Mexico’s Season of Scandal and Violence

December 12, 2014

12/11/2014 Bloomberg Businessweek

Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP - Getty Images

Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP – Getty Images

Mexico has been engulfed in protests since the disappearance and alleged murder of 43 college students by a drug gang. While he contends with the unrest, President Enrique Peña Nieto also faces a big challenge to his economic agenda because of a scandal involving his wife, former soap opera star Angélica Rivera, and Grupo Higa, a government contractor.

On Nov. 3, the Peña Nieto administration awarded a $4.3 billion contract to build a high-speed railway to a group led by China Railway Construction (601186:CH). Three days later the government canceled the deal, citing general “doubts and concerns.” On Nov. 9, reporters led by prominent journalist Carmen Aristegui revealed that Rivera had agreed in 2012 to purchase an opulent property—called the White House because of its color—from a unit of Higa, a partner in the winning China-led bid. Aristegui’s team further revealed that the Higa unit still held the deed to the house. In response, the first lady said on YouTube that she’d paid 14.3 million pesos ($995,000) of the 54 million-peso purchase price. So the first lady’s mansion is owned by a construction company that has bid successfully for government contracts.

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New Publication: Fostering Innovation in Mexico

December 10, 2014

Innovation2Mexicans are creative and entrepreneurial. Some of the world’s most notable and widely-used technologies have their roots in Mexico. Mexican chemist, Luis Miramontes, for instance, co-invented the progestin used in the first contraceptive pills. Mexican engineer, Guillermo González Camarena received the world’s first patent for the color television. And Mexican writer, Victor Celorio invented InstaBook, the technology that produces a perfect-bound book in one step and just two minutes. Mexico has a fine tradition of science and innovation, and President Enrique Peña Nieto is right to say, “Mexico should recognize, value, and take advantage of the great value of our human resources.” It is the Mexican entrepreneur that has been and will continue to be the strength of the nation’s economy and the driver of innovation.

To increase understanding of the benefits and challenges of innovation and to aid in the development of policy recommendations that encourage innovation in Mexico, the Mexico Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars held a High-Level Innovation Forum for Policymakers in November 2013. The forum covered several topics related to innovation, including: entrepreneurship, financing innovative businesses, regulation, spillovers between universities and companies and the role of small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Questions examined at the forum included: How has the global economy changed, and what does it mean for innovation? How should we be thinking about innovation? What conditions are necessary for innovation to thrive? How can we attract greater investment for innovation activities? What types of government policies and regulations can strengthen innovation? How can we better integrate science and technology into practical applications? What are the barriers to innovation, and how can we overcome them? This publication summarizes the main themes of the conference and highlights some lessons learned. The purpose of this paper is to aid in ongoing dialogue, the next stage of which will take place in Washington, DC in November, 2014 (The publication is available both in English and Spanish).

Read the publication here.


Innovation in Mexico: Can Media Lab S21 Expand Spanish Language Communication?

December 8, 2014

12/4/14 Wilson Center CONTEXT

The MIT Media Lab has set the standard for creating “disruptive technologies” that lead to innovation. A new start up project, Mexico Media Lab S21, is attempting to achieve similar success in the areas of communication, technology, and innovation. Its founder, a former journalist, sees an opportunity to increase Spanish language content on the web, not only in Mexico, but globally as well.

Click here to watch the video.

Read the Mexico Institute‘s newest publication Fostering Innovation in Mexico.

Guests
Nicholas Negroponte is founder and chairman of the One Laptop per Child non-profit association. He was co-founder and director of the MIT Media Lab, and the Jerome B. Wiesner Professor of Media Technology. A graduate of MIT, Negroponte was a pioneer in the field of computer-aided design, and has been a member of the MIT faculty since 1966. Conceived in 1980, the Media Lab opened its doors in 1985. He is also author of the 1995 best seller, Being Digital, which has been translated into more than 40 languages. In the private sector, Negroponte serves on the board of directors for Motorola, Inc. and as general partner in a venture capital firm specializing in digital technologies for information and entertainment. He has provided start-up funds for more than 40 companies, including Wired magazine.

Rossana Fuentes-Berain is the founder of Start Up Mexico Media Lab S21, a media lab dedicated to studying communication among those that will define the 21st century. Prior to her current role, which she began in September 2014, she was the editorial vice president of Grupo Expansión. Before becoming vice president, Fuentes-Berain worked as the director of the opinion section in El Universal, the assistant director for research and special affairs in the newspaper Reforma, and the first female editor of the business section in El Financiero. She has coauthored a number of books and has written for international newspapers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post, among others. Fuentes-Berain has worked in television as a host for Televisa’s Contrapunto and as a professor at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM). Additionally, she was a founder and member of the Editorial Board of Foreign Affairs Latinoamérica (formerly known as Foreign Affairs en español).


China plans to bid again for Mexico high-speed rail project

December 2, 2014

12/01/01 Reuters

Train Tracks by HeraldicosChina plans to tender again for Mexico’s $3.75 billion high-speed rail project after the Latin American nation abruptly canceled its earlier win, one of the firms in a Chinese-led consortium that had bid and a source close to the bid said. Mexico revoked the contract awarded to the consortium made up of China Railway Construction Corp, CSR Corp and four other Mexican firms on Nov. 7 after opposition lawmakers claimed it was fixed. The consortium’s bid was uncontested..

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Mexico October factory exports soar by most in five-years

November 26, 2014

11/26/14 Reuters 

Reuters/Tomas Bravo

Reuters/Tomas Bravo

Mexican factory exports expanded by the most in over five years last month while consumer imports also rose, in a sign that a recovery in Latin America’s No. 2 economy may be gaining steam. Factory exports jumped 5.38 percent in October from September in seasonally adjusted terms off a contraction the prior month, the national statistics agency said on Wednesday, marking its biggest jump since August 2009. The rise was fueled by a 8.5 percent increase in auto exports, its best showing since February, and a 3.93 increase in non-auto factory exports. Most of Mexico’s exports are manufactured goods and nearly 80 percent of its exports are sent to the United States.

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Russia, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Venezuela decide not to cut oil production

November 26, 2014

11/25/14 RT 

Oil barrelsDelegations from Russia, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Venezuela have met for the first time in such a format for talks in Vienna to discuss rapidly dropping oil prices. The group agreed to monitor prices for a year. The energy ministers have not agreed upon cutting oil production, as such agreements can only be reached during OPEC meetings, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister Rafael Ramirez said following the talks held at the Park Hyatt in Vienna on Tuesday. He added that the group also believes the current oil prices are too low, and named a fair price at $100 per barrel.

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Will Scandals In Mexico Dampen Investment?

November 25, 2014

11/25/14 Forbes

bridge with trafficThe past few months have been a difficult time for Mexico. In a recent article for the World Politics Review I explained, “Autumn has been a difficult season for Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. Public furor has erupted into sustained and sometimes violent protests over the disappearance of 43 students in the rural southwestern state of Guerrero. Long one of Mexico’s poorest, most crime-ridden and isolated states, Guerrero had not been a priority for Pena Nieto’s administration, which has focused tirelessly on promoting the image of a modern and efficient Mexico to foreign investors.”  Although 2014 has marked a number of successful economic reforms and an uptick in economic growth, Mexico’s autumn has been sullied by scandals.

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