Running down the chain-of-command, Chewy said towards the
speakerphone, "Okay, Linda, send him up.  We're ready."

The ascensors in the Presidente Hotel were fast, as suited the country
that had invented them.  [3]  Within a minute, Robert Contreras burst
through the door into the hotel room, a harried-looking aide and two
of Moctezuma's security people rushing to catch up.  "Capitán
Moctezuma!" he boomed in true Jeffersonian style.  "What an honor to
meet you!"  He'd strolled across the floor of the room before
Moctezuma had fully gotten out of his chair, grabbing the ex-captain's
hand in a grip that could crush uranium.  Not that the old Airborne
officer couldn't give as good as he got.  Great isometric exercise for
both of them.

"Please, call me Popo."  Moctezuma's grip released a millisecond
before Contreras's.  You had to time these things well, or someone
could get hurt.  "Have a seat, Bob .. may I call you Bob?  And
congratulations on winning the Chamber of Manufacturers election.
That's quite an honor."

Contreras ran his hand over his bald ahead --- unlike Moctezuma, he
was naturally bald, not shaved clean --- and laughed.  "Nothing like
the one you're going to get in November, Popo!"  [4]

Moctezuma shrugged.  "A lot can happen between now and then, Bob," he
said, disingenuously.

Contreras's eyes crinkled, as if he was about to smile.  "True, true.
Don't count chickens, right?"

Moctezuma shrugged again, with a smile.  "Sit down, please," he said
motioning to the plush seats around the glass coffee table in the
center of the suite.  The next President of the United States settled
his muscular bulk into a couch across the table from Contreras.
"Seriously, Bob, it's an honor to have the head of the Chamber of
Manufacturers here.  I wish we could have set up something more formal
--- we can call up food service, because the only stuff we have here
are stale tortillas, salsa, and beer."

Contreras spread his hands.  "Beer, beer is great, Popo."

Moctezuma motioned over to Chewy.  "Hey, Chewy, bring us some beers,
wouldja?  Thanks.  Say, Bob, have you met my right-hand man, Chewy
Enciso?  Nothing would get done around here without this guy."
Moctezuma half-stood to get the two bottles of Montejo beer, Yucatán's
best.  [5]

Contreras nodded, "Nice to meet you, Chewy."  He popped open the beer
cap against the tabletop.  [6]  "I'm sorry I had reschedule the
meeting, Capitán.  There was a major duck-kicking in the Monticello
customs district:  I was stuck on the phone with government officials
all day yesterday trying to sort it all out.  I really do apologize."
[7]

Moctezuma waved his hands.  "That's all right, no problem at all."
Neither of the two seated men noticed the glance that flickered
between Andy Gendrop and Chewy Enciso.  "The campaign, well, we really
appreciate and need the support of the Chamber."  Another glance
between the two, and a half-smile on Gendrop's face.  "After all,
you're the men who make Mexico go round."

Contreras, never one to reject praise, took a little half-bow.  Well,
a quarter bow --- he was sitting down.  "Thank you for the
complement!"  He took a sip of his beer.  "I've got good news.  Our
bean counters have been over your tax reform proposal with a
fine-tooth comb, y we're going to support it."  He smiled.  "Even
though we'll wind up paying more in taxes."

Moctezuma wasn't quite sure how to take this.  "Uhhhhhh ... thank you?
 We've put a lot of thought into the proposal, and it should save you
money."

Contreras nodded.  "Oh, it does!  Finally, a tax code that a
businessman might actually be able to _follow_ without bankrupting
himself.  I was surprised, actually, at the detail of the proposal."

Moctezuma waved a hand over at Gendrop.  "You can thank Andy for that.
 We want everything on the table, so the people know what they're
voting for."  [8]

"I couldn't agree with you more."  Contreras took another sip of his
beer.  "Which is the other reason I'm here.  I can assure you that
you'll have the Chamber's official endorsement, but I'd also like to
make you a proposal."

"Which is?"  Moctezuma leaned forward in his seat.

"It's a simple proposal, de verdad.  A large chunk of our industry,
particularly capital goods producers, is owned by the federal
government.  These factories are losing money hand over fist, y the
production that they keep dumping on the domestic market is killing
private producers.  We'd like to you to include a campaign plank
calling for the sale of those factories, y the establishment of a
federally-administered sinking fund --- paid for by members of the
Chamber --- to help displaced workers find new jobs."  In a repeat of
the language he'd been using successfully in speech after speech,
Contreras continued, "Everybody wins.  The government saves money.
The workers get the chance to exercise their talents where it would do
the most good.  The economy is strengthened.  That's the Mexican way!"

