The new face of Mexican policing

Jesus Villaseca (Flickr)
Jesus Villaseca (Flickr)

The Economist, 6/13/2013

ON ONE side of a low hill in the middle of Monterrey, Mexico’s biggest industrial city, lies Independencia, a district so run down that donkeys still carry heavy goods to the top. On the other side is San Pedro Garza García, one of Latin America’s most affluent neighbourhoods and home to some of its biggest companies.

In the past four years, the yawning social divide between them has been bridged by violence. First, the sound of gun battles between drug gangs fighting in Independencia carried over the hill to the mansions of San Pedro. Then the killings began in San Pedro itself. In a place once considered by its residents to be safer than Texas, just a few hours’ drive away, murders, carjackings and extortion became everyday occurrences. Some rich families fled to Texas—and were branded as “cowards” by Lorenzo Zambrano, the boss of Cemex, a cement-maker which is one of Monterrey’s (and Mexico’s) biggest firms.

Read more…


Mexico names public security chief for Michoacan state

Dario Lopez-Mills - AP (2)Los Angeles Times, 5/16/2013

Responding to mounting concern about disorder in the Mexican state of Michoacan, officials announced Thursday that an army general would take over as its public security chief, overseeing both state and federal security forces. The appointment of the general, Alberto Reyes Vaca, was announced by state officials but had been arranged in coordination with the federal government.

For President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration, the move is part of a promised new focus on the southwestern state, long a hotbed of drug cartel violence. It has been the scene of massacres, paralyzing labor strikes and clashes between new citizen vigilante groups and local officials. Reyes, a career army officer, is a native of Michoacan who has, among other things, served as commander of a special forces battalion. His predecessor, Leopoldo Hernandez, had held the job for two months.

Read more…

Mexico obesity bulges on diet concerns

Obese manAl Jazeera, 4/26/13

Mexicans have always loved to eat and drink, but rapidly changing dietary habits have created a nation in danger of eating themselves to death. Mexican schoolchildren are now some of the fattest in the world, with one in three classified as overweight or obese – a 27 percent rise in 12 years, according to the latest National Survey of Health and Nutrition. Their parents also score high on global ranking tables – weighing in second behind only the United States.

Among adults, a staggering 73 percent of women are overweight or obese; men are only marginally thinner, with 69 percent “abnormally” sized. The National Survey reveals what is obvious to even an untrained eye: people of a “normal” or healthy weight are becoming a rare breed in this food-obsessed country. Mexico’s biggest killers are now cardiovascular diseases – including heart failure, myocardial infarctions (heart attacks) and strokes – and diabetes. Together these accounted for 150,000 deaths in 2012, according to World Health Organisation figures.

Read more…

Mexico: A hard road for reforms

Enrique PeñaNieto 2AULA Blog, 3/11/2013

During the campaign, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto proclaimed in thousands of advertisements, “Me comprometo y cumplo” – I make a promise and I keep it.  Offering a list of potentially transformative reforms – regulations, security, telecommunications, energy, and more – he began with one of the most intractable:  the struggling public education system.  In December, at his instigation, the Mexican congress passed a constitutional reform to create stricter standards for teachers and move hiring authority from the teachers’ union to the government.  Enough states had ratified the amendment by the end of February to make it law.

After years of stagnation and interest-group politics, education reform suddenly became politically expedient, passing with support from the PRI, PAN, and PRD.  Last week, the government put an exclamation point on the reform by arresting the teachers’ union boss, Elba Esther Gordillo, on charges of using her post for illicit gains surpassing $100 million.  A PRI apostate whose opposing alliance was credited with helping former President Felipe Calderón win his razor-thin victory in 2006, she was not just expendable, but an obstacle.

Read more…

In Mexico’s drug battle, the public is missing in action

Los Angeles Times, 12/30/09

Faced with drug-cartel violence and signs of vigilantism against the gangs, ordinary people would argue that it doesn’t pay to get involved.

Governments have long discouraged or even punished those who speak out. Given that legions of police officers and politicians have been bought off by the drug capos, it’s safer to stay on the sidelines.

And a lot of people benefit from narcotics trafficking. The cartels “have offered work and opportunities and a sense of identity that we as society were not able to offer them,” Luis Cardenas Palomino, head of an intelligence branch of the federal police, said at a recent conference on citizen participation.

Read more…