The 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…
This week the press largely covered the NSA spying scandal of worldwide leaders. According to CNN, the National Security Agency “systematically” eavesdropped on the Mexican government. It hacked the public e-mail account of former Mexican President Felipe Calderon, which was also used by Cabinet members. According to the news outlet, Mexico’s foreign ministry said in a statement “This practice is unacceptable, illegitimate and against Mexican and international law”. The New York Times stated that Felipe Calderon declared that the spying was an affront to Mexican institutions that should be addressed by current Mexican authorities. Calderon also said he will closely follow the efforts by Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department to get an explanation from the United States. Nevertheless, the Los Angeles Times noted that although Mexico’s foreign and interior ministers held news conferences Tuesday to complain, many saw it as an expression of outrage carefully muted to ensure that Mexico didn’t do too much damage to its relationship with the U.S. The Newspaper concluded that the U.S. and Mexico are a pair of classic “frenemies” who can’t help offending each other yet can’t quite seem to quit each other either.
On another note, The Washington Post highlighted President Obama’s remarks on Thursday to renew his call for Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform. According to the article, the prevailing sentiment in Washington is that it’s not going to happen this year, and may not even happen next. But because of the last few weeks, it just might get done by early next year. It’s all up to House Speaker John A. Boehner who by political necessity, must now at least consider leaning in more on immigration. The Wall Street Journal stated that at least two proposals are being drafted by Republicans to address how to handle the immigrants who either came to the U.S. illegally or overstayed. The proposals, done separately by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R., Fla.) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), will offer illegal immigrants a way to “get right with the law” while addressing the problematic legal status of the 11 million visas. On the other hand, the Los Angeles Times suggested that President Obama changed his tactics and might consider GOP proposals to overhaul separate parts of the immigration system. Obama’s aides are intent on showing the president is willing to compromise, partly to counter GOP charges that he was inflexible during the bitter shutdown standoff.
On a final topic, according to the Los Angeles Times, Monterrey, Mexico is one of the small, hopeful signs that the country may be awakening from the drug war nightmare. The number of homicides has plummeted and a new state police force, vetted and well paid, patrols the streets. But corruption at the municipal level continues to be a serious problem, and many police officers in greater Monterrey are municipal cops. Additionally, although Nuevo Leon was one of the first states to begin moving toward a U.S.-style justice system, some critics say the process has been poorly designed and implemented. Monterrey therefore, lurches into the future unsure how far behind it has left its bloody past. In a similar note, the Economist claims that President Peña Nieto has adopted a new approach on tackling crime. Its most eye-catching element is to pour 118 billion pesos ($9.1 billion) into the 220 most violent neighborhoods in the country offering more schooling, jobs, parks and cultural activities to stop them becoming “crime factories”. Yet even his government recognizes that they will not yield a quick pay-off. Consequently, it is under pressure to produce a coherent law-enforcement plan in a country where, according even to official statistics, almost nine out of ten crimes go unreported. The report concludes that having decided to play down the fight against drug kingpins, Enrique Peña Nieto has yet to come up with a serious alternative.
What Mexican columnists had to say…
Mexican columnists discussed the penal, fiscal and energy reforms in Mexico and the recent allegations that the NSA spied on ex-President Felipe Calderon and current President Enrique Peña Nieto. Writing for Reforma, Denisse Dresser detailed that the Mexican Senate and the Attorney General’s Office are talking about introducing the “Código Nacional de Procedimientos Penales” as a way of tackling Mexico’s broken penal system. However, she argued, this initiative is incomplete and insufficient, as it only focuses on trials (juicios orales). Dresser stated that unless the new penal code incorporates specific rules that will regulate and control Mexico’s notoriously corrupt and inadequate police forces, any efforts to create long-lasting and significant change will fail. Meanwhile, Jorge Chabat wrote that Mexico’s grave societal problems are structural and will take time to fix. He lamented that that EPN falsely claimed the opposite during his campaign.
Several columnists discussed the negotiations occurring between parties with regards to reforms. Jorge Fernández Menéndez asserted that Mexico is about to enter a very decisive legislative period. In the coming weeks, the fiscal reform has to be approved by the Senate, the political reform has to be settled on by all parties, and the energy reform has to be streamlined. In addition, all of this must happen while the budget is debated and decided. The author claimed that the fiscal reform will probably be altered in some way by the Senate, and that it will then be passed. He contended that the real challenge will be passing the political and energy reforms, as these have been tied together. Leo Zuckermann wrote that the center-left (PRI-PRD) fiscal alliance demonstrated the parties shared belief that the government must spend more in order to stimulate the economy. He argued that this is a Keynesian alliance that believes that more national debt is necessary and will be beneficial in the long run – but only if money is well spent and the economy grows. He questioned the government’s capability and willingness to spend money responsibly. Writing on the same topic, José Antonio Crespo, argued that the fact that Mexico has three main political parties complicates the nation’s political processes. It also means, however, that often times balancing becomes easier, and that politicians are more often forced to compromise. He concluded that it is unfortunate that as parties focus on forming alliances based on shaky agreements and favors, the country must wait to be effectively governed.
Maria Amparo Casar penned an op-ed about the fiscal reform. She wrote that the past three Mexican Presidents have pursued a fiscal reform, arguing that it is a necessary condition to decrease the income distribution gap and to have more funds for welfare programs. These arguments have not been effective in in the past, and President Peña Nieto will probably suffer the same fate. The author detailed that the Mexican lower house has diluted the original fiscal proposal and the expected income will not meet Peña Nieto’s proposed expenditures. The Senate will probably do more modifications and the revenue will be further reduced. This outcome is part of a trend: in the last three presidential terms, the main opposition party has opposed major fiscal reforms. It happened to Ernesto Zedillo, to Vicente Fox and to Felipe Calderon. Casar argued that the problem is that the president and governing party are not the only ones that are defeated; normal citizens are also victims since there won’t be enough revenue to foster growth and reduce income inequality.
Lorenzo Meyer asserted that the Mexican government should publicly condemn the US for spying on top officials. He argued that the American government respects those who defend themselves or protests more so than those who remain quiet. Mexico should always employ a foreign policy that staunchly defends its sovereignty. Also writing about North America, Jorge G. Castañeda called for Mexicans to reflect on the outcomes of NAFTA 20 years after it was signed. He stated that while he thinks a different treaty would have been better, it is fruitless to continue to argue against history, and that rather, debate should focus on the things that can be fixed. He believes that while the trade agreement has not significantly harmed Mexico, it has also not lived up to expectations, and there continue to be alternatives.