The Wreckage of Manuel and Ingrid, Biden’s Visit to Mexico and Continuing Debate on Energy Reform

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…

Hurricane Manuel and tropical storm Ingrid were the main Mexico-related stories featured in the press this week. The devastating storms caused floods and landslides on both sides of the country, killing more than 80 people. Isolated areas of Mexico are reporting major damages, and the storms have affected major highways and bridges. Thousands of tourists were stranded in Acapulco for part of the week, and Mexican officials said another 58 people were missing after a massive landslide in the mountains north of Acapulco. The Guardian reported that Manuel is taking a route that could see it make landfall on Mexico’s north-western coast. An article featured in Al Jazeera English stated that political recriminations are underway as the death toll, devastation and economic cost escalate. President Enrique Peña Nieto cancelled his trip to New York, where he was scheduled to attend the UN General Assembly, due to the storms.

Several articles published in the latter half of the week discussed President Joe Biden’s visit to Mexico on Friday to kick off the first-ever high level economic dialogue between the two nations. Biden and President Enrique Peña Nieto launched the U.S.-Mexico High Level Economic Dialogue, created to improve the economic relationship between the two neighbors. The Washington Post reported that Biden was expected to “reinvigorate talk about the promising trade relationship between the United States and its southern neighbor and largely avoid discussing the troubles that continue to plague Mexico — as well as the recent allegations of U.S. spying on President Enrique Peña Nieto.”

The Financial Times wrote that Mexico’s “Aztec Tiger” economy is struggling. Despite the various reforms introduced by Enrique Peña Nieto, the economy has slowed down significantly, and protesting teachers and opponents of the energy reform have taken to the streets. The Economist noted that if passed, the fiscal reform proposal will heavily burden Mexico’s middle class.

Immigration Reform in the US was also covered by the press. ABC News reported that a bipartisan House group that’s been working in secret to write a comprehensive immigration bill splintered Friday with the departure of two Republicans, the latest sign of difficulty in solving the contentious issue. The Washington Post reported that this does not necessarily mean Immigration Reform is entirely dead.

On the issue of Energy Reform in Mexico, the Financial Times reported that in the first survey devoted to the subject of attitudes to Mexico’s pending energy reforms, 53 per cent of respondents were pretty – or very – happy with the plans.

What Mexican columnists had to say…

This week’s columnists continued to focus on President Peña Nieto’s Fiscal Reform.  For Denise Dresser, the Reform represents an expansion of the government in the economy without any supervision, control or reasoning. It is not designed to trigger economic growth but to continue to finance inefficient public spending. Leo Zuckermann, agrees, he goes further and questions if this could be the return of the PRI’s poor spending habit, or a return to a time of economic crisis deepened by debt. Jorge Castañeda on the other hand, isn’t as bothered by the idea of increasing the deficit. In his column, he argues that Mexico is in need of a countercyclical economic policy as the one implemented by Chile during the last recession.

On another note, John Bailey’s column notes that as U.S. lawmakers focus on Syria, the chances of an Immigration Reform passing in the US House of Representatives seem unlikely. The Reform, which has been stalled for months, is now one more item on a very complicated legislative agenda, along with the budget, healthcare, and a possible military operation in the Middle East.  This agenda makes the passing of a comprehensive Reform seem unlikely, though we can hope for several smaller, incremental reforms next year.

As a final point, Jorge Fernandez Menendez notes that, after having the worst month of his presidential term, this week’s storms can paradoxically provide Enrique Peña Nieto with a unique opportunity to have an overall assessment of his government and make public policy changes especially in public investment.  Many of the resources that were originally destined to public infrastructure will now have to be allocated to the reconstruction efforts. It will be important to check if urban planning procedures are strengthened to avoid future weather catastrophes.

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