What’s Behind Rising Violence in Colima?: A Brief Look at 2016’s Most Violence Mexican State

expert I (2)The Expert Take, By Eric L. Olson & Gina Hinojosa

May 2017 was Mexico’s deadliest month on record.[1] 2,200 people were reportedly murdered nationwide that month, bringing the country’s death toll to nearly 10,000 since the beginning of the year. If the violence continues at this pace, 2017 will become Mexico’s most murderous year since the federal government began releasing homicide data in 1997, surpassing its previous annual homicide record of 23,000 murders in 2011.

Mexico has struggled with elevated violence for over a decade since the government launched an aggressive campaign against the country’s drug cartels in 2007. Deploying federal troops to communities particularly affected by drug violence has done little to stem criminal organizations’ drug trafficking operations[2] or curb violent crime. In fact, by 2011, Mexico’s murder rate had more than doubled, and while homicides declined moderately between 2012 and 2014, violence picked up once more in 2015 and has continued to rise since (see Figure 1).

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One-Month Anniversary of the Murder of Mexican Journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas

6/15/2017 The Expert Take, Mexico Institute

By Eric L. Olson and Gina Hinojosa

expert I (2)One month ago today, world-renowned Mexican journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas was ambushed by unidentified assailants while leaving his office in his hometown of Culiacán, Sinaloa. According to press reports, he was pulled from his car, shot a dozen times in the middle of the day on a crowded street, and left lifeless in the middle of the road. His signature Panama hat lay bloodied beside him.

Reporting from the base of the infamous Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s ruthlessly violent Sinaloa Cartel, Valdez was widely recognized as one of Mexico’s most fearless journalists. One of the country’s leading chroniclers of organized crime, corruption, and the intricate links between the two, he was awarded the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)’s International Press Freedom Award in 2011. “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.

Days after his death, fellow reporter Javier Garza Ramos wrote in El País that Valdez’s murder “shook the Mexican press unlike any other act of violence against journalists in the past decade.” Violent attacks against media workers are not uncommon in in Mexico (more than 100 journalists have been killed since 2000), but such high profile, internationally recognized reporters are rarely targeted. Valdez’s assassination sends a chilling message to the Mexican press: no journalist in Mexico is untouchable.

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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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The View from Mexico | Border Adjustment Tax: Economic Impact & WTO Consistency

1/18/2017 Forbes.com, Mexico Institute Blog

By Luis de la Calle

Donald Trump has been elected U.S. President as disrupter in chief; somebody that can get things done and change the status quo.

One of the centerpieces of his program appears to be a complete revamp of the U.S. tax system. “I understand the tax laws better than almost anyone. And that is why I am one that can truly fix them,” he said several times in debates and rallies. The idea is to end up with a system that favors investment on infrastructure and capital goods.

His background as a developer and his penchant for not paying taxes have led him to believe that the best way to promote growth and generate government revenue is taxing consumption rather than investment. Furthermore, his infrastructure ambitions need significant private investment funds that might only come with a favorable regime. The idea is to prompt firms and banks holding more than a trillion dollars in cash to put it to work.

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Mexico Wins: Anti-Corruption Reform Approved

7/12/2016 The Expert Take, By Viridiana Rios

expert I (2)Mexico just approved an anti-corruption reform that required changing 14 constitutional articles, drafting 2 new general laws, and reforming five more. This is not minor. The reform is, by far, the most encompassing system to identify and sanction corruption that the country has ever had and its effects will be felt quite soon.

In this text, I present the story of how Mexico got here and provide an assessment of the virtues and challenges of this change.

The Government tries to fight corruption

The need to create an entity to fight corruption was among Mexico’s policy priorities, at least rhetorically, since well before the arrival of Enrique Peña Nieto to the presidency.  However, the first of the 266 commitments that Peña Nieto had made during his campaign was to create a “National Anti-Corruption Commission” (NAC).

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Mexico’s Special Economic Zones: White Elephants?

By Viridiana Rios, Global Fellow, Mexico Institute

expert I (2)In June 2016, Mexico enacted a federal law to create Special Economic Zones (SEZ) in four of the poorest regions of the country. The initiative aims to reduce the markedly unequal levels of economic development inside Mexico, with a set of wealthy, internationally connected northern states, and an agricultural south that seems mired in perpetual underdevelopment.

Mexico will create its first Mexican SEZ in the Pacific port of Lázaro Cárdenas, on the border of the states of Michoacán and Guerrero, and the other three will follow at the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (Veracruz and Oaxaca states), Puerto Chiapas (Chiapas), and the Coatzacoalcos Corridor /Ciudad del Carmen (Campeche). The goal is to have at least one “anchor firm” operating in each SEZ by 2018, the last year of the current administration.

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Building Borders That Foster Security And Prosperity In North America

5/24/2016 Forbes

san-ysidro-border-crossing-by-flickr-user-otzbergBy Earl Anthony Wayne and Christopher Wilson

Canada, Mexico and the United States are collaborating to enhance security and foster prosperity at North America’s borders, while respecting each nation’s sovereignty.  Prime Minister Trudeau, President Peña Nieto and President Obama can give this effort a big boost when they meet for the North American Leaders Summit (NALS) on June 29 in Canada.  Given the contentious nature of the public and political debates about border security right now, it will be especially important for the leaders to articulate clearly what it means to build twenty-first century borders that are smart, effective, and meet both the security and competitiveness needs of North America. They should also bless a strong, substantive work agenda to make those objectives reality.

The three countries trade some $3.6 billion in goods and services each day.  Over a million citizens of the three nations cross the borders as part of their daily routine.  Border management tasks are enormous.  But, officials, the private sector and the many states, provinces and cities that benefit from border trade and travel see the tremendous value of a North America in which borders are places of connection and cooperation at least as much as division.  Around our borders, the three governments fight illicit activity; help our economies by facilitating legal trade and transit; and work to protect all three societies from threats ranging from terrorism to invasive species and diseases.

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