Mexico News Oct. 13
Posted by the Generals on October 30, 2011, 7:30 pm
Subject: Mexico News WEEKLY October 13, 2011 |
NOTE: The Romney report is broader than just Mexico, but interesting. Remember these reports are out of London and are aimed at the business community. I do not see them as ideological, yet there is a perspective. BC
Weekly Report - 13 October 2011 (WR-11-41)
Republican candidate auditions for role as Chávez scriptwriter
The recent decision to bring forward Venezuela’s presidential elections from December to October 2012 now looks strategic rather than just some idle tinkering with dates. The US presidential elections will be held on 6 November 2012 and judging by the foreign policy white paper released by the Republican pre-candidate Mitt Romney, the current frontrunner to challenge President Barack Obama, President Hugo Chávez will have myriad opportunities to cash in on some less-than-deft foreign policy proposals, not least the recasting of US President George W Bush’s ‘axis of evil’ to include Venezuela and Cuba alongside Iran and North Korea.
Romney’s An American century — A Strategy to Secure America’s Enduring Interests and Ideals seeks to resuscitate the “with us or against us” philosophy embraced by the Bush administration at the expense of the more nuanced foreign policy approach of the Obama administration. Romney’s white paper argues that firm and decisive action is required because Obama has “allowed the march of authoritarianism to go unchecked. In some cases, he has actually encouraged it, as when he publicly backed former Honduran president Manuel Zelaya — a Hugo Chávez ally — despite Zelaya’s unconstitutional attempt to extend his term as president in defiance of the Honduran supreme court and legislature.”
This is simply a gift to Chávez. For one thing, “the march of authoritarianism”, by which Romney means the Bolivarian movement, has ground to a halt as Venezuela wrestles with financial difficulties (see page 3), and Chávez’s health issues. Obama has also diminished the attractiveness of Bolivarianism by refusing to confront Chávez unlike the Bush administration. Honduras is a case in point. Obama was at great pains for the US to tread carefully over Honduras to avoid charges of interventionism, and conspiring to topple “progressive” governments in the hemisphere, which above all else fuel the fires of anti-American sentiment south of the Rio Grande. He was still unable to douse suspicions of the US completely but he avoided the charge of US unilateralism. Romney’s interpretation of the course of events that led to the toppling of Zelaya would have put the US on a collision course with almost all of Latin America.
So how does Romney propose to engage Latin America? In his first 100 days in office, Romney promises he would “launch a vigorous public diplomacy and trade promotion effort in the region - the Campaign for Economic Opportunity in Latin America (CEOLA) - to extol the virtues of democracy and free trade…” The white paper goes on: “Through old and new media … CEOLA will draw a stark contrast between free enterprise and the ills of the authoritarian socialist model offered by Cuba and Venezuela.”
There is one truly eye-catching omission in the not inconsiderable 750-word section devoted to Latin America in the 44-page white paper, particularly given Romney’s commitment to focus on trade promotion and economic opportunity: Brazil, the economic powerhouse in the region (and, increasingly, beyond) is not mentioned once. Conversely, Hezbollah, whose presence in the region has never been proved, is mentioned twice in the Latin America section of the document and “terrorism” no fewer than eight times.
This speaks volumes about Romney’s priorities in the region, but also a failure to grasp contemporary realities. It underpins an anachronistic vision of the region as essentially unchanged since the cold war: homogeneity was never a feature of Latin America, but political, economic and social diversity is now greater than ever, and its heterogeneous countries are pursuing independent foreign policies (only this week President Mahmoud Abbas conducted a mini-tour of the region in his quest for support for Palestinian statehood); while Brazil, of course, is now a global power competing for a seat on the UN Security Council.
If Romney’s vision of Latin America is as out of kilter with reality as this document suggests, it would be challenging, to say the least, for him to enhance cooperation with the region, especially for initiatives as overtly politicised as the proposed CEOSA, leading to a ‘Reagan Economic Zone’, which would meet with no more pan-regional success than the Bush administration’s ill-fated Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).
