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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U.S. Border Patrol Agents Who Made Alleged Drug Smugglers Eat Pot Will Be Sentenced

November 13, 2013

The Huffington Post, 11/12/2013

Border patrol agent by Flickr user °FlorianTwo U.S. Border Patrol agents  who forced four suspected drug smugglers to chew marijuana and  flee shoeless into the Arizona desert on a chilly November night  are due to be sentenced on Tuesday for violating the men’s civil  rights.

A jury convicted Dario Castillo, 25, and Ramon Zuniga, 31,  in April of depriving the Mexican men, all of whom were in the  U.S. illegally, of civil rights in the incident in the  borderland deserts of southern Arizona.


The legacy of La Quina

November 13, 2013

The Economist, 11/13/2013

justice - gavel and bookThe arrest in January 1989 of Joaquín Hernández Galicia, the veteran head of the oil-workers’ union, was played up for maximum dramatic effect because it was meant to be opening salvo of a tireless crusade for economic modernisation in Mexico. It pitted a new, weakly supported president, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, against one of the symbols of the corrupt old Mexico that he was trying to reform.

Almost 25 years later, Mr Hernández, known as La Quina, has died aged 91 after being freed from jail in 1997 under an amnesty. It must have been a great comfort to him in his old age that Mr Salinas, in exile at the time of his release, still rarely returns to Mexico. It is perhaps fitting that Mr Hernández has died just as the government is embarking on a reform of the oil industry whose monopoly—which he milked for his own benefit for several decades until his arrest—he fought tooth and nail to protect. It has given him a grave in which to turn in.

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Facebook beheading video: Who was Mexico’s Jane Doe?

November 4, 2013

BBC News, 11/3/2013

crime sceneA film of a woman being beheaded in Mexico caused an international outcry in October when Facebook refused to remove it from its site. There have been hundreds of reports about the video – but why has no-one identified the victim in it?

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Op Ed: To fix Washington, Look to Mexico

October 18, 2013

Christian Science Monitor, 10/17/2013

By Carlos Heredia

President Obama visits Mexico President Enrique Pena NietoMexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto’s political grand bargain among rival parties has helped usher in long-needed reforms. The US has something to learn from Mexico’s willingness to put country ahead of party.

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