Taking Off: Mexico’s Demographic Challenge

June 21, 2013

education - children poverty - EcuadorBoston Review, 1/10/2013

Mexico is going through crucial and unprecedented times. It may take off or it may collapse. And I do not exaggerate or mean this rhetorically. Never before has Mexico had so many young people: nearly 30 million men and women aged 15–29, representing 26.4 percent of the country’s population. They are what we call in Mexico the “demographic bonus,” at first considered a great opportunity to enhance the country’s growth and development, and now a threat to its existence.

Despite improvements in education—95 percent of the population has at least finished elementary school—and a relatively stable economy, most of these young adults are victims of the inequality and exclusion characteristic of Mexican society. In 2010, when the last census was taken in Mexico, 17.1 percent of the adolescents (15–17 years old) and 24.2 percent of the young adults living in Mexico did not go to school or have a job. Millions of them have been excluded from these key social institutions: learning and work. Young men and women, Mexico’s future, are being left without futures of their own.

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Can Mexico Harness Its Demographic Dividend?

June 19, 2013

shutterstock_89005363New Security Beat, 6/19/2013

Mexico’s 2012 elections were important for a host of reasons: the PRI party returned to power after 12 years of rule by the more conservative PAN; there was the first female presidential candidate from a major political party; and turn-out was historically high. They also proved that Mexico’s young people are not as apathetic as some may have thought, with the emergence of the #YoSoy132 student movement demanding fair press coverage.

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Retailers Descend on Mexico

May 30, 2013

woman with shopping bags and credit cardWall Street Journal, 5/29/2013

Clothing retailers from the U.S. and Europe are trying Mexico on for size. Since September, retailers including Gap Inc., Sweden’s Hennes & Mauritz AB, American Eagle Outfitters Inc. and Forever 21 Inc. have opened stand-alone stores in Mexico. The new arrivals aim to compete for an enviable niche carved by Spain’s Inditex SA, operator of Zara, which first set up shop in Mexico in 1992 and now has more than 246 stores here.

On a recent weekday at the mall in Mexico City’s upscale Santa Fe area, 20-year-old law student Ana Sierra was scouring the racks at H&M. Holding a blouse that retailed for the equivalent of $8, Ms. Sierra said she and two friends had traveled more than an hour from the opposite end of the city to shop at the store. “We are already tired of the same options,” Ms. Sierra said, praising H&M for its variety and affordability. Analysts say these new entries have contributed to weaker sales growth in recent months at the country’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s local unit Wal-Mart de México SAB, as consumers trade up to fancier shopping experiences and department stores offer varied credit options.

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Op-ed: Is Mexico the Comeback Kid?

February 28, 2013

protest -- stroke -- resistanceBy Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times, 2/26/2013

Visiting Mexico this past week reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from my days in Beirut. It was when a hostess asked her dinner guests during the Lebanese civil war: “Would you like to eat now or wait for the cease-fire?” One of the lessons of both Mexico and Lebanon is how irrepressible is the human spirit — that no matter how violent a country becomes, people will adapt and take risks to innovate or to make profits or get to school or to just have fun.

That is a key reason that Mexico is making something of a comeback these days. Whether it will make it back in a sustainable way is unclear. Mexico still has huge problems: stifling monopolies in energy, telecom and media; a weak K-12 education system; violent cartels; and a corrupt police and judiciary. Together, they will keep a lid on Mexico’s prospects if they’re not addressed, the human spirit notwithstanding.

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Survey shows that Mexico’s youth distrusts IFE (Spanish)

February 22, 2013

ife-logoDe acuerdo con la Encuesta de Cultura Política de los Jóvenes 2012, los ciudadanos de entre 18 y 29 años confían “poco” en el Instituto Federal Electoral (IFE) y en el Tribunal Electoral del Poder Judicial de la Federación (TEPJF), aunque la mayoría cree que ambas instituciones son imparciales y autónomas.

El estudio, elaborado por el Colegio de México para el Centro de Desarrollo Democrático del IFE, revela que los jóvenes se informaron sobre los candidatos presidenciales y sus campañas a través de los spots de televisión, y 30% vio los dos debates.

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Mexico shudders at rise of rebellious reggaetoneros

August 21, 2012

Chicago Tribune, 8/20/21

Reggaeton, a Caribbean fusion of hip hop with Latin timbres, is wildly popular across Latin America but is raising eyebrows in conservative Mexico City.

Fans of the sexually explicit music have become Mexico’s persona non grata of the moment, blamed for a string of offenses ranging from theft to drug dealing…

Sociologists and human rights advocates say reggaetoneros are not violent criminals but rather the latest subculture to emerge from the ranks of Mexico’s disadvantaged youth, who struggle to find gainful employment in a country where nearly every second person lives in poverty but which is also home to Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man.

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41 Children Go Missing Each Day in Mexico: NGO

August 22, 2011

InSight Crime, 8/22/11

The National Foundation for Investigations into Stolen and Disappeared Children (Fundacion Nacional de Investigaciones de Niños Robados y Desaparecidos) says that an average of 41 children a day have been reported missing over the past five years. Only one in 10 cases handled by the foundation end with the child being rescued, the organization’s spokeswoman said. According to data from Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office, 30,000 of the 75,000 children reported missing have been rescued.

According to a report prepared last year for the United Nations, up to 35,000 minors have been recruited by drug trafficking gangs since 2006. Under Mexican law, minors cannot serve prison sentences longer than three years, which may explain why some gangs have turned to recruiting teen hitmen, including 14-year-old Edgar Jimenez, alias “El Ponchis,” a U.S. citizen charged with kidnapping and homicide in July.

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