Elections, Espionage and Obesity in Mexico – Weekly News Summary: July 12

Coffee by Flikr user samrevelThe 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…        

Last Sunday’s local elections in Mexico dominated the headlines this week. The aftermath of the process has seen widespread confusion, with rival parties claiming cheating strategies against each other throughout the country. Overall, election results are expected to define and strengthen the attitude of the opposition parties and their strategy to contribute to Mr. Peña Nieto’s reform agenda, as the parties prepare to negotiate energy and fiscal reforms. The most closely watched election was Baja California, a northwestern state where the PAN has governed since 1989. With almost all the votes counted, a PAN-PRD alliance represented by Francisco “Kiko” Vega held the advantage early on Monday. However, Mexican election officials ordered a recount citing a glitch in the vote-counting system.

The Economist labeled the Pact for Mexico the ‘political workhorse’ in Mexican politics, highlighting the fact that none of the opposition parties appear ready to abandon the pact just yet. Both the PAN and PRD hope to use the alliance to negotiate political reforms that would weaken the PRI in some of its regional strongholds. The Economist also pointed out that now that the electoral process is over, President Peña Nieto is likely to face a hard choice between maintaining the Pact intact or going against the Left to reform Mexico’s energy sector. If it comes to that, the British weekly argues he should ditch the Pact to prevent it from becoming an obstacle to reform.

Regarding the ongoing NSA scandal, the Mexican government asked the United States to provide “broad information” about a report that it was among Latin American nations targeted by US electronic espionage. According to BBC News, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia and Chile have joined other Latin American nations in demanding answers from Washington over spying allegations.

In other news, a United Nations report claimed Mexico surpassed the United States as the most obese country in the world. Paradoxically, this happens in a country where nearly half the population is poor and months after the current administration launched a national anti-hunger campaign. According to the report, about 70% of Mexican adults are overweight, a third of them very much so. Childhood obesity tripled in a decade and about a third of teenagers also suffer from obesity. Experts predict that 4 out of every 5 obese children will remain so their entire lives.

What Mexican columnists had to say…

Following local and state elections this past Sunday, Leo Zuckermann pointed out that while all political parties accused their opponents of electoral fraud, few of these accusations have been backed with evidence. Jorge Fernández Menéndez, meanwhile, questioned the paradoxical nature of PAN-PRD alliances, citing as an example their very different stances on energy and fiscal reform. Sergio Aguayo accused the authorities of not doing enough to investigate and prevent political violence. Denise Dresser argued that, while initially conceived to promote fairness, public financing of political parties too often leads to excess and abuse. Federico Reyes Heroles observed that the lack of coordination among municipal, state and federal electoral processes results in political tension and paralysis. Finally, Lorenzo Meyer said that the results of a Transparency International survey, which found 91% of Mexicans consider political parties the most corrupt institutions in the country, are understandable given parties’ willingness, for instance, to exploit the needs of the poor in exchange for votes.

Commenting on President Enrique Peña Nieto’s first months in office, Genaro Lozano argued that much of the ‘hype’ surrounding Peña’s term has been the result of an excellent communications campaign. According to Lozano, however, the high expectations created by the administration – in terms of economic growth, a renewal of Mexican diplomacy, and violence reduction – have yet to match Mexico’s current reality.

In other news, some columnists expressed concern that certain political circles within the U.S. and elsewhere have condoned Egypt’s military coup. Jesús Silva-Herzog Márquez called this “a serious intellectual regression,” and Andrés Oppenheimer warned it sets a dangerous precedent for Latin America: legitimizing the idea that certain coups are ‘acceptable.’

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