From Obstacle to Asset: Re-envisioning the U.S.-Mexico Border

4/19/2016 Forbes

By Christopher Wilson and Erik Lee

forbesThe U.S.-Mexico border has yet again made an appearance in the political theater of the U.S. presidential campaign, starring in its traditional supporting role as a stock villain character. Though the political dialogue sounds like a re-reading of a script written in the 1990s or early 2000s when Mexican migration peaked, the discussion on the ground in most—but not all—U.S.-Mexico border communities long ago moved on to regional economic development. It is a largely positive discussion that could not be more different than what we are hearing at the national level.

Throughout the border region, local leaders from the public and private sectors are asking themselves how they can form cross-border partnerships to leverage assets in their sister cities and strengthen their local economies. They are looking to create a border that connects the United States to Mexico at least as much as it divides our two nations. A close look at the economic data, however, reveals divergent local economies and major border barriers. In our recent report, Competitive Border Communities: Mapping and Developing U.S.-Mexico Transborder Industries, we found that while advanced manufacturing industries such as  aerospace, automotive and medical devices often predominate in Mexican border communities, RV parks, retail and freight transportation are often the most concentrated (and often low-paying) industries in U.S. border communities.

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Priorities for Mexico’s New U.S. Ambassador

4/14/2016 Forbes

By Duncan Wood and Viridiana Rios

forbesMexico has named their new ambassador to the United States, Carlos Manuel Sada Solana. The priority of the new ambassador is clear: to represent Mexico in a more constructive and positive manner, especially to the American people and the U.S. Congress, and to identify the Representatives and Senators that can have an influence on shaping such a positive image. This will be important not only in the context of this year’s presidential election, but also for the long-term health of the bilateral relationship.

The principal task of Ambassador Carlos Sada Solana should not be to respond in a direct manner to the current anti-Mexico discourse that is rampant during this electoral period, but rather to address this rhetoric in a strategic fashion. The importance of Mexico’s relationship with the United States should be emphasized along with the significant achievements that Mexico has had in recent years. This includes American endorsement of the reforms, the creation of the High Level Economic Dialogue (HLED or DEAN in Spanish), the development of intelligence cooperation, as well as bilateral efforts in energy, climate change, organized crime, and migration.

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Mexico and the Nuclear Summit: Can Peña Nieto Seize the Opportunity?

3/31/2016 The Expert Take, Mexico Institute

expert I (2)By Duncan Wood and Cristina Contreras

President Enrique Peña Nieto is in Washington this week to participate in the Nuclear Summit hosted by U.S. President Obama. While most attention has been focused on the participation of other countries in the talks, the explicit request by the United States government for the Mexican President’s presence offers an opportunity to focus on Mexico’s highly positive role in the global nuclear non-proliferation and safeguards regime. Although Mexico is not a major nuclear player, with no nuclear weapons and only one nuclear power plant of note (Laguna Verde, a 1.365 GW capacity plant that produces 4.5% of the nation’s electricity), the country has nonetheless played an important role in the history of non-proliferation and continues to be a showcase for best practices in the nuclear safeguards realm.

Mexico is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), ratifying the treaty in 1969 and the Additional Protocol in 2004. It is also party to the 1979 Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, ratified in 1988. Most importantly, however, Mexico became a pioneer of the non-proliferation movement through the 1967 hosting and negotiation of the Treaty of Tlatelolco (Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean).  This groundbreaking treaty among the nations of the western hemisphere was instrumental in making Latin America a nuclear weapons-free zone. Just as significant as the impact of the treaty in the hemisphere has been its legacy in Mexico’s foreign service, where it is seen as representing the pinnacle of Mexican diplomatic prowess. Mexico serves as the depository for the treaty. Alfonso Garcia Robles, the Mexican diplomat who was the driving force behind the treaty and who later became foreign minister, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1982 for his achievement.

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Mexico governor floats idea of medical opium growing to reduce drug violence

3/15/16 Reuters

Afghanistan_16A senior Mexican official has said legalizing cultivation of opium poppies for medicinal purposes might help reduce violence in one of the regions most affected by brutal drug gangs that have ravaged the country for years.

Hector Astudillo, governor of Guerrero, one of the most violent states in Mexico, told Milenio television it was worth at least exploring the possibility of allowing cultivation.

“Let’s do some sort of pilot scheme,” Astudillo, a member of President Enrique Pena Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party, told Milenio in an interview recorded last week but broadcast on Monday.

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10 Ways to Reduce Violence in Mexico

3/3/2016 The Expert Take, Mexico Institute

By Viridiana Rios

expert I (2)This article identifies 10 punctual policy recommendations for reducing violence and containing crime in Mexico. Each of these recommendations were drawn from the results of “What works in reducing community violence,” USAID’s latest study, and by comparing it with evidence and analysis of violence-reducing strategies in Mexico. The goal is to push Mexico’s violence reduction efforts back on track, particularly now that murder rates have once again begun to rise.

Mexico is more violent now than a year ago. In 2015, murder rates were up at least 11% from the prior year, a sharp contrast with previous years when, since at least 2012, murder rates had diminished consistently.

Though violence prevention programs are quite common, more and better information is urgently needed to guide social investment targeted at reducing community violence. That is why this new report and the conversation about it hosted by theWilson Center’s Mexico Institute and Latin American Program in Washington, D.C. is so important. In the report, Harvard professors Thomas Abt and Christopher Winship did what many had tried before: analyzed decades of empirical evidence to identify the most effective policies to reduce violence.

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Mexico: From a Drug War to a War Against Corruption

expert I (2)2/16/2016 Mexico Institute, The Expert Take

By Viridiana Rios
Frustration. Such is the feeling that permeates Mexican citizens who have seen corruption and security scandals breaking one after another, year after year.

Cases like the disappearance of 43 students at Ayotzinapa, the release of private audios showing government contractors describing corruption operations in infrastructure developments, and the identification of millionaire government funds poured into programs without proper evaluations of impact, have all contributed to the founded belief that corruption is one of the most daunting problems Mexico is facing currently.

The Mexican government has proven unable to diminish such frustration, and thus is paying a brutal toll in terms of its credibility. Corruption scandals have been the main ingredient behind the sharp reduction in popularity of Mexico’s President, Mr. Peña Nieto. During the six months after Ms. Carmen Aristegui broke the news about him inhabiting a luxurious home that had not been declared as part of his assets, approval of the president fell 20 percentage points, sharply decreasing from 59% to 39%, according to Parametría, one of Mexico’s major polling companies.

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Violence against Journalists in Mexico

2/18/2016 The Expert Take, Mexico Institute

By Eric L. Olson, Associate Director, Latin American Program and Senior Advisor to the Mexico Institute

expert I (2)The tragic news this week that another Mexican journalist has fallen victim to violence is not just disturbing, but profoundly troubling.  The victim, a freelance journalist named Anabel Flores Salazar, was a crime reporter for the daily Sol de Orizaba in the eastern state of Veracruz. She was a mother of two and according to a family member, had given birth just two weeks before her abduction and subsequent death.

According to family members, a group of armed men dressed in military-style uniforms with covered faces arrived at the house in a state police truck. They said they had a warrant to conduct a routine search. Then they entered the home, searched for Flores, and abducted her. When the family appealed to authorities, they were told there was no record of her detention.

The Flores case is tragic, but it’s not isolated. Her death is indicative of a much larger problem: the continued targeting of journalists by criminal groups and the decidedly apathetic response of Mexican authorities.

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