Posted by the Generals on April 16, 2011, 11:05 am
Subject: Mexico News WEEKLY April 14, 2011 |
Weekly Report - 14 April 2011 (WR-11-15)
POLITICS: Finally, a clearer picture in the Estado
Exactly two weeks after staging a successful popular consultation to gauge whether the Estado de México electorate would be prepared to vote for a Partido Acción Nacional (PAN)-Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD) consensus candidate, the PRD leadership decided not to pursue the alliance. With this decision, the outlook for the Estado elections is a lot clearer.
The PRD national council met on 9 April to analyse the results of the 27 March consulta and to make a final decision on whether to forge the controversial and much-discussed alliance with the national ruling right-wing PAN in order to unseat the main opposition Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) in its political stronghold. Despite the fact that 76% of the people involved in the consultation process indicated that they would back a PAN-PRD candidate, the PRD national council decided to cancel the alliance. This after a show-of-hands vote in which 91 councillors voted in favour, 77 against and 18 abstained. The tally failed to achieve the two-thirds majority necessary to endorse the alliance.
In contrast, the proposal of establishing an alliance with the smaller left-wing parties, Partido del Trabajo and Convergencia was approved with 129 votes in favour, one against, and 44 abstentions. The vote clearly highlighted the fact that although the influence of moderates has consistently increased in the left-wing PRD, which is now headed by moderate Jesús Zambrano, an ally of Mexico City Mayor, Marcelo Ebrard, it is the left-wing hardliners more identified with Andrés Manuel López Obrador that still dominate the party structure.
After the release of the consulta results on 29 March, Zambrano had said that it provided a clear message that the PAN and the PRD should back one candidate and present a “joint programme to defeat the PRI and remove it from the Estado once and for all”. Meanwhile, the PRD’s radical secretary general, Dolores Padierna boldly stated that “there will be no alliance with the PAN”. Padierna, who is aligned with López Obrador, said that the real perredistas would not lend themselves to any sort of strategy that would help the PAN win the election. More importantly she hinted that the Left would instead seek to forge its own alliance and back Alejandro Encinas as its candidate. The diverging comments sparked speculation that the party could suffer a split just ahead of elections.
Padierna, however, proved to be right. Not only did the party reject an alliance with the PAN but it also decided to present Encinas as its candidate for the proposed left-wing alliance. A resigned Zambrano addressed the party after the vote and stated that “we differ on the extent of an alliance, not on whether we want to defeat the PRI or not”. He explained that in his view, the PRI is not “unbeatable” if confronted with a broad alliance. In this way he attempted to defend his own position saying that “all of you know that I have defended convenient broad alliances... and now I invite you to maintain this open line but only with the PT and Convergencia so as to promote greater unity”.
In an attempt to ease divisions, Zambrano described the accusations made by the two party currents over the issue as a “false debate”. According to Zambrano, those that assert that proponents of an alliance with the PAN are working for President Felipe Calderón and betraying the PRD’s principles, and those that accuse others of becoming instruments of PRI Estado governor, Enrique Peña Nieto in rejecting the alliance, are equally mistaken. However, divisions within the party will not be easily mended. PRD leader in the Estado, Luis Sánchez Jiménez, labelled all those that rejected the alliance as “traitors”. Sánchez Jiménez said that “they will have to answer to all those mexiquenses [Estado residents] that participated in the consultation”.
The PRD’s decision prompted the PAN to endorse its proposed alliance candidate, Luis Bravo Mena, as its gubernatorial candidate on 10 April. PAN president Gustavo Madero stated that, while disappointed, his party respected the PRD’s decision and would now provide its full support to Bravo Mena’s candidacy. Interestingly, it could be argued that the designation of Bravo Mena, President Calderón’s private secretary, as a prospective alliance candidate played badly to the PRD radicals as they refuse to be in any way associated with Calderón, who narrowly defeated López Obrador in the 2006 elections. Moreover, Bravo Mena’s designation over a more popular politician, such as the PAN’s leader in congress, Josefina Vázquez Mota, may reflect the fact that the party is resigned to losing the elections.
Meanwhile, the PRI, in an attempt to undermine the consulta, unveiled Eruviel Avila as its chosen candidate to take over from Peña Nieto on 27 March. At first glance this was somewhat of a surprise. After all, unlike the favourite, Alfredo del Mazo Maza, Peña Nieto’s distant cousin, Avila is not a member of the powerful Grupo Atlacomulco family clan that has dominated Estado politics for decades. However, the popular and well known mayor of Ecatepec, the Estado’s most populous district, was a close collaborator of Peña Nieto’s uncle and predecessor, Arturo Montiel (1999-2005). Avila’s unveiling showed that the traditionalist PRI is prepared to ignore hierarchy and tradition in order to secure a crucial electoral win. Avila’s designation could be a well calculated pre-emptive move to neutralise the threat he could represent if approached by the PRI’s opponents. PAN-PRD alliances have been successful in other state races such as Baja California Sur and Guerrero because they backed popular dissident priístas as their candidates.
