Keynote Speech: Opportunities and Challenges for Mexico Today

10/29/2015 The International Trade Journal

By Diana Villiers Negroponte


Since its pre-colonial history, Mexico has demonstrated two contrary tendencies: the outward-looking, global trader and the protective, nationalist instinct. Today, the seven major constitutional reforms of the PRI government reflect the former. However, the teacher’s union, some presidential advisors, and the criminal justice system reflect a preference for the latter. The more progressive sectors of Mexican society assert the need to participate in the global economy, but latent protective and nationalist tendencies throw up challenges. This article examines several contemporary examples of each tendency and demonstrates how they coexist uneasily in modern Mexico.

This article was published by our Advisory Board Member Diana Villiers Negroponte in the International Trade Journal (Volume 29, Issue 5, 2015). Click here to read the full article


Drugs, Human Rights, Trade, and Distrust: The Evolution of U.S.-Mexican Relations

11/10/2015 By Tom Long, War on the Rocks

President Obama visits Mexico President Enrique Pena NietoLast month, citing human rights concerns, the United States quietly withheld about $5 million in counternarcotics assistance for Mexico. The State Department declined to certify that Mexico met conditions imposed on the aid by Congress under the Leahy Amendment, triggering the 15-percent reduction in funding for Mexican security agencies. Though more than $140 million of other U.S. funding will continue to flow, the decision — first reported by The Washington Post and confirmed by a deputy spokesman at the State Department — was cheered by human rights advocates. A senior official at Human Rights Watch told The New York Times that the cut was “unprecedented.”

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Increased Enforcement at Mexico’s Southern Border

wolaAn Update on Security, Migration, and U.S. Assistance

New Report by the Washington Office on Latin America

In a report released today, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) reveals that, far from deterring migrants from making the journey north, the most notable effects of Mexico’s Southern Border Program have been a significant uptick in apprehensions and changes in where and how migrants are traveling. These changes expose migrants to new vulnerabilities, while isolating them from the network of shelters established along traditional routes.

From when it was announced in July 2014 to June 2015, Mexico’s stepped-up migration enforcement resulted in a 71 percent increase in apprehensions of Central American migrants and potential refugees, compared to the same period one year earlier. Based on research and visits during the last two years to Mexico’s southern border zone, WOLA researchers found that Mexico’s increased apprehension and rapid deportation of migrants has not been paired with a greater capacity to screen them for protection concerns, leading many to be deported back to dangerous situations in their home countries.

Read the report…

NEW ESSAY | Homeland Security as a Theory of Action: The Impact on U.S./Mexico Border Management

By Alan D. Bersin and Michael Huston

Anatomy of a RelationshipThe terrorist attack on 9/11 in effect closed America’s borders.  The drawbridges were raised, airports and seaports shut down and cross-border traffic at land ports of entry was reduced to a trickle.  Defense and security and enforcement became the exclusive orders of the day.

The U.S. reaction generally and particularly on the Southwest Border was understandable, though it remained more instinctive than considered.  We had experienced a new vulnerability in our “homeland,” a concept that seemed foreign, strange and distant before 9/11.  Reflexively we retreated behind our borders and hunkered down behind the boundaries of Fortress America.

It soon became evident that the costs of “hunker down security,” i.e. the impact of closing the borders, would deliver an unacceptable, catastrophically self-defeating blow to our economy.  The events of 9/11, accordingly, initiated a wrenching turn in the way Americans viewed globalization and the manner in which their government understood and practiced internal security and external defense.  Policymakers were compelled to formulate new theories of action and respond to a dramatically altered threat environment.  Specifically, policy makers grappled with the challenge of how to secure the homeland in a world that was increasingly borderless.  The evolving policy and operational results may be the lasting legacy of September 11, 2001.

This paper examines these developments from the perspective of the relationship between Mexico and the United States and their shared management of a common border.  Although the emergence of a U.S. homeland security doctrine has significantly affected all trade and travel to and from the United States, it has had special importance for and a distinctive impact on U.S. – Mexico bilateral relations.

The above text is an excerpt from the introduction to the essay. This essay is part one of our series “The Anatomy of a Relationship: A Collection of Essays on the Evolution of U.S.-Mexico Cooperation on Border Management.” 

Read the essay. 

NEW SERIES | The Anatomy of a Relationship: A Collection of Essays on the Evolution of U.S.-Mexico Cooperation on Border Management

Anatomy of a RelationshipThe conventional wisdom among those who study the border is that following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States unilaterally imposed significant additional security requirements on the management of the U.S.-Mexico border, and that the measures taken to meet these requirements have made the border more difficult to cross for not only illicit but also licit traffic, including the trade and travel that is the lifeblood of cross-border communities. There is much truth in this interpretation, but it largely portrays Mexico as a passive receptor of U.S. policy, which could not be further from reality.

