Cuba disputes Mexican airline finding on deadly May crash

07/17/18 The Washington Post

airplaneA finding by a Mexican airline that pilot error was to blame for a deadly passenger jet crash in May was dismissed as premature Tuesday by the Cuban authorities charged with determining the cause of the accident.

An investigative commission said in a statement read on state TV that it has not completed its analysis of “many factors” that could have contributed to the May 18 crash. “For that reason, any assertion about the possible causes that caused the fatal accident is premature.”

Mexican airline Global Air said in a statement Monday that the pilots of the Boeing 737 took off at too steep of an angle before the aircraft crashed near the runway of the international airport in Havana.

The May 18 accident killed 112 people and was one of the worst aviation disasters in Cuban history.

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Seven mine workers missing after accident in northern Mexico

06/06/2018 Reuters

mineRescuers were searching on Wednesday for seven workers who went missing in at a gold and silver mine in northern Mexico after a dam filled with liquid waste collapsed, authorities said.

The accident occurred on Monday in the La Cieneguita mine operated by Minera Rio Tinto and Pan American Goldfields. Waste from the dam swept away machinery, vehicles and various workers, said Mexico’s environmental prosecutor, Profepa.

“Up until now we do not know how much (residue) was spilled,” Profepa said in a statement.

The agency added that it had begun inspecting the mine, located in the northern state of Chihuahua.

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New Publication | The NAFTA Negotiations: A Mexican Perspective

By Luz Maria de la Mora Sanchez

The launching of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations on August 16, 2017 begs a serious and thorough discussion given what it is at stake for the three countries in terms of trade, investment, economic integration, competitiveness, jobs, shared production, and innovation. While a NAFTA modernization has been long overdue, this renegotiation was motivated by the wrong reasons; i.e. to address the United States’ concern regarding its trade deficit with Mexico and to return lost jobs to the U.S. manufacturing sector.

When the NAFTA negotiations were launched in Washington, DC, United States Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer’s remarks underscored “the huge trade deficits, the lost manufacturing jobs, the businesses that have closed or moved” as a result NAFTA.  In sharp contrast, Canada and Mexico framed this process as an opportunity to modernize the Agreement to better respond to the 21st century economy. Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and Mexico’s Secretary of Economy, Ildefonso Guajardo, used their opening speeches to reiterate that NAFTA has benefited the three partners and considered it a very favorable pact. In direct contrast with Trump’s and Lighthizer’s statements, Secretary Guajardo called the NAFTA a “strong success for all parties,” while also stressing that Mexico is not the problem but rather “the solution to the region’s competitiveness.”  Given these diametrically opposing views and goals, Mexico and Canada have a very hard act to play in order to come up with an agreement that responds to their own interests while also addressing the United States’ key concerns.

Read the publication…

Learning From The Experience Of NAFTA Labor And Environmental Governance

8/11/2017 Forbes

forbesAs negotiators from the United States, Mexico, and Canada prepare to begin talks on a renegotiated NAFTA agreement, this is an opportune moment to think about how to strengthen trilateral oversight in the important areas of labor and environmental policy. The Trump Administration published its negotiating objectives in July, and they included the aim to strengthen both labor and environmental oversight within NAFTA. Clear lessons can be drawn from the NAFTA experience about what worked and what did not, and how civil society participated and evolved.

NAFTA included two side agreements, one on the environment and one on labor. The purpose was to pressure all three member states to uphold their own laws in these areas. Mexico’s inclusion in NAFTA was the original rationale, but the requirements applied to all three countries. Non-compliance was not to be tolerated.

What happened next is very important. The side agreements created routes for civil society to complain about non-compliance, and therefore contribute to governance. Although many see the side agreements as worthless, they did have a significant impact on Mexican civil society, and to an extent, governance in Mexico too. The way this happened is less obvious and less understood than trade or investment-led change, but it is worth our attention. In fact, the impact of the labor and environmental side agreements differed, because their institutions and procedures differed – and therein lies an important lesson. Let’s look at both in turn.

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NEW PUBLICATION: “Following the Money Trail” to Combat Terrorism, Crime, and Corruption in the Americas

Over the past decade, there has been a greater appreciation of how “following the money trail” directly contributes to the fight against terrorism, crime, and corruption around the world. Money serves as the oxygen for any activity, licit or illicit; it is the critical enabler for any organization, from international crime syndicates like the Mexican cartels to terrorist groups like the FARC, ISIS, and Hezbollah. Financial intelligence has helped governments to better understand, detect, disrupt, and counter criminal and terrorist networks and expose political corruption.

Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the United States and its Latin American partners have strengthened their ability to combat money laundering and terrorist financing and consciously incorporated the financial instrument of national power into their national security strategies. “Following the money trail,” counterterrorism, and Drug Kingpin sanctions and asset forfeiture have become particularly important to attack narco-insurgencies, dismantle transnational criminal organizations (TCOs), and address political corruption scandals that have reached the highest levels of governments across Latin America.