All in all it appears that these events favour the PRI given that it managed to secure a strong candidate while its opposition failed to present a unified front against it. Nevertheless, pending Encinas’ confirmation as the left-wing coalition candidate, all three major candidates have been unveiled, and the campaigning ahead of the 3 July elections is now set to begin in earnest.
Weekly Report - 14 April 2011 (WR-11-15)
SECURITY: Security concerns spill across the border
The violence caused by Mexico’s criminal organisations has been spreading across its southern borders for years now, but by and large it has failed to spread significantly across its northern borders into the US. US officials have recently expressed concerns, however, that far from being a localised phenomenon on the US-Mexico border, violent activity related to Mexico’s drug gangs has already spread to the US.
While providing his testimony on a 12 April hearing of the US Senate committee on armed forces regarding the Department of Defense’s plans and programmes related to counterterrorism and counternarcotics, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Counternarcotics and Global Threats, William F. Wechsler recognised that the influence of Mexican drug gangs was not only increasing in Central America, but that they are also conducting violent criminal acts in the US itself. According to Wechsler, the influence of Mexico’s criminal organisations “extends far beyond the [US] south eastern border to cities all over the country, such as Atlanta, Chicago, and Detroit”. Moreover, he admitted that if the influence of these organisations was allowed to spread unchecked, it could have “serious implications” for US national security. He claimed that the transnational criminal organisations have recently become more interconnected and some have even developed links to insurgent or terrorist organisations.
Wechsler said it was important for the US to continue funding the Mérida Initiative, a programme that aims to fight drug-trafficking in Mexico and Central America, despite the fact that violence in Mexico appears to be “on the rise”. However, he also recognised that coordinating national and international security programmes can be “especially difficult”. Although the US authorities have always expressed their concern regarding violence and the existence of criminal organisations in Mexico, Wechsler’s remarks for the first time appear to confirm that the worry now is that such groups could become deeply entrenched in the US. The fact that he recognised that coordinating international security programmes is no easy task is also important given the recent controversies over the lack of coordination between the strategies of both countries’ security forces.
Wechsler’s comments were echoed by Deputy Assistant Secretary for Canada, Mexico and NAFTA, Roberta Jacobson, who, citing Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) data, revealed that it is believed that currently Mexican drug gangs are operating in 230 US cities. Speaking at a forum organised by the National Democrat Network (NDN), a Washington based think-tank, Jacobson went further than Wechsler and bluntly remarked that “to say that there is a fear or worry that violence linked to drug gangs crosses the border into US territory is a fallacy, because the problem is already here. This is not a crisis that affects only the border”. Also touching on the Mérida Initiative, Jacobson said that while “important” advances had been made, the results had been “mixed”. More importantly, she also pointed out that the next phase of the initiative should look to strengthen the region’s institutions in order to make societies less susceptible to crime. The latest developments in Mexico in particular have highlighted that the lack of strong institutions in the country is a major contributing factor to the widespread violence.
Interestingly, Wechsler’s and Jacobson’s comments followed the release of a report by Mexico’s national drug intelligence agency (NDIC) that found that the increase in violence in the Mexico-US south eastern border was the direct result of drug gang efforts to expand their operations in the US. According to the NDIC, unlike previous reports, now there is “concrete evidence” that Mexican drug gangs are moving further into US territory in their efforts to directly control drug-trafficking supply lines. The NDIC report estimates that drug-trafficking in 143 US cities is now directly controlled by the various Mexican gangs.
Weekly Report - 14 April 2011 (WR-11-15)
MEXICO | Labour. Mexicans work longer hours than any other members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), according to the latest yearly social statistics report released by the OECD on 12 April. The figures show that Mexicans spend on average almost 10 hours per day carrying out paid and unpaid work, higher than the OECD average of eight hours per day. However, of these, four-and-a-half hours are spent doing unpaid work, the highest in the OECD. As a result, Mexico has the highest proportion of poor in the grouping with one in five Mexicans considered poor compared with the one in ten OECD average.
MEXICO | Debt. Mexico’s banking and stocks commission (CNBV) proposed the establishment on 9 April of a national debt management system to set limits on the amount of debt that can be taken on by the country’s municipalities. According to CNBV president, Guillermo Babatz Torres, most of Mexico’s municipalities are considered to be severely under threat after incurring massive debt from private banks which they are struggling to repay. Meanwhile the federal government has announced that it would be responsible for any commercial debts incurred by the states.
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