Mexico’s Rule of Law Crisis

November 18, 2014

11/16/14 Wall Street Journal 

gun - crime sceneWhat do the September disappearance of 43 university students from the custody of local police in the state of Guerrero, Mexico, and new allegations of federal corruption in the awarding of public infrastructure contracts have in common? Answer: They both show that Mexico still has a huge problem enforcing the rule of law. The two developments have sparked a political crisis that could sink Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) President Enrique Peña Nieto ’s ambitious reform agenda if he doesn’t take quick and decisive action to restore confidence. Until now the president has been able to ignore Mexico’s legendary lawlessness. He has been riding an international wave of excitement around the opening of the energy sector, with few questions asked. But unless he wants to make common cause with the hard left—which thinks it has him on the ropes because of the missing students—he needs to admit his mistakes, purge his cabinet and make the rule of law job No. 1.

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Don’t Celebrate Mexico’s Reforms Just Yet

March 18, 2014

Enrique PeñaNieto 2The Wall Street Journal, 3/16/14

Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) President Enrique Peña Nieto has been in office a mere 16 months, but his leadership has already changed the country’s international image. Constitutional reforms in energy, education and telecommunications, once thought to be impossible, have removed roadblocks to new legislation that could increase competitiveness and drive faster growth.

In many ways Mexico appears ready to leave behind its corporatist past in which business was under the control of a one-party state. Indeed, pundits have declared that success is a fait accompli. But old habits die hard. The southern partner of the North American Free Trade Agreement still has two gargantuan—and not unrelated—problems that threaten its progress. On a visit to Mexico in February I got an earful about both.

The first is Mr. Peña Nieto’s economic populism. He talks of markets and growth, but he’s also expanding the federal welfare state with new entitlements in health care and pensions. Even rich countries are having trouble keeping such promises nowadays. But Mexico also wants to skip the part about building wealth and just go straight to redistributing it. Deficit spending is heading higher than it has been for most of the past decade. Mr. Peña Nieto’s other big challenge is inherited: A weak rule of law.

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Mexico: Policy on “Auto-defensas” Makes Things Worse

February 14, 2014

youth with handgunCenter for Latin American and Latino Studies American University 02/14/2014

In a few short months, Michoacán’s “self-defense” groups have gone from being the Mexican government’s drunk uncle to being its strategic partner – underscoring what is wrong with the current government’s counterdrug strategy.  The vigilante groups are a multi-headed beast, born from sentiments that range from despair and frustration to opportunity.  Desperate small farmers and shopkeepers created some of the units because they’d been victimized by the “Knights Templar,” a splinter group with deep roots in the drug trade that has literally raped and pillaged their villages.

Frustrated agricultural and mining interests have funded their own “self-defense” groups.  And opportunistic rival criminal groups also seek to kill the Knights to take new, or reclaim old, territory.   Mexico’s federal and local governments are to blame for this chaos.

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Legal team of ex-governor of Mexico border say US charges based on false accusations

December 6, 2013

Fox News, 12/5/2013

tamaulipasLawyers for a former Mexican governor charged in the United States with money laundering and drug trafficking say the charges are based on false accusations by people trying to bargain with U.S. prosecutors.

Attorney Josel Androphy says witnesses against former Tamaulipas Gov. Tomas Yarrington gave false information to get leniency from the U.S. government. Androphy spoke Thursday in Mexico City along with three Mexican lawyers for Yarrington.

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A Rustic Paradise, Open for Development

December 2, 2013

The New York Times, 11/30/2013

wineLawmakers  voted to permit urban and suburban development in the agricultural heart of northwestern Mexico, the Guadalupe Valley, despite angry opposition from those who have spent decades making it an international destination for wine, food and quiet.

Municipal council members argue that the new zoning regulations will preserve the valley and increase property values, spreading out the benefits of a boom. But the new rules subvert the state-approved regional plan they were supposed to clarify by allowing up to 10 times as much housing density while significantly weakening public oversight. Independent scientists say the arid valley simply cannot sustain the intensified development, creating what many here see as a threat to a national treasure and a vital test of Mexico’s young democracy.

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‘Narco Cultura’ takes a blood-soaked look at Mexico’s war on drugs

November 22, 2013

Al Jazeera, 11/22/2013

shutterstock_7272448Shaul Schwarz, an Israeli war photographer, holds a mirror up to Los Buknas de Culiacán and the wider tragicomedy that is Mexican drug culture in “Narco Cultura,” a cinema-verité documentary that opens in New York and Miami theaters on Friday.

Showing the binational relationship at the heart of the so-called Mexican drug war (Schwarz prefers to call it the “American-Mexican drug war”), his camera follows two men on opposite sides of the border.

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Op Ed: “Aun en Pantalla” (In Spanish)

November 15, 2013

Reforma, 11/11/2013

By Denisse Dresser

81px-Presunto_culpableHace casi tres años, el documental Presunto culpable evidenció a un sistema judicial podrido. Expuso a jueces incompetentes. A policías abusivos. A testigos mentirosos. A funcionarios del Ministerio Público que acusan al azar porque “es su chamba”. La película plasmó todo lo que no funciona con la justicia en el país. Alertó, sacudió, evidenció y marcó el mapa de ruta de lo que tendría que hacerse para que no hubiera un inocente más en la cárcel. Para que Toño Zúñiga fuera la excepción y no la regla. Para que ni un sólo mexicano fuera aprehendido arbitrariamente, juzgado discrecionalmente, encarcelado injustamente.

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