The document evinces a propensity for pigeonholing complex countries, as well as what is, at best, a simplistic narrative for complex themes. The main thrust of Romney’s white paper (on Latin America) is that “Venezuela and Cuba are leading a virulently anti-American “Bolivarian” movement across Latin America that … has interfered with regional cooperation on key issues such as illicit drugs and counterterrorism, has provided safe haven for drug traffickers, has encouraged regional terrorist organizations, and has even invited Iran and foreign terrorist organizations like Hezbollah into the region.” In short, blame Chávez and Castro for everything, the failure of the war on drugs and (apparently) welcoming Hezbollah into the region.
The collective sigh of frustration from Latin America’s foreign policy gurus must have been audible. Chávez, naturally, dismissed Romney as “crazy”, but he must have been licking his lips at the prospect of him continuing on his current trajectory to the White House. It will not be difficult for Chávez to rally nationalist sentiment ahead of October 2012 by claiming Romney wants to recover the days when the US was a hemispheric hegemon (threatening Venezuela’s national sovereignty), harking back to Monroism, which in one of its modern incarnations as the FTAA, Chávez launched the Bolivarian movement Alba to combat.
The fact is the only South American addition to Alba during Obama’s mandate has been Ecuador, which suggests that while the whole region is prepared to work with Chávez it has no intention of participating in “the march to authoritarianism”. Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa held off for a long time before joining Alba and might be regretting his show of solidarity. The German government has dropped support for Ecuador’s flagship environmental initiative Yasuní, partly because of the skein of foreign alliances Ecuador has forged through Alba with repressive governments.
Ecuador only sent a very junior government representative on an Alba delegation to Damascus this week to express support for President Bashar al-Assad (Venezuela and Cuba sent their foreign ministers), but it was still associated with the ironic decision of an organisation which enshrines greater democratic participation at the heart of its founding statutes pledging unqualified support for an unelected scion of a dictatorship repressing his people. Venezuela’s foreign minister Nicolás Maduro vilified the western media for misrepresenting Assad. He accused “the Empire and western powers” of trying “to pounce on Syria’s internal problems … to destroy it.”
Mitt Romney also criticised President Obama for delaying sending the free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama to Congress for approval. Obama scored a notable victory on 12 October when both chambers of Congress comprehensively approved the FTAs, which were negotiated five years ago. Republicans backed the FTA’s almost unanimously; many Democrats demurred. The tightest vote inevitably was over Colombia. There was also a boost for Ecuador, as the passage of the Colombian FTA included an extension of the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (Atpdea) until July 2013 and applied retroactively to February of this year, when it expired.
Weekly Report - 13 October 2011 (WR-11-41)
MEXICO: Moderates back coalition proposal
On 10 October 46 prominent writers and politicians in Mexico subscribed to adverts in the Mexican press backing a call for coalition government. This was the first significant move in the presidential election campaign, which officially opens on 18 December and will culminate in the elections on 1 July 2012. So far there are no official candidates, only prospective candidates for their parties’ presidential nominations. The opinion polls, however, all point to an easy victory for Enrique Peña Nieto, the ex- governor of the Estado de México and the likely candidate for the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI).
A poll by the Gabinete de Comunicación Estratégica (GCE) found that 63% of Mexicans thought that the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN), which won the presidency in 2000 and then again in 2006, should not continue in power. A staggering 66% thought that the PRI, which ruled the country from the end of the Mexican Revolution (or more exactly 1930) until 2000, should return to power.
The GCE pollsters interviewed 3,000 people across the country from 19 to 25 September and found a widespread disappointment with the PAN. The PAN has three declared candidates running for its presidential nomination in 2012. They are: Ernesto Cordero, a former finance minister and President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa’s presumed choice; Josefina Vázquez Mota, a former education minister under Calderón and welfare minister under President Vicente Fox (2000 to 2006); and Santiago Creel, Fox’s interior minister whom Calderón defeated for the PAN nomination in 2005.
Creel endorsed the coalition call, as did Marcelo Ebrard, the outgoing mayor of Mexico City, and a leading left-wing candidate. Ebrard said that a coalition was the only way to prevent the PRI recovering the presidency. The coalition suggestion is all the more fascinating because it was originally driven by Manlio Fabio Beltrones, the PRI leader in the senate, and the only rival to Peña Nieto for the PRI nomination. Beltrones is now publicly distancing himself from the coalition idea, and surprised many of his supporters by publicly hugging Beltrones at a PRI rally on 8 October.
