Senate Passes Political Reform – Energy Reform Next, Stolen Radioactive Material, and Mexico´s Competitiveness vis-à-vis China – Weekly News Summary: December 6

December 6, 2013

coffee-by-flikr-user-samrevel1The 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 Washington Post noted that Mexico’s Senate passed the most dramatic political reform attempt in decades which would allow re-election of federal legislators, create new election oversight and make the Attorney General’s office independent from the executive. It also highlighted that the Senate is moving on to energy reform, which is considered the most critical part of the reform package that President Enrique Peña Nieto is pushing to have passed before the end of this year. The Economist noted that it will be difficult for Mexico´s left to stop the Energy Reform after Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador suffered a heart attack on December 3rd. His absence weakened a blockade of the Senate that he had promised. Meanwhile, the Financial Post was not enthusiastic over the Energy Reform. In an article published this week, it argued that that even if the proposed reform is passed within a year, it could take up to 10 years for production to begin in the deep-sea reserves. Additionally, the profit-sharing contracts may not be as profitable as anticipated, as the terms under the proposal stipulate that foreign companies would receive a share of the revenues from the fields, rather than the oil and gas to sell themselves.

In another note, the BBC reported on Wednesday that a truck carrying medical radioactive material had been stolen near Mexico City. Mexico’s Nuclear Security Commission said that at the time of the theft, the cobalt-60 teletherapy source was “properly shielded”. Nonetheless, the Washington Post noted on Thursday, that the theft of the material sparked international concern over the possibility that the cobalt-60 could be used in a “dirty bomb.” By Wednesday afternoon, the same news outlet reported that authorities had found the stolen the radioactive material. The National Journal claimed that after the theft, a group of critics questioned if the International Atomic Energy Agency’s radiological security rules were enough for securing radioactive materials.

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Mexico Contemplates Changing Term-Limit Rule (audio)

December 6, 2013

NPR, 12/6/2013

MEXICO CONGRESSLawmakers in Mexico are considering a major change to their elections. For more than a century, the country has had the ultimate term limits: nobody can be re-elected.

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Mexico Senate approves major political reforms

December 4, 2013

The Washington Post, 12/4/2013

Mexican_SenateMexico’s Senate has passed the most dramatic political reform attempt in decades that would allow re-election of federal legislators, create new election oversight and make the Attorney General’s office independent from the executive.

The Senate approved the overall reform late Tuesday, but continued to debate certain details early Wednesday. The reform measure still has to be approved by the lower House.

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Mexico nears electoral reform, opening door to energy bill

November 13, 2013

Reuters, 11/12/2013

Enrique PeñaNieto 2Accused a generation ago of engineering the “perfect dictatorship,” Mexico’s ruling party is now close to agreeing on a plan that could weaken the presidency and strengthen Congress in order to win votes for a major energy reform. The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and its opposition rivals are shortly expected to unveil the blueprint for a reform aimed at giving Congress greater oversight of government and allowing lawmakers to serve consecutive terms.

Billed as a step forward for democracy, the electoral reform is a bargaining chip for President Enrique Pena Nieto’s most ambitious plan – changing the constitution to allow more private capital into the state-controlled oil industry.

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Obama: I’ll get immigration reform done next year

October 25, 2012

CBS News, 10/24/2012

President Obama says he is “confident” that, if reelected, he will oversee passage of immigration reform next year, in part because Republicans will have an interest in reaching out to a growing Latino voting bloc they have “alienated” in recent years.

Mr. Obama made the comment in an off-the-record phone conversation with the publisher and editor of the Des Moines Register days ahead of that newspaper’s scheduled announcement of an endorsement in the presidential race. After the Register’s editor publicly argued that the 30-minute conversation should be available to all voters, the Obama campaign released the transcript.

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Reelection in Mexico

March 15, 2010

Katie Putnam, Mexico Institute, 3/15/10

On March 5th, Alejandro Encinas, the coordinator of the PRD party in the Mexican Chamber of Deputies, told an audience at the Woodrow Wilson Center that a law allowing reelection for legislators would likely pass in the next two months. Experts have long critiqued Mexico’s ban on congressional reelection; among other problems, legislators are not accountable to their constituents (with reelection, constituents determine whether the legislator will need to look for a new job after the next election), nor do they or their staff have time to develop expertise in a particular issue area (think Senator Ted Kennedy on health care or Senator Joe Biden on foreign policy).

Encinas praised the theoretical benefits of allowing reelection in Congress. The bill, part of a larger set of government proposals being considered in Congress, would allow members of the lower house of Congress to seek up to four consecutive, three-year terms in office. The other two major parties, the PRI and the PAN, with some divisions, have said they will support it. What’s the problem?

Encinas will not vote for it. Nor will most of his party.

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Editorial: Political Reform and a Ship Adrift (In Spanish)

February 25, 2010

Jorge Fernández Menéndez, Excelcior, 2/25/2010

The political reform initiative presented by the PRI in the senate has, as does that sent by president Calderón, many points that could be useful to reform the political system, but both begin with fundamentally contradictory positions: with a strong executive and possibilities of operation, seeking decision-making mechanisms and direct citizen representation, or clearly advancing toward a type of parliamentarism in which real power is more and more concentrated in the congress.  The first option captures the spirit of the presidential initiative, while the second is in line with the proposal presented by the PRI in the senate.

There are some points of agreement between the two: mainly, reducing the number of deputees and senators and the possibility of reelection of legislators at all levels.  The idea in the PRI proposal es to maintain the current 300 deputees that are directly elected while reducing the seats elected by proportional representation from 200 to 100.  In the presidential proposal both types of seats are reduced by a third.  In the senate their is agreement that the proportional representation seats should disappear because it violates the spirit of the constitution since some entities have greater levels of representation than others.  Reelection would be for two consecutive periods for the deputees (federal and local) and one for senators.  A deputy could be in his or her position up to nine years and a senator twelve.

Fernández Menéndez goes on to explain some of the differences between the proposals and to suggest that both sides of the debate need to clearly define a vision of the political system that their proposals aim to create, making clear that they do not simply aim to empower themselves.

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