Mexico in 2018

01/9/2018 The Expert Take

expert I (2)By Luis Rubio

The presidential election of 2018 will be the first to be held in Mexico without an international anchor that guarantees the continuity of economic policy since the era of competitive, democratic elections was inaugurated back in the 90s. That anchor has proven to be key to attracting investment and conferring certainty to the population as well as to investors and hence, to the gradual evolution of the country. This does not necessarily mean that there will be radical changes in the government’s strategy. However, for the first time since NAFTA came into effect in 1994, the decision of how to conduct the country’s destiny will no longer be constrained by international commitments and, thus, whoever wins the upcoming election will have unbound power in this regard. The whole political point of NAFTA -an established framework to work under any electoral scenario- will no longer be there. Mexico is living a completely new political reality.

The rhetorical attacks on trade matters and, particularly, NAFTA that President Trump launched since his campaign in 2016 and his insistence on the possibility of cancelling it, has had a decisive impact on Mexican politics. By eliminating the “untouchable” character of the deal within Mexico, the certainty that emanated from it has also evaporated. Even if NAFTA were to continue (in my opinion, the most likely scenario), the damage already inflicted is enormous- as the high domestic political costs that a withdrawal at Mexico’s behest would have entailed no longer exist.

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The Expert Take | Where is Mexico’s Fight Against Corruption Now?

expert I (2)By Viridiana Rios

The deadliest earthquake since 1985 hit Mexico last week, the second significant earthquake in 2017. With at least 225 victims, the parallels between last week’s earthquake and 1985’s are spine chilling. Both happened on the same day of the year, September 19th, and both have awoken a powerful civilian mobilization to rescue victims from collapsed buildings.

Back in 1985, corruption and violations of the city’s building codes were attributed much of the destruction. Today, an excellent piece by Animal Político has proven that the state of Oaxaca was hit the hardest during the first earthquake of 2017 due to corruption and poor use of tax-payer resources. The entire seismic warning system of Oaxaca had not been operating since January due to the state government’s debts to the service provider. The alerts were either stored in warehouses, or were sold online by private parties. In Mexico City, out of the 7,356 seismic alerts that the city’s government had bought, about 46 percent were never installed and had simply disappeared.

In the face of these events, corruption becomes a humanitarian crisis, rather than just a judicial issue.

Mexico’s organized civil society knows this and, as a result, has recently embraced a vibrant and ambitious agenda to improve the corrupt system. Lawyers have joined efforts with activists to propose to Congress the necessary laws and institutions to effectively prosecute corruption acts and to watch over the legislation’s implementation.

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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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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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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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