How Mexico Became So Corrupt

cross my fingersThe Atlantic, 6/25/2013

Grupo Televisa, the world’s largest Spanish-language media company, is famous for its logo, a gold-colored eye gazing at the world through a television screen. According to The Guardian, this logo “captures the company’s success at controlling and dominating what Mexicans watch”. In a country where newspaper readership is tiny and the reach of the Internet and cable is still largely limited to the middle classes, Televisa — and its rival TV Azteca — exert a powerful influence over national politics. Through its scores of stations and repeater towers, the former accounts for roughly two-thirds of the nation’s free-to-air television; most of the rest belong to Azteca.

Accused for decades of politically slanted news coverage, Televisa represents another rarely spoken fact: modern Mexico has never functioned without corruption, and its current system would either collapse or change beyond recognition if it tried to do so. Just before the 2012 elections, Mexican news magazine Proceso and The Guardian released evidence of a series of shady deals struck between Televisa and the nation’s powerful Institutional Revolutionary Party (the “PRI”).

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Mexico’s telecoms reform bill – The Expert Take

shutterstock_70763086By Duncan Wood, 3/15/2013

In another bold move, the Enrique Peña Nieto government has presented legislation to the Mexican Congress that is aimed at reducing the power and monopolistic control that is currently held by the dominant players in the country’s telecommunications sector. The legislation, which appears to have a strong chance of passing through the legislature, is a further attempt by the government to wrest back control of the economy and Mexican politics from the so-called “poderes fácticos,” or vested interests. It shows the effectiveness both of the government’s approach, and of the negotiating mechanism that it is employing in its legislative agenda, namely the Pacto Por México.

The telecoms reform is far-reaching and revolutionary. First, it aims to create a new independent regulatory body that will have the power to restrain companies that have more than 50 percent of the market, and in turn will offer an opening to new, smaller firms. At its most extreme, the regulator will have the power to break up dominant firms, forcing them to sell assets. But the regulator will also possess the power to set maximum prices for interconnections, currently seen as being a severe obstacle to the emergence of rival firms in the fixed-line and wireless market.

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Mexico’s new president: Sacred cows no more

peña-nietoThe Economist, 3/14/2013

In the space of just two weeks, however, Mr Peña has revealed the extent of his ambition. Now that the PRI has retaken the presidency, he seems intent on clearing out the monopolistic blockages to Mexico’s growth and confronting some of its most formidable lobbies. On February 26th prosecutors arrested Elba Esther Gordillo, the head of the teachers’ union, on embezzlement charges. And on March 11th Mr Peña turned on Televisa itself—as well as Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man—by announcing a reform that could at last open up some of Mexico’s least competitive industries. “I’m here to transform the country, not simply run it,” the president said the day before the plan was unveiled.

Mr Slim, who controls the telecoms empire América Móvil, and Emilio Azcárraga, the boss of Televisa, are Mexico’s best-known oligarchs. Their companies both enjoy the lion’s share of their markets. In 2012 the OECD estimated that the dearth of competition in telecoms cost the country’s economy $25 billion a year, because of high prices for broadband and calls from fixed lines to mobile phones. Regulators have tried to chip away at Mr Slim’s empire for years. But its lawyers have frequently obtained injunctions to prevent inconvenient rulings from taking effect.

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Weekly News Summary: February 22

Coffee by Flikr user samrevelThe Mexico Institute’s “Weekly News Summary,” released every Friday afternoon, summarizes the week’s most prominent Mexico headlines published in the English-language press, as well as the most engaging opinion pieces by Mexican columnists.

What the English-language press had to say…

This week, auto defensa vigilante groups in the state of Guerrero released the last of the 42 alleged criminals they had kept hostage for almost two months, avoiding a showdown with government authorities. The leader of one such group reported the first casualty since the movement began in early January. Human Rights Watch released a scathing report blaming Mexico’s police and military forces of involvement in several dozen missing person cases. The government pledged to address the issue by, among other things, collecting DNA samples from the families of the disappeared in an effort to match missing persons’ reports with thousands of unidentified corpses found in recent years. In Tamaulipas, an anonymous Facebook and Twitter campaign continued to attract thousands of followers eager to receive unofficial updates on organized crime. International observers drew attention to the lack of safety that journalists working in Mexico face.

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Carlos Slim closer to entering Mexico’s television market

carlos slimLos Angeles Times, 1/28/2013

Carlos Slim’s telecommunications empire, Telmex, is poised to get a new shot at realizing its long-held goal of entering Mexico’s television market after a regulatory board this week approved rules that may allow the world’s richest man to launch a for-pay TV channel.

Mexico’s television market is almost completely dominated by the duopoly of media giant Televisa and  TV Azteca, which together control about 95% of what viewers see and hear on the country’s airwaves.

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Dispute over Mexico telecom frequencies turns into ugly feud between government, media company

The Washington Post, 8/22/12

A dispute over control of hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of wireless frequencies has erupted into an ugly, personal feud between Mexico’s government and one of its most influential media companies.

The head of broadcaster MVS Communications and some of the top officials in President Felipe Calderon’s administration accused each other Wednesday of lying about the government’s reason for withdrawing MVS’s right to frequencies in a bandwidth used by the newest generation of mobile devices.

MVS charged that it was being punished for one of its show’s discussions of an allegation that President Felipe Calderon is an alcoholic. The government said MVS was making false charges in an effort to pressure authorities to reverse a regulatory decision that went against the company…

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Mexican TV Stations To Show Soccer Rather Than Presidential Debate

KPBS, 5/4/12

Mexican voters will get their first chance this Sunday to see the country’s presidential candidates debate on national television. Problem is, they’ll have to decide whether to watch the debate, or a major national soccer match.

Sunday’s presidential candidate debate is the first of just two to be televised nationally leading up to the July 1 elections. But it’s questionable how many people will be watching. Neither of the country’s two major television networks — TV Azteca and Televisa — plan to broadcast the debate on their main channels. Instead, they’ll broadcast a quarterfinals match between two top-tier soccer teams, Tigres and Morelia.

The decision has sparked outrage among many politically minded Mexicans, some of whom believe that by relegating the debate to smaller channels watched by only a fraction of viewers, the media conglomerates are favoring presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

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