Moctezuma leaned back.  "Interesting idea, Bob.  Would you mind if we
took some time to study it?"

Contreras nodded.  "Sure, sure, claro."  He seemed slightly, but only
slightly, discomfitted with Moctezuma's dry reaction.

Moctezuma wasn't a good politician for nothing --- he picked up on
Contreras's surpirse immediately.  "I promise you that we'll take a
good look at it.  It sounds like a great idea.  It certainly fits in
with the rest of our platform." He glanced at Andy, and received an
oh-so-slight nod in return.  "In fact, I'm almost certain that I can
mention the plan in a stump speech sometime in the future.  But let my
staff work on it first."

Now Contreras seemed to relax.  "That would be great."

"Of course!  We're always looking for good ideas, especially from our
supporters."

"I'm glad you're interested," said Contreras.  Moctezuma nodded
vigorously.  "I'll have my people at the Chamber send you a more
detailed proposal.  Not exactly ready-for-legislation, but something
you can sink your teeth into."

Moctezuma now repeated Contreras's words.  "That would be great!"

"No, thank you.  Y Popo, if there is _anything_ we can do to help the
campaign, please don't hesitate to ask."

"The Chamber has been a great help already."  Sensing that Contreras
had said his piece, Moctezuma started to stand.  Contreras followed.
The two big men shook hands, typical Jeffersonian wrestling contest,
and grinned.  "I'll see you in Henrytown in two weeks, Bob?"

"But of course."  Grinning, almost ebullient, Contreras cocked his
head at his assistant and said, "Ho, César, vámonos.  Nos vemos,
Capitán!"

"Nos vemos."  The Candidate waved at the departing businessman.  Once
the door had shut, he turned back to Gendrop and Enciso.  "What was
that all about?"

Gendrop answered.  "Quid for the quo, patrón.  He already knew you
were going to push tax reform.  The Chamber wasn't going to donate
money to you to do something you'd already promised to do, not when
your election is almost a sure thing.  Tú y yo know why we want the
biggest possible vote margin, but they couldn't care less.  What they
want is for you to mention that privatization idea."

The Candidate nodded.  "Yaaaaaah-bah.  I'll mention it, but he has to
know I won't push it."

Gendrop shrugged.  "Maybe not, patrón.  Remember Rodríguez?  He did
what the Mapmaker wanted, and Congress jumped.  Contreras is too young
to remember what real legislative politics looks like.  He thinks that
talking to you is as good as talking to our beloved Secretary of War,
and that once the Secretary approves of something you'll snap your
fingers and make it happen."

"Andy, you and I are both also too young to remember what real
legislative politics looks like, and we've had no problem.  This guy
sounds like an idiot three times over.  Once for thinking I can do
things without horse-trading with Congress, twice for not figuring out
_why_ I've solicited donations from his group, and thrice for thinking
that Mercator would ever approve of this half-baked idea."

Chewy spoke up.  "It isn't that half-baked, sir.  It makes sense."

Gendrop took the ball.  "In theory, maybe.  Not when you think about
how many of Mercator's old cronies have carved out their little
empires in those companies.  Anyway, there are a lot more important
problems to fix than a few inefficient factories here and there."

The Candidate nodded.  "That's right.  This man may be a great
businessman, but he doesn't understand politics.  Whatever.  Chewy,
write a mention of the proposal into my next speech.  I couldn't care:
 it gives me something more to trade away with Congress.  Andy, if we
a get a call about this from You-Know-Who, assure him it's all hot
air.  _Don't_ let a single staffer start trying to write this up into
a serious proposal:  we're not ready to stomp that hard on the
Mapmaker's toes quite yet."

Silence meant concurrence.  "Okay, minds have met," said Moctezuma.
"What the fuck is next?"

[1]  In OTL, Mexican presidents lived in the Castillo de Chapultepec
until the 1940s.  In the FANTL, Chapultepec Castle remains the
president's residence.  A "Russian mountain" is what Mexicans call a
roller-coaster.  I should probably mention here that Los Pinos, the
OTL executive residence of the Mexican president, is indeed located
right next to a roller coaster and amusement park.  No one seems to
consider that symbolic, however.

