February 12, 2014
Journalist Ioan Grillo described Michoacán as bizarre scene, where autodefensas and criminal groups vie for control of towns and municipios. In their wake, they leave an atmosphere reminiscent of what occurs in the aftermath of life altering events such as massive social upheaval or a natural disaster. He described cartel violence in Mexico as clandestine. Killings occur, the perpetrators disappear, and the poison remains mostly hidden. In Michoacán, however, the poison has surfaced.
Dudley Althaus noted that portraying Mexico as a failed state at the national level would be inaccurate and exaggerated, but mentioned that Michoacán could in fact be viewed as a failed state. Althaus points to the lack of action from the government at both the local and federal level as an underlying cause of the rise of the autodefensas. “In Michoacan, the police don’t police and the prosecutors don’t prosecute. The autodefensas have filled a void left by the government” said Althaus.
Both journalists shed light on the composition and structure of the movement. Althaus noted that many participants in these groups are young men originally from Michoacán who have spent substantial time in the U.S. as migrants (many with ties to gangs), and have now returned to Mexico. Grillo noted that they have armed themselves with weapons purchased in the U.S., and many are supported by wealthy farmers and businessmen who have chosen to invest in them, rather than acquiesce to the extortion tactics of organized crime.
Grillo and Althaus each expressed their concern about the rise of the movement and its ultimate goals. Dudley indicated that the government now seemed to be pursuing a strategy of “If you can’t beat them, enlist them” referencing the recent decision to register weapons and individuals who are participating in the movement. Grillo noted the challenges this poses for the government by creating an impossible situation where direct conflict, disarmament, and ignorance all represent ineffective strategies for addressing the movement.
To listen to the entire podcast, go here.
February 11, 2014
Latin American Policy Journal, 2013
In the last few years, Mexico has been living a very complex public security situation. For decades, criminal organizations were allowed to grow and gain strength, which seriously affected the lives of ordinary citizens in towns and cities across Mexico. But in few parts of the country had the situation reached such dramatic levels as in Ciudad Juarez. Crime and violence here grew systematically, due to three main factors: First, the expansion of criminal organizations as they diversified their main line of business from exporting illegal drugs to the U.S. to retail sales of drugs in Mexico. Second, was the weakness of local law enforcement agencies and third, a serious weakening of the social fabric.
February 5, 2014
The Internet, modern transportation systems, supply chains, climate change, and transnational groups from criminal syndicates to nongovernmental organizations all confound boundaries set down on a map. As a result, managing our borders in a way that balances security with commerce, enforcement with freedom of movement, and now the physical with the virtual world has become even more difficult. Unfortunately, much of the U.S. debate about border management still dwells on the southern border and the interdiction of undocumented immigrants and contraband.
That’s important, but the larger and more demanding task the U.S. faces is to build a border management system suited to the complexities of the 21st century. Here are some of the challenges that must be overcome:
A foreign-flagged vessel carrying containers from China to Los Angeles, one of several hundred a day that form a critical link in global supply chains, notifies the U.S. Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection of its arrival 96 hours in advance. En route, a satellite-based system tracks the ship’s position, course and speed. The vessel’s history, its owner, cargo and other information are vetted against databases for anomalies. If necessary, the vessel is held offshore until it is boarded, or met by inspectors at the dock. Containers are subject to random inspections and detection technologies, but few are actually inspected. In most cases, the analysis of shipping information constitutes the virtual clearance of the cargo into the country — a balance of security and trade that informs a new vision of the border.
February 4, 2014
Mexico’s energy reforms will create “abundant opportunities” for U.S. energy companies and shrink the socioeconomic disparities between Texas’ booming metro areas and its border cities, according to the latest BBVA Compass research. “The 2013 reform promises to create abundant opportunities for private companies that have the technology and expertise to revive Mexico’s hydrocarbons and electricity industries,” BBVA Compass economist Marcial Nava wrote in his report on the reforms.
