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For All Nails, pt. 68:  She's Got Legs

May 25th, 1972

Mexico City, C.D.

Immanuel Moctezuma was, well, it was hard to say.  When a heterosexual
man is confronted with a beautiful but completely unavailable woman,
is that cause for happiness or unhappiness?

Maria del Rey sat across from him in the Calles Room of Chapultepec
Castle.  The room was well-lit, but panelled in very dark wood, and
that gave it a romantic atmosphere.  Which was just what Del Rey
wanted, of course, and Moctezuma did not.  She was a former film and
vita estrella.  And she was wearing an incredibly short pinstriped
business suit, the skirt-jacket whatchamallit thingy barely reached
her _thighs_, let alone her knees, the navy blue looked almost black
against her pale white skin ...

Must ... stop ... noticing, thought the President of the United
States, with lust in his heart.

"The workers of my state are very concerned about the Clean Air bill,
Mr. President," purred the head of the Senate Commerce Committee,
hand-picked by Mercator to run for the Senate from México Central in
1965 and easily re-elected in 1971.

For a second, Moctezuma's envy of Del Rey's husband was outmatched by
his envy of every Mexican president before 1950 --- they had to deal
with Congress under rules-of-order written by General Jackson.  The
Constitution made the President the president of the Senate, and
Jackson's rules gave the president agenda control.  But the
Constitution also gave the Senate the power to write its own rules,
and the Senate had done just that at the beginning of 1972.  In a
blatant power play, lame-duck Domínguez had signed off on the reform.
Now a committee chairman could block a bill from getting the floor.

Ah, nothing like thoughts of parliamentary procedure to break the
spell!  No wonder Mercator had picked this woman.  She could charm the
red off an apple.  Wait, he thought, that makes no sense.  Focus.

"They have no reason to be, Senator," said the President.  "The costs
of the Clean Air Act are minimal, and the benefits immense.  In your
state alone, the value of the reduction in the incidence of
bronchitis, other contamination-related illnesses, and lost work days
comes to billions of dólares."  He paused and leaned forward.  "It's a
vote winner, Senator."

Del Rey shifted her chair, tugging her skirt slightly down over her
crossed thighs.  "Tell that to the locomobile workers in Tenancingo
and Orizaba, Mr. President."

Moctezuma leaned back again, trying to concentrate on the Senator's
face, or her legs, or those stockingless feet in the high-heeled
sandals.  "Senator, the additional cost of contamination-control
equipment comes to less than 4,000 dólares per vehicle, and the Tax
Reform Acts includes tax credits that lets the loke companies write
off most of that expense.  The chance of job losses is nil.  In fact,
some studies even predict that employment will rise."  [1]

The Senator just smiled.  Oh, what a smile.  That was a million-dólar
smile, back when a million dólares was real money.  "I'm sorry, Mr.
President, but I don't believe in those studies."

"Puebla is one of the most polluted cities in Mexico, Senator del Rey.
 Córboda, Tulancingo, and Gusher aren't far behind.  Not to mention
your constituents in the Mexico City suburbs.  That's a lot of votes."
 [2]

"That may be, Mr. President, but let's take a look at the Tax Reform
bill again.  It increases the excises on alcohol and vulcazine.
That's a direct blow to the breweries and petroleum refineries in my
state.  How can you ask me to vote for both the Clean Air Act and Tax
Reform?"  She smiled that smile again.  "My constituents would never
forgive me."

El Popo shifted in his chair.  What was she angling for?  "I
understand your worries, Senator."  Lessee, she was a Mercator ally,
practically a Mercator creation ... "Mexico needs cleaner air, and
Mexico needs tax reform," and both are popular, you b---h, he didn't
say, "but both bills are only part of my Progressive Reform package
and there is plenty of room to compromise."  In other words, make me
an offer.

Maria del Rey had survived in the cutthroat world of the Mexican
entertainment business.  Mexico City was no-sweat after years in
Cancún.  She smiled again.  "Well, yes, there is.  You know that the
coffee and sugar growers of my state have been suffering under Cuban,
Guatemalan, and New Granadan competition.  Workers in those countries
earn practically nothing," not quite true for New Granada's prosperous
coffee growers, but true enough for Guatemala, "and that's a blow to
good, hard-working tax-paying Mexicans."

"Aaaaah-haaah.  You realize, of course, that all three of those
countries are our long-standing allies?"

"Yes, of course, but how you can claim to care about national security
when part of your Progressive Reform package includes loosening our
export controls?"

She was beautiful, she had legs, she had that incredibly sexy page-boy
haircut, she was playing on the fact that Moctezuma the stolid widower
hadn't touched a woman in ten years, and she was a brilliant
politician.  Moctezuma's admiration --- obviously biased --- only
grew.

He leaned back and laughed.  "You, you're good, Senator!"  She blinked
at the sudden familiarity, and the smile grew.  "Gaaaaah baah.  You
want tariff reform, right?  Protection for coffee and sugar?  That
won't make Mercator happy, and you know it, so you also want the
export controls kept.  In return, you help me pass Clean Air and Tax
Reform."

Del Rey tugged at her skirt again.  "Well, Mr. President, I can't say
that I know what the Secretary wants or doesn't want," she lied, "but
I do believe in prosperity for Mexican farmers and security for the
Mexican people.  That means keeping cheap foreign sugar out and
advanced Mexican technology in."

"Right.  I see."  He laughed.  "How many Senators have signed on to
the tariff idea, Maria?"

"Let's see now.  All four from my home state, all four from Hawaii,
the two senior members from Durango, and three from, well, three from
your home state, Mr. President."  She smiled.  "Did I mention the
travails of the textile industry?"  [3]

"Thirteen senators?  Quite a voting block.  Well, how does this sound
to you, Senator?  I won't openly support tariff revision, but you have
my word that I won't veto it.  I also won't push export controls,
we'll let that bill die in committee.  In return, you do what's
already in your own political interest to do, and pass Clean Air and
Tax Reform.  Do we have a deal?"

"We do indeed, Mr. President," replied Senator del Rey.  She stood up
and stuck out her hand.  Moctezuma stood and grabbed it.  For such a
slim woman, she had a hell of grip.  Looking him right in the eyes,
she added, "It was a pleasure, and I look forward to a long and
productive relationship."

El Popo looked back, their gazes holding for a heartbeat to long.  "Me
too, Senator, me too."

And with that, Immanuel Moctezuma made a deal that he, and Mexico,
would dearly come to regret in the decade ahead.

[1]  No comment on those studies, but for comparisons sake, the
average price of a new car in Mexico in 1972 is 160,000 dólares.

[2]  Gusher, México Central, is OTL's Poza Rica, Veracruz.

[3]  FANTL Chiapas is a major coffee producer, but coffee's importance
is dwarfed by the huge, if declining, textile industry in the state.
Textile production began moving to Chiapas in the late 19th century in
search of lower wages.  By 1972, the industry is being decimated by
Guatemalan competition, as wages have risen dramatically in Chiapas.