Op-ed: Defining Border Security

February 11, 2013

Border fenceBy Eric Olson and Christopher Wilson, Politico, 2/10/2013

The recent announcements by President Barack Obama and a bipartisan group of senators outlining broad principles for immigration reform are very welcome. While the specifics of any reform will be hotly debated, a major advance has been made with the emergence of a broad political consensus, from left to right, that the current system is broken and in need of major repair.

It would be troubling, then, if this golden opportunity to fix a broken system falls victim to the very same trap that has ensnared other reform efforts. By conditioning reforms on achieving a poorly defined and much misunderstood notion of “securing the border,” the whole effort is at risk of unraveling.

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Mexican Court Orders Release of Frenchwoman

January 29, 2013

prisonThe Wall Street Journal, 1/23/2013

Mexico’s Supreme Court on Wednesday freed a Frenchwoman who had been found guilty of kidnapping and jailed since 2005, arguing that her case was plagued by police abuse, including the staging of her arrest for broadcast on live television.

“The good news is that there is a reform process on the way,” said Eric Olson, Associate Director of the Latin American Program at Washington’s Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars “The Supreme Court is a much more independent actor, and is willing to stand up for basic procedures and guarantees. But there is much more to be done.”

Mr. Olson said the Cassez case highlights the dilemma that all countries face, including the U.S., when they face a violent threat, be it kidnapping or terrorism. “There is an enormous temptation when have such a threat to throw out the rule of law,” he said. “Mexico and any country are better off in the long run strengthening the rule of law.”

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POLICY REPORT: New Ideas for a New Era: Policy Options for the Next Stage in U.S.-Mexico Relations

January 22, 2013

Coinciding U.S. and Mexican presidential elections offer a natural opportunity to look at the evolving context of bilateral relations and look forward for ways to strengthen ties. The Mexico Institute is pleased to launch an electronic version of its new policy report, “New Ideas for a New Era: Policy Options for the Next Stage in U.S.-Mexico Relations,” by Christopher E. Wilson, Eric L. Olson, Miguel R. Salazar, Andrew Selee, and Duncan Wood. The policy report highlights five key issues with the potential to strengthen U.S.-Mexico relations. A printed version of this report will be available shortly.

New Resources from the Mexico Institute

December 18, 2012


The Mexico Institute is pleased to announce a selection of new resources:

  • Mexico Institute Director Duncan Wood provides commentary on the Pacto.
  • NAFTA 20 Years on: Time for a Change, analysis by Christopher Wilson.
  • Mexico Institute releases English translation graphic of new Mexican cabinet.
  • Mexico Institute releases 4 part video series on Latino electorate.
  • New addition to The Expert Take: Eric L. Olson provides commentary on President Peña Nieto’s Security Strategy

The Situation Room: Interview with Mexican President-Elect

November 26, 2012

Wolf Blitzer, CNN-Situation Room, 11/27/2012

Enrique Peña Nieto

BLITZER: The biggest problem between the United States and Mexico right now and how to solve it. I’m going to be speaking with Mexico’s president-elect, Enrique Pena Nieto. My exclusive interview with the newly elected president of Mexico, that’s just ahead.

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New Publication: The State of Security in the U.S.-Mexico Border Region

August 22, 2012

Woodrow Wilson Center, 8/22/12

Concerns about global terrorism, potential threats posed by those entering the United States illegally, and fears that skyrocketing violence in Mexico might spillover into the United States have led to dramatic policy shifts and significant efforts to secure the border.  Without a doubt, the U.S. and Mexican federal governments have made large investments in staffing, infrastructure and technology and have reorganized and refocused efforts to respond to specific threats and events. Yet gains in areas such as apprehensions of undocumented migrants and reductions in violence in key cities such as Ciudad Juarez seem tenuous at best and beg for more comprehensive, creative and collaborative solutions between these two countries, one a superpower and the other a key emerging power.

