The Expert Take | Where is Mexico’s Fight Against Corruption Now?

expert I (2)By Viridiana Rios

The deadliest earthquake since 1985 hit Mexico last week, the second significant earthquake in 2017. With at least 225 victims, the parallels between last week’s earthquake and 1985’s are spine chilling. Both happened on the same day of the year, September 19th, and both have awoken a powerful civilian mobilization to rescue victims from collapsed buildings.

Back in 1985, corruption and violations of the city’s building codes were attributed much of the destruction. Today, an excellent piece by Animal Político has proven that the state of Oaxaca was hit the hardest during the first earthquake of 2017 due to corruption and poor use of tax-payer resources. The entire seismic warning system of Oaxaca had not been operating since January due to the state government’s debts to the service provider. The alerts were either stored in warehouses, or were sold online by private parties. In Mexico City, out of the 7,356 seismic alerts that the city’s government had bought, about 46 percent were never installed and had simply disappeared.

In the face of these events, corruption becomes a humanitarian crisis, rather than just a judicial issue.

Mexico’s organized civil society knows this and, as a result, has recently embraced a vibrant and ambitious agenda to improve the corrupt system. Lawyers have joined efforts with activists to propose to Congress the necessary laws and institutions to effectively prosecute corruption acts and to watch over the legislation’s implementation.

Read more…

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How Mexico’s Anti-Corruption Fight Went Off-Track

09/18/2017 Americas Quarterly

By Viridiana Rios, Mexico Institute Global Fellow

Eighteen months ago, I wrote in AQ about the success of Mexico’s citizen-driven corruption fight in Congress. Civil society groups, academics and activists had pushed for the rejection of a watered-down anti-corruption bill and instead presented their own, sharpened version of the legislation. This citizen’s bill, called #Ley3de3 (or #Law3of3) promised not only to help identify, punish and prevent corruption, but to do so while promoting collaboration among different federal institutions and citizen groups.

Congress agreed to discuss the bill only after 634,000 citizens signed their support, and approved it only after trying several times to reduce its scope. Passage of the #Ley3de3 thus marked one of the most important breakthroughs for Mexico’s civil society since democratization began in the late nineties.

All of us who were part of this effort knew that it was a first step, but were sure that many more would follow. Little did we know how resistant to outside pressure – from civil society, the media and others – the government would prove to be when it came to cleaning up its act.

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NAFTA Talks Called Opportunity to ‘Lock In’ Mexican Energy Reforms, U.S. Gas Trade

09/11/2017 Natural Gas Intel

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) renegotiations are an opportunity to update the 1994 treaty so that it reflects changes in Mexico’s oil and natural gas sector and deepened ties to Canada and U.S. energy markets, according to analysts.

“North American energy markets have changed, and there are the new reforms in Mexico,” BDO Mexico’s Rita Mireya Valdivia Hernandez, a partner in the tax practice, told NGI.  “We need to adapt or modify NAFTA so that it is aligned with what North America is today.”

Talks to hammer out the details of a new NAFTA began in mid-August with the first of seven negotiating rounds scheduled through December. Delegates from the United States, Mexico and Canada met again in early September, while the third round is scheduled for Sept. 23-27.

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Trump wants to restrict trade and immigration. Here’s why he can’t do both.

9/11/2017 The Washington Post

Recently, trade negotiators from the United States, Canada and Mexico concluded the first round of talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. President Trump has made clear that he wants a deal that cuts the U.S. trade deficit— and brings manufacturing jobs back to the United States. Trump also threatened to withdraw from the South Korea-U.S. free-trade agreement (KORUS), citing unfair trade practices and a desire to bring home U.S. jobs.

At the same time, Trump is supporting the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act (Raise Act), which would cut legal immigration by 50 percent. And he announced the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which could mean the deportation of about 690,000 “dreamers” — immigrants who came into the country illegally as children.

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You Won’t Like Mexico When It’s Angry

09/11/2017 Politico

President Trump’s insults are pushing the Mexican political system into dangerous territory.

In his landmark 1985 book, Distant Neighbors, Alan Riding, then the New York Times’ Mexico City correspondent, wrote that the Mexican president, in the days of the one-party state, was all powerful except for two things he could never do: 1) reelect himself (there’s a constitutional one-term limit for Mexican presidents) and 2) bring Mexico closer to the United States.

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New Publication | Building on Early Success: Next Steps in U.S.-Mexico Educational Cooperation

By Angela Robertson and Duncan Wood

USA and MexicoLaunched in 2014, the U.S.-Mexico Bilateral Forum on Higher Education, Innovation, and Research (FOBESII) seeks to “expand opportunities for educational exchanges, scientific research partnerships, and cross-border innovation to help both countries develop a 21st century workforce for both our mutual economic prosperity and sustainable social development.” It aims to promote binational cooperation in higher education and research, especially regarding important areas for innovation in the United States and Mexico, by promoting programs for student mobility, academic exchange, research, and innovation in areas of common interest to contribute to the competitiveness of the region.

Cultural and educational exchanges help to create connections between the people and institutions of the United States and Mexico via exchange programs, scholarships, grants, and joint research.  Increasing educational exchanges and strengthening workforce development and innovation, particularly in STEM areas, will allow the United States and Mexico, and North America as a whole, to compete in global markets. Thus, FOBESII has the potential to build a more prosperous future for both the United States and Mexico.

Nonetheless, this short paper argues that, while FOBESII has done much to expand educational exchanges, increase joint research, and promote innovation, it has yet to achieve its stated goals and continues to face serious challenges. We argue that to overcome these challenges, future initiatives must focus on advancing private sector engagement, workforce development, and improving public communication and outreach. FOBESII continues to be a relevant and important initiative, but it is in urgent need of restructuring and redirection if it is to make a significant contribution to bilateral affairs and regional competitiveness.

Read the paper…

[VIDEO] Renegotiating NAFTA Round Two

After what has been described as a tough round one in Washington, the process of renegotiating NAFTA is set to move to Mexico for round two. Beyond the negotiating table, President Trump continues to suggest that he may choose to withdraw from the agreement all together. Mexico Institute Director Duncan Wood summarizes the state of the negotiations and provides analysis on what we can expect next. That’s the focus of this edition of Wilson Center NOW.

Guest

Duncan Wood, Director of the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute, is a “North American citizen,” lecturing and publishing widely in the United States, Mexico and Canada on intracontinental issues and relations, with a primary focus on U.S.-Mexican ties. A widely-quoted authority on energy policy, international banking regulation and corruption, he works closely with the World Economic Forum and leverages decades of experience at Mexico’s leading universities and newspapers.

Host
John Milewski is the executive producer and managing editor of Wilson Center NOW and also serves as director of Wilson Center ON DEMAND digital programming. Previously he served as host and producer of Dialogue at the Wilson Center and Close Up on C-SPAN. He also teaches a course on politics and media for Penn State’s Washington Program.