May 10, 2013
By George E. Condon Jr., National Journal, 5/9/2013
President George W. Bush was the picture of confidence as he sat in the Roosevelt Room talking to a small group of reporters about the upcoming visit of Mexican President Vicente Fox. Sipping on a Diet Coke and loudly crunching ice on this September day in 2001, Bush proclaimed the start of a new era in U.S. relations with its neighbor to the south. “The United States has no more important relationship in the world than the one we have with Mexico,” he declared firmly. Seven days later, terrorists struck in New York City and Washington, and that relationship suddenly didn’t seem quite as important as the alliances with countries ready to send troops to support American aims. U.S.-Mexico was shoved unceremoniously into the background. And Fox, who did not back the U.S. at the United Nations when Bush wanted to go to war with Iraq, found he could no longer get his phone calls returned by the White House.
It was a dramatic reminder that events—more than even presidents—set agendas. And it is a lesson with some relevance to President Obama, who traveled to Mexico last week and repeated some of the now-expected promises to elevate U.S.-Mexican relations in the foreign policy hierarchy. No one doubts the president’s sincerity. He understands the growing importance of trade with Mexico and with the Central American countries, whose leaders he met with last week in Costa Rica. In fact, a main purpose of the trip was to shift attention from the issues of drug cartels, crime, and violence that dominated earlier hemispheric summits. That repositioning came even amid indications that newly elected Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is reconsidering some security cooperation with the United States.
March 15, 2013
On March 14, 2013, Duncan Wood, Director of the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute, testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere. The hearing, titled “U.S. Energy Security: Enhancing Partnerships with Mexico and Canada,” included a discussion of the Keystone XL pipeline and the Transboundary Hydrocarbons Agreement.
To watch the archive hearing video, click HERE.
The full text of his statement is available HERE.
March 12, 2013
By Roderic Camp
An analysis of cabinet leadership in Mexico has always provided insights into political recruitment trends for the policy-making leadership in general. This essay briefly analyzes the backgrounds of the twenty-two cabinet secretaries and important cabinet-level agencies, and the president, and compares them with equivalent leadership, where appropriate, from three prior presidential periods. Those consist of the cabinet members from the pre-democratic era, 1935-1988, from the democratic transition, 1988-2000, and from the democratic era, 2000-2013.
March 12, 2013
The Wall Street Journal, 3/11/2013
The monopoly powers of two of Mexico’s richest businessmen, one being Carlos Slim, are coming under fire with a broad set of new laws that aim to open up the telecommunications and television businesses to competition.
The plans, announced on Monday by the president, are aimed principally at Mr. Slim’s telephone giant, América Móvil SAB, and Mexico’s leading broadcaster, Grupo Televisa TLEVISA.MX , which each control 70% of their respective markets. The proposal calls for the creation of a new telecommunications regulator that would be able to order asset sales by companies that dominate a market, and limit companies’ ability to stall competition through endless litigation.
March 12, 2013
AULA Blog, 3/11/2013
During the campaign, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto proclaimed in thousands of advertisements, “Me comprometo y cumplo” – I make a promise and I keep it. Offering a list of potentially transformative reforms – regulations, security, telecommunications, energy, and more – he began with one of the most intractable: the struggling public education system. In December, at his instigation, the Mexican congress passed a constitutional reform to create stricter standards for teachers and move hiring authority from the teachers’ union to the government. Enough states had ratified the amendment by the end of February to make it law.
After years of stagnation and interest-group politics, education reform suddenly became politically expedient, passing with support from the PRI, PAN, and PRD. Last week, the government put an exclamation point on the reform by arresting the teachers’ union boss, Elba Esther Gordillo, on charges of using her post for illicit gains surpassing $100 million. A PRI apostate whose opposing alliance was credited with helping former President Felipe Calderón win his razor-thin victory in 2006, she was not just expendable, but an obstacle.
March 1, 2013
World Politics Review, 2/28/2013
Elba Esther Gordillo, the leader of the most powerful teachers union in Mexico, was arrested earlier this week on suspicion of embezzling millions in union funds for personal expenses, including paying for private property and plastic surgery.
The arrest of the Gordillo, known throughout Mexico simply as “La Maestra,” or “The Teacher” and previously seen as being above the law, came a day after Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto signed a sweeping educational reform that the union she led had opposed. …
February 22, 2013
The Economist, 2/22/2013
Until recently it seemed that nothing would disturb the international consensus that the best way to deal with narcotic and psychotropic drugs is to ban them. Codified in a United Nations convention, this policy has proved impervious to decades of failure. Drug consumption has not, in most parts of the world, fallen. Prohibition inflicts appalling damage, through the spread of organized crime, the needless deaths of addicts exposed to adulterated drugs and the mass incarceration of young men.
Now a whiff of change is in the air. Officials in two American states, Colorado and Washington, are pondering how to implement their voters’ decisions in referendums last November to legalize marijuana (cannabis). A dozen countries in Europe and the Americas have deemed the possession of some drugs no longer to be a criminal offense. A few Latin American presidents want a rethink of the “war” on the supply and trafficking of drugs.
February 15, 2013
The Mexico Institute’s “Weekly News Summary,” released every Friday afternoon, summarizes the week’s most prominent Mexico headlines published in the English-language press, as well as the most engaging opinion pieces by Mexican columnists.
What the English-language press had to say…
This week, the Peña Nieto administration unveiled its new strategy to combat organized crime, promising the creation of a 10,000-strong gendarmerie by year’s end, as well as $9.2 billion for social programs aimed at the country’s most violent towns and neighborhoods. Mexico’s booming auto industry surpassed tourism and oil exports to become the nation’s main source of foreign exchange. The government’s efforts to transform the Mexican narrative of violence into one of prosperity and social development, however, continued to suffer setbacks following the rape of six Spanish tourists in Acapulco last week. Auto defensa vigilante groups in the state of Guerrero continued to hold over forty people accused of several crimes hostage. North of the border, talk of comprehensive immigration reform continued, with critics warning against conditioning reform efforts on the poorly defined notion of securing the border, which Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano added, has “never been stronger.”
Read the rest of this entry »
February 15, 2013
The Economist, 2/14/2013
LAST summer Enrique Peña Nieto’s determined face stared down from election posters, promising Mexicans: “You know I will deliver.” Just over 38% of voters were convinced, enough to hand him the presidency. Since his inauguration on December 1st he has indeed delivered several new policies and reforms—just not the ones voters and pundits expected.
During the campaign Mr Peña’s aides in the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) said that before Christmas of 2012 there would be a fiscal reform to increase the government’s meagre tax revenues. That would be swiftly followed by a shake-up of the energy industry to give a competitive nudge to Pemex, the state-run oil and gas monopoly, at whose headquarters a suspected gas explosion killed 38 people on January 31st. Mr Peña’s critics retorted that he was a puppet of special interests, such as the teachers’ union and powerful broadcasters.