Under the reform, the state would retain ownership of hydrocarbons beneath the surface and Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) and Comision Federal de Electricidad (CFE) would not be privatized. However, the new legal framework would allow the ownership of hydrocarbons at the wellhead through profit-sharing, production sharing and license sharing contracts. BBVA Compass estimates that the reform could increase private direct investment inflows into Mexico by $20 billion to $30 billion per year, or 1.5 to 2.3 percent of Mexico’s gross domestic product. While secondary laws are still needed to translate the reforms into a workable framework and legal processes, U.S. oilfield services, shale gas and infrastructure companies, among others, stand to benefit from the reforms, Nava said in the Jan. 22 report.
February 3, 2014
The Wall Street Journal, 1/31/14
Mexico’s Finance Ministry said Thursday it believed the economy continued its recovery in the fourth quarter, growing 1.5% from a year before on greater external and domestic demand. In its quarterly report on public finances, the ministry said the increase would bring full-year 2013 growth to 1.3%, which is the slowest expansion since the 2009 recession.
A sluggish first half in the U.S. limited demand for Mexican exports, particularly of manufactured goods, while government spending delays following a change of administration contributed to the slump in the Mexican construction industry.
February 3, 2014
NY Times, 1/31/14
President Obama and his allies may soon confront a difficult decision: whether to abandon the creation of a new path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants and accept tough border security and enforcement measures that they have long criticized.
Those are some of the concessions that Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio signaled he would demand in exchange for a willingness to overhaul the immigration system. Mr. Boehner outlined those standards in a one-page document released on Thursday, and if they lead to legislation, Democrats and immigration advocates will be pressured to compromise. Mr. Obama hinted in an interview broadcast on Friday that he was open to a plan that would initially give many undocumented workers a legal status short of citizenship, as long as they were not permanently barred from becoming citizens.
January 29, 2014
International Business Times, 1/28/14
Americans are feeling rather ambivalent about comprehensive immigration reform being the absolute priority issue for President Barack Obama and the U.S Congress this year. Instead, 91 percent of those surveyed in a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll believe job creation should take that spot. If the president plans to hit replay on his 2013 State of the Union (SOTU) address in which the economy and job creation to help bolster the middle class were his main focus — Obama called that the “North Star” guiding policymaking — then his speech before Congress tonight should resonate with the public.
Only 39 percent believe passing immigration reform legislation should be of absolute priority. 42 percent say the issues can be delayed until next year. By comparison, only 4 percent believe creating jobs should be delayed a year, according to the poll.
January 28, 2014
Oil & Gas Journal, 1/27/14
International oil and gas companies keenly await more details as Mexico’s Congress drafts and debates secondary laws to implement its recently passed energy reforms. Opinions vary on whether Mexico can meet the deadlines it scheduled for secondary laws and the creation of various regulatory groups. On Dec. 21, 2013, Mexico’s sweeping energy reform became law, representing the most significant overhaul of Mexico’s oil, gas, and electric industries since 1938. Many ambiguities have yet to be resolved, various energy attorneys and consultants told Oil & Gas Journal.
Secondary legislation will stipulate contract logistics and tax reforms as Mexico ends the state-owned monopolies of oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) and electric company Comision Federal de Electricidad (CFE). Companies outside Pemex are to be allowed to participate in exploration and production activities, breaking the decades-old Pemex monopoly. The reforms also will allow direct private investment in Mexico’s midstream and downstream.
January 28, 2014
Financial Times, 1/26/14
The Knights Templar – the Mexican government’s top security concern – are not your run-of-the-mill drug cartel. Like many successful companies, the group that takes its name from a 12th century order of knights has kept its core business while diversifying into more money-spinning avenues – mining and iron ore export.
“We are talking about an organisation with a model of operation that is sui generis, different to that of organisations dedicated to drugs trafficking,” says Alfredo Castillo, named by Enrique Peña Nieto, the president, this month as security commissioner for the western state of Michoacán, where mounting clashes between the Templars and vigilante militias have pushed the state to the brink of civil war. That has also meant honing a corporate culture, investing in community relations and negotiating official red tape, in their own fashion. In one video aired last year, for example, Servando Gómez, the Templar leader, is seen referring to the cartel’s “statutes” and code of conduct – which includes, he says, the death penalty for the worst transgressions.