11/23/2015 Georgetown Journal of International Affairs

An article by Eric Olson

protests by Edu-TouristThe recent decision by the U.S. Department of State to transfer roughly $5 million in security and counter-narcotics assistance from its Mexico counter-narcotics budget to its Peruvian budget raised eyebrows in Mexico City and Washington. The amount wasn’t the issue, as $5 million is just a fraction (15 percent) of U.S. counter-narcotics assistance to Mexico, and an even smaller proportion when compared to Mexico’s overall security budget. What was surprising was the basis for the decision – essentially the State Department’s determination that it could not, as required by law, report to Congress that Mexico was making sufficient progress on a range of human rights criteria.

U.S. security assistance to Mexico, usually packaged as the Merida Initiative, contains a provision governing human rights conditionality that is slightly different than that of traditional conditionality. Strictly speaking, Mexico is not subject to a traditional certification process. The U.S. funding language simply requires that the Department of State report to Congress on progress made on serious human rights cases. It then is up to Congress to decide whether to freeze the affected money. While the difference between a “report to Congress” and “certifying to Congress” progress on human rights cases may seem minor, it is deemed important because of Mexico’s sensitivities to being “certified” by another country, especially the United States.

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Mexico to Receive $6.4 Billion from 2015 Oil Hedges

11/24/2015 Wall Street Journal

Oil barrelsMEXICO CITY—Mexico’s program of annual oil hedges to partially protect the federal budget from sudden shocks in world oil prices will pay off handily this year, with Finance Minister Luis Videgaray on Tuesday estimating the December payout at $6.4 billion.

“The hedges we acquired last year to protect a price of $74.60 per barrel, which without a doubt is a higher price than what we saw during the year, will be paid in early December,” Mr. Videgaray told reporters. “Our estimate is that they will be for an amount of $6.4 billion, or about 104 billion pesos.”

Mexico spent $773 million on the hedging contracts for this year.

Normally, oil revenue accounts for about one-third of the federal budget, although the steep drop in prices and a 2014 tax overhaul has brought that  proportion down to around 20%. The government has cut spending this year and for  2016 in response to lower oil prices, with the budget cuts extending to national oil company Petróleos Mexicanos.

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Series of femicides cast a dark shadow over Mexico’s ‘sunshine state’

11/25/2015 The Guardian

femicidesQuintana Roo is Mexico’s sunshine state, a booming tourists’ playground which draws record numbers of holiday-makers to its golden beaches, coral reefs, Mayan ruins and all-inclusive package deals.

But in recent weeks, the Caribbean region has been badly shaken by a string of brutal murders of women – which authorities have seemed keen to downplay.

Within the space of three weeks, seven women have been murdered, bringing the total to 18 so far this year. At least two of the victims were strangled, and several had been sexually assaulted before their bodies were dumped in public places. All the women were Mexican.

This latest surge in murders has renewed tensions between activists against gender violence, and government officials who accuse them of trying to derail tourism and economic progress.

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Mexico Spends Less on Education than Other OECD Countries

education - pile of booksTeleSur TV 11/24/2015

The Mexican government ranks last in annual spending per student among the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, according to a new report made public on Tuesday.

The OECD report, “Education at a Glance 2015,” also revealed that Mexico spends less then US$4,000 per student compared to the OECD average of around US$10,000. Currently, the OECD, which was created in 1960, has 34 member countries, including Chile, Mexico, Austria, Australia, Portugal, Spain, United Kingdom, United States and Canada, among others.

The findings come despite seeing an increase in investment towards education as a percentage of the country’s GDP, which rose from 4.4 percent in 2000 to 5.2 percent in 2012.

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Mexico’s Economy Picked Up Pace in Third Quarter

shutterstock_101964346Wall Street Journal 11/20/2015

MEXICO CITY—Mexico’s economy accelerated in the third quarter, growing more than expected with gains in industry, services and agricultural production contributing to an increase in output from the second quarter and from a year earlier.

Gross domestic product, a broad measure of output of goods and services, increased 0.8% seasonally adjusted from the second quarter, and was up 2.6% from the third quarter of 2014, the National Statistics Institute said Friday.

The expansion from the second quarter, which translates into an annualized rate of 3%, was the fastest in two years and the ninth consecutive quarter of growth.

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Colombians Killed for Loan Sharking in Mexico: Report

handcuffsInSight Crime 11/23/2015

Five Colombians were found dead in Veracruz, Mexico, in what initially appeared to be an organized crime-style killing, although one theory holds that they were targeted for participating in a loan collection scheme.

It remains unclear why these Colombians were in Mexico, much less why they were murdered, and by whom. Given the history and dynamics of Latin America’s regional drug trade, the criminal economies of Colombia and Mexico are inextricably linked, creating numerous possibilities for what these men were doing in Mexico.

According to El Tiempo, however, the five men were possibly involved in informal loan sharking schemes, and may have been debt collectors. This theory is not without precedent, with recent evidence suggesting Colombian loan sharks are expanding operations throughout Latin America. In this practice — known as “gota a gota” or “drop by drop” — creditors offer high-interest loans to poor and working class people with little or no access to formal banking services. A debtor’s inability to repay creditors can lead to violence, even death.

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Heads of Spanish language academies meet in Mexico

dictionary_spanish_englishFox News Latino 11/23/2015

The 15th Congress of the Association of Spanish Language Academies was inaugurated Monday with words about the good health of the language and the need to continue exploring its diversity in order to keep strengthening it.

Taking part in the ceremony were the directors of the Royal Spanish Academy, Dario Villanueva, of the Mexican Academy, Javier Labastida, and the head of the Ibero-American General Secretariat, Rebeca Grynspan, among other dignitaries.

Villanueva emphasized the role of the Americas in developing Spanish, the world’s No. 2 language in terms of the number of native speakers.

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