[1a]  During Mercator's interregnum, the Mexico Tribunal generally
steered clear of "national security" issues, but did not hesitate to
shoot down non-security related measures.

United States Boulevard runs along (roughly) the route of OTL's Paseo
de la Reforma and Avenida Juárez.  Constitution Plaza is known as the
Zócalo in OTL.  Unlike OTL, it has trees, grass, and plenty of park
benches.  The National Palace (Palacio Nacional in OTL) houses both
chambers of Congress in _very_ cramped quarters instead of the
Treasury Department.  OTL's Supreme Court building does not exist.
Instead, the Mexico Tribunal meets in an impressive neo-Aztec building
located on the site of Bellas Artes in OTL.  OTL's Eje Central (also
known as Bulevar Lázaro Cárdenas), which runs north-south past Bellas
Artes, is called Andrew Jackson Boulevard and is slightly narrower and
far more pleasant than the OTL corridor.  That is, it is pleasanter if
you discount the pyramids lining it, which resemble the product of
someone trying to design Art Deco edifices on a crack high.

[1b]  It is also why the Department of War buildings, located right
south of the district line in the suburb of Coyoacán, Chiapas, are
hugely taller and more impressive than anything inside the Capital
District.  Sure, Mercator originally wanted the height limit, but once
he was shot down he decided to take advantage of the opportunity to
relocate the War Department.  The symbolism was too good to pass up.

From the air, then, Greater Mexico City has two rascacielo districts.
One is the commercial center, in the city of Chapultapec right
northwest of the district on roughly the site of OTL's Polanco.  The
second is the collection of DOW buildings to the south on exactly the
site of OTL's UNAM.

Coyoacán's historic center is exactly as cute as OTL, but lacks the
crowds of hippies selling tchotchkas in Plaza Hidalgo.  Instead, it
has old war veterans smoking mota and watching the yuppies walk by in
what's called Coyoacán Square.

The rest of the suburbs sprawl indisguishably, and the city closely
resembles OTL's Denver with even worse smog.

[2]  Also, of course, the national anthem of the United Kingdom of
England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and Newfoundland.  Few Mexicans
consider the U.K. to be an actual country, not deep down where it
counts.  Ditto the Kingdom of Australia and the Confederation of New
Zealand.  They're all just "Tories," even to people who should know
better.

[2a]  The Chamber of Manufacturers has just written a very large check
to Moctezuma's campaign.  Moctezuma has been trying hard to insure
that he is not dependent on Progressive Party funds for his
organization, since Mercator controls that.  Moctezuma's successful
attempts at obtaining financial freedom have been worrying the
Mapmaker.

[3]  Elevator, of course.  "Lift" in the CNA.  North Americans dispute
the Mexican claim, but it is true that the largest ascensor
manufacturers in the world started in Mexico.  Which may have
something to do with the fact that Mexico is the home of the
rascacielo, with more and taller office towers per capita than
anywhere else.  The world's first tallest building is in Henrytown,
the third tallest is in San Francisco.  The second-tallest is the
Kramerica building in Michigan City, Indiana.

[4]  In the USM, using a military title is not considered particularly
formal.

[5]  Montejo is an actual brand of beer in Mexico:  I recommend it.  I
would also recom-mend "Indio" and "Casta."  Those brands, however, DO
NOT exist in the USM:  both words are about as incendiary as "n----r."
 "Indian" or, increasingly, "indígena" are the politically-correct
terms for "indio" in the USM.  There is no politically-correct term
for "casta," which in the USM implies a descendent of runaway slaves.
(It's OTL connotation is different in South America, and the word is
almost meaningless in Mexico.  "Indio," by the way, has a bad
connotation even in OTL, and the existance of a beer brand with the
name is a sign of how politically incorrect the culture is:  the
equivalent would be those Sambo brand cigarettes they sold in the U.S.
back in the 1930s.  Recognizably offensive, but no one really cares
about the group being offended.)

[6]  It would be unimaginable for the head of a major chamber of
commerce in the CNA to be drinking beer from a bottle in the presence
of Governor-General Monaghan, let alone be popping the tops off
against a glass table in a fancy hotel.

[7]  Coincidence?  You decide!

[8]  What he actually wants is an undeniable mandate that he can use
to arm-twist Progressive Party hacks in Congress.