Rather, the increasing relevance of transnational non-state actors—terrorist groups, organized crime networks—posing border and national security threats in the region have demanded increased international cooperation to monitor and mitigate the risks. At the same time, the U.S. and Mexican economies have become ever more deeply integrated, causing significant growth in cross-border traffic and placing the efficient management of the U.S.-Mexico border as a first-order national interest for both countries.

The post-2001 border management framework has pushed away from the traditional understanding of the border as a line in the sand and moved toward an approach that seeks to secure and (in the case of licit travel and commerce) facilitate flows. This focus on transnational flows has expanded the geographic scope of what were traditionally border operations and thus required an internationalization of border management, the development of partnerships and cooperative methods of border administration.

Over the past decade and a half, the United States and Mexico have transitioned from largely independent and unconnected approaches to managing the border to the development and implementation of a cooperative framework. With contributions from government officials and other top experts in the field, this collection of essays explores the development of cooperative approaches to the management of the U.S.-Mexico border. The essays will be released individually throughout the fall of 2015 and published as a volume in early 2016.

Visit the Series. 

New Report on Judicial Reform by Justice in Mexico

justice in mexico logoBy David A. Shirk and Octavio Rodriguez Ferreira, Justice in Mexico

October 8, 2015

On October 8, 2015, Justice in Mexico launched a new report that provides a deep analysis of the current process of judicial reform in Mexico. The Criminal Procedure Reform in Mexico 2008-2016, by authors Octavio Rodríguez Ferreira and David A. Shirk, analyzes the process of implementing judicial reform in Mexico as well as the impacts of the reform on the federal and state level, as well as some of the past, present and future challenges to implementation efforts. Overall, the authors find that despite obstacles to the reform’s implementation, significant progress has been made and will continue in the years to come.

In 2008 the Mexican Congress approved an eight-year process to improve the criminal justice system, in a reform known as the New Criminal Justice System (Nuevo Sistema de Justicia Penal, NSJP). The NSJP will replace the traditional mixed inquisitorial justice system with a more efficient adversarial model. The new system will be operational throughout the country by June 18, 2016.

Read the report…

New Publication: How to Reduce Violence in Guerrero by Víctor Manuel Sánchez Valdés

10/5 Mexico Institute Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars ESSAY

This paper is a continuation of the series Building Resilient Communities in Mexico: Civic Responses to Crime and Violence, a multiyear effort by the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Justice in Mexico Project at the University of San Diego to analyze the obstacles to and opportunities for improving citizen security in Mexico.

Guerrero is one of the most violent and dangerous states in Mexico. According to the latest data published by the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System (SESNSP), Guerrero had the second-highest rate of intentional homicide in the country for 2014, with 1,394 intentional homicides taking place between January and November of 2014. Guerrero’s crime rate for 2013 is a matter of great concern, especially when taking non-reported crimes into account. Specifically, the 2014 ENVIPE survey estimates that 1,198,471 crimes took place in 2013, with 26 percent of Guerrero’s inhabitants being victims of crime at least once. The state’s dangerous conditions are adversely affecting inhabitants’ safety: 78.9 percent of persons residing in Guerrero feel unsafe living there. Meanwhile, fewer and fewer tourists visit the state each year, despite the fact that tourism is the state’s top productive activity.

One of the most pressing issues for the state’s security situation may very well be that the authorities responsible for law enforcement are part of the problem rather than part of the solution. This was made evident when 43 students from the Normal Rural School of Ayotzinapa were forcefully disappeared on September 26, 2014. Iguala’s municipal police officers, together with the municipality’s mayor, actively participated in the event in collusion with the criminal organization Los Guerreros Unidos, which was allowed to operate in the area in exchange for bribes.

In light of the gravity of the issues at hand, this article will aim to answer two closely related questions: Why did violence in Guerrero escalate over the last few years, and what can citizens and the authorities do to check the state’s worrisome levels of violence? In response to these questions, the article will conduct an in-depth study of each of the factors that have contributed to the spike in violence Guerrero has faced over the last few years. In addition, the article will provide several public-policy recommendations to help check and reduce Guerrero’s violence levels in the medium term.

Victor Manuel Sánchez is researcher at the Inter-American Academy of Human Rights at the Autonomous University of Coahuila. PhD student in Public Policy at the Center for Economic Research and Teaching (CIDE); expert in public safety and drug trafficking.

The paper is available in both English and Spanish