This report focuses on the threats from money laundering and terrorist financing, distinguishing the two, and explains government efforts to counter illicit financing. It describes the ways illicit actors raise, move, store, and use money to pursue their dangerous agendas. Specific cases examining the FARC in Colombia, the 2015 fall of the Guatemalan government, and Brazil’s “Operation Car Wash” corruption scandal illustrate how governments use financial intelligence to pursue terrorists, criminals, corrupt politicians, and their financiers in Latin America. Finally, the report emphasizes the need to design, implement, and constantly update national and international strategies to combat the financing of emerging threats like terrorism, crime, and corruption and to safeguard our financial systems.

Download the report

La Impunidad Sigue: Violence against Journalists in Mexico

5/17/2017 The Expert Take, Mexico Institute

expert I (2)By Eric L. Olson and Gina Hinojosa

In yet another disturbing attack against freedom of expression in Mexico, one of the country’s most celebrated reporters, Javier Valdez Cárdenas, was shot dead this week in his hometown of Culiacán, Sinaloa. The fifth journalist to be murdered in Mexico this year, Valdez was pulled from his car and shot multiple times by an unidentified assailant around noon on May 15, according to national newspaper La Jornada, leaving the country to grieve the loss, again, of courageous journalist and rights defenders.

A talented and undeniably passionate reporter, Valdez won numerous international awards for his work. In 2011, the publication he co-founded, RioDoce, earned the prestigious Maria Moors Cabot Prize from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. In the same year, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) awarded Valdez the 2011 International Press Freedom Award for his fearless coverage of drug trafficking, organized crime, and corruption. “In a country where widespread self-censorship is the consequence of violence by drug syndicates and criminal gangs, Valdez still covers sensitive issues,” wrote CPJ in its announcement of the award.

The words Valdez delivered upon receiving the CPJ award in New York are heart-wrenching. They underscore the horrors suffered by Mexicans living in areas ravaged by the country’s ongoing struggle against organized crime and the persistent challenges faced by journalists brave enough to report from the front lines of this struggle:

“Where I work, Culiacán, in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico, it is dangerous to be alive, and to do journalism is to walk on an invisible line drawn by the bad guys–who are in drug trafficking and in the government–in a field strewn with explosives. This is what most of the country is living through. One must protect oneself from everything and everyone, and there do not seem to be options or salvation, and often there is no one to turn to.”

While well aware of the risks, Valdez dedicated his life to addressing these pressing issues. In 2003, he co-founded the Sinaloa-based crime and corruption-focused publication RioDoce. At the time of the publication’s founding, the state government was believed to control most of Sinaloa’s media, and Valdez saw the need to provide more honest coverage of organized crime’s toll on Mexican society and governance.

In 2011, Valdez spoke at the Wilson Center about his work at a Mexico Institute event in the midst of Mexico’s rising homicide rates, discussing the risks faced by journalists reporting on organized crime. Widely considered the height of Mexico’s drug war, 2011 was the country’s most violent year on record, with nearly 23,000 homicides documented nationwide by the Mexican National Security System (SNSP). When asked by the Mexico Institute’s Eric L. Olson about why he continued reporting on such dangerous topics in such a hostile context, Valdez said, “The other option is to stay quiet and to turn a blind eye…I believe everyone must assume the responsibility given to them.”

The broader picture

Through his activism and dedicated reporting, Valdez called attention to Mexico’s incessant struggle to put an end to violence against journalists. Press freedom watchdog Reporters without Borders (RSF) consistently ranks Mexico the most dangerous country in the Western Hemisphere for the media, and in its 2017 World Press Freedom Index, RSF declared Mexico the third deadliest country in the world for the press, behind only Syria and Afghanistan. According to international human rights organization Article 19, 105 journalists have been murdered in Mexico since 2000, and in 2016 alone, the organization documented 426 total acts of aggression against the press, including 11 homicides. The most common types of attacks recorded by Article 19 last year included physical assault, intimidation, and threats.

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After the Storm in U.S.-Mexico Relations

3/31/2017 The Wilson Quarterly

Articles by Duncan Wood, Christopher Wilson, Andrew Selee, Eric L. Olson, Earl Anthony Wayne & Arturo Sarukhan

The relationship between Mexico and the United States is facing its most severe test in decades. Although a new tone and new ideas are needed, the economic, political, and security fundamentals matter more than ever.

Browse the full Winter 2017 issue of Wilson Quarterly here…

Leveraging the U.S.-Mexico Relationship to Strengthen Our Economies, by Christopher Wilson

A New Migration Agenda Between the United States and Mexico, by Andrew Selee

The Merida Initiative and Shared Responsibility in U.S.-Mexico Security Relations, by Eric L. Olson

U.S.-Mexico Energy and Climate Collaboration, by Duncan Wood

Toward a North American Foreign Policy Footprint, by Earl Anthony Wayne & Arturo Sarukhan