The working paper, which explores these challenges and some potential solutions, will be published in the fall of 2012 as a chapter in the forthcoming State of the Border Report, which seeks to provide a comprehensive yet accessible look at the state of affairs in border management and the border region, focusing on four core areas: trade and economic development, security, sustainability, and quality of life. The State of the Border Report is an initiative of the Border Research Partnership, which is comprised of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute, Arizona State University’s North American Center for Transborder Studies, and el Colegio de la Frontera Norte.

Read More Here…

Who will win the Mexican election?

June 12, 2012

6/12/12, Al Jazeera

For months Enrique Pena Nieto has enjoyed a commanding lead in the polls in the run-up to Mexico’s presidential election on July 1…

As Mexico’s presidential race enters its final weeks, we ask: Who is going to win the Mexican election? And can anyone stop Enrique Pena Nieto being elected the country’s president?

Inside Story Americas, with presenter Shihab Rattansi, discusses with guests: Maria Jose Lopez, a spokesperson for the ‘Yo Soy 132′ or ‘I am 132′ student movement; Eric Olson, a senior associate at the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center; and Francisco Gonzalez, a professor of Latin American studies at John Hopkins university.

Read More and View Video Here…

Babeu criticized for rush to tie case to lax border

June 7, 2012

The Republic / azcentral.com, 6/5/2012

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu was quick to blame Mexican cartels for the grisly deaths of five people in a case that Tempe law-enforcement authorities are convinced is a murder-suicide unrelated to the bloody drug war south of the border.

For more than three days after the torched Ford SUV was discovered in Pinal County’s remote Vekol Valley, a well-known drug- and immigrant-smuggling corridor, the sheriff repeatedly linked the apparent killings to Mexican drug violence. Babeu, a Republican who rose to prominence as a border-security hawk, even took a politically charged swipe at Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.


Eric Olson, an expert on drug-cartel violence in Mexico, said he can understand why Babeu saw a connection to drug smuggling, given the area where the vehicle was found and the similarity with some of the killings carried out by cartels in Mexico. But he said Babeu was too quick to publicly blame the deaths on the drug cartels.

“It’s not unreasonable to look into it, given the area that it took place, but it’s really important to get to the facts before drawing conclusions,” said Olson, associate director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

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APNewsBreak: Ariz. Sheriff Defends 5 Bodies Case

June 7, 2012

The Associated Press, 6/6/2012

Responding to critics who claim he was too quick to blame drug smugglers for the deaths of five people found in a burned-out SUV last weekend, an Arizona sheriff said Wednesday that he was merely sharing timely information about the case and never formally concluded that the deaths were the work of a cartel.

“There were no conclusions given … there was no pronouncement,” Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu told The Associated Press in his first comments since evidence surfaced suggesting the deaths may have been a murder-suicide, not cartel violence.


Eric Olson, associate director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center’s Mexico Institute in Washington, D.C., said that he can understand why sheriff’s investigators would consider a cartel as the perpetrator of Saturday’s crime, given that the bodies were found in a smuggling corridor in the desert at an odd time of day.

“But it’s incredibly important to reserve judgment until there’s more conclusive evidence, as always is the case,” he said. Such a gruesome, high-profile crime typically isn’t in the best interest of smugglers who want to stay in business and avoid arrest, he added.

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Mexican Presidential Frontrunner Draws Crowds, And Protests

June 5, 2012

Fronteras, 6/4/2012

Enrique Peña Nieto is the kind of politician who elicits screams from young women along with the more sober cheering of other supporters. He’s handsome and smooth, his hair slickly combed back in a slight puff that’s exaggerated in political cartoons and masks of his likeness.

The 45-years old politician holds a double-digit lead in most polls over Mexico’s other three presidential candidates. He represents the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. The party governed Mexico for 71 years — from 1929 up until 2000. It has a reputation for corruption and cronyism.

But Peña Nieto has painted himself as a leader of the new PRI — shaped by and dedicated to Mexico’s relatively new democracy.


“So he’s made a name for himself as promising things and delivering those things, and being a pretty effective governor,” said Eric Olson from the Washington-based Mexico Institute, part of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

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