Beltrones’s hug of Peña Nieto triggered cries of “Unity! Unity!” from the assembled priístas. Beltrones appeared to be acting spontaneously but sceptics claim that the hug was stage-managed by Emilio Gamboa Patrón, a key political operator who was once private secretary to President Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988 to 1994). Salinas is one of Peña Nieto’s supporters.
The list of signatories of the call for a coalition to rule Mexico beyond 2012 stretches beyond politicians: it is headed by Carlos Fuentes, a prominent novelist. Besides Ebrard, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, three times the presidential candidate for the Left (who was probably cheated of victory in 1988), and his son, Lázaro (like Cuauhtémoc a former governor of Michoacán) signed. The Right’s main representative was Creel. The centre was represented by Juan Ramón de la Fuente, a former rector of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico (UNAM).
Ebrard was most outspoken about the threat posed by a PRI government and said that the return of the PRI to the presidency would be an “utter disaster”. He said that a coalition was the only alternative. This statement immediately drew criticism from supporters of the other left-wing contender for the presidency, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who was narrowly defeated by Calderón in 2006. Dolores Padierna, a prominent support of López Obrador, claimed that a coalition was the establishment’s idea for perpetuating neo-liberal economic policies.
Ebrard then made another interesting move on 12 October (see sidebar) which appeared to end his feud with the Roman Catholic Church.
Beltrones’s original coalition idea posited that if the president elected in 2012 did not win a majority of votes, or could not command a majority in congress, then the congress itself should draw up the government’s programme. No Mexican president has had a majority in congress since President Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León (1994 to 2000) lost his majority in the 1997 midterm elections.
Currently prospective candidates are not bound by the electoral law. From 18 December, however, they will have to buy all their advertising spots and space through the Instituto Federal Electoral (IFE). The other restriction which kicks on from 18 December is the prohibition on making false allegations about a rival.
The only thing prospective candidates cannot do at the moment, which they will be allowed to do from 18 December, is to ask people to vote for them. Currently they have to couch their appeal on their ideas or records.
Armando Ahued, Mexico City’s top health official, said that from 2007 to 11 October, 105,000 women had applied for an abortion in Mexico City and 63,718 terminations had been carried out by the city medical services. He noted that Mexico City provided prenatal services for all expectant mothers and also helped with adoption if the mother chose not to bring up the child. Ahued reckoned that the private sector had carried out about 50,000 abortions since 2007. Of the public sector abortions carried out since 2007 5% were for minors; 53% were for women between 18 and 25; 20% for women between 26 and 30; and 22% for women over 30.
Weekly Report - 13 October 2011 (WR-11-41)
MEXICO: More bodies in Veracruz
The admiralty announced on 6 October that marines had found a total of 32 bodies in three different locations in the city of Veracruz. Five days later the state authorities found another four bodies. The officials said that 96 bodies have been found in the state since the federally backed Veracruz Seguro operation was launched on 4 October. The alarming aspect of the discoveries is that local police may have been behind at least some of the killings. The federal government launched Veracruz Seguro after a self-proclaimed death squad, Matazetas, dumped 35 bodies on a main road in the city on 20 September.
On 6 October, the marines seem to have rolled up a network of safe houses used by the death squad. The death squad appears to have close links to the state police and so the unravelling may have major political implications. Veracruz, the country’s third biggest electoral district, is controlled by the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), which is on course to recapture the presidency (lost in 2000) in next year’s general elections.
One of the houses, containing 20 of the bodies found on 6 October, appears to be owned by a state police officer. It appears that this policeman also directed the marines to two other buildings: in one they found 11 bodies and in the other, a single corpse.
On 7 October the state attorney general, Reynaldo Escobar Pérez resigned. The governor, Javier Duarte, accepted the resignation. Both men took office together nine months ago. Duarte promoted the deputy attorney general, Marco Antonio Lezama Moo to take over.
The federal government launched another joint security operation (in which state police are supplemented by navy and army personnel) in the southern state of Guerrero, on 6 October. This state has long been more violent than Veracruz (in the first nine months of 2011 1,303 people have been killed by gangsters in Guerrero, compared with 212 in Veracruz) but the scale of the increase in Veracruz has been much greater this year: in 2010, 59 people were killed by gangsters in the state, according to Reforma’s Ejecutómetro, while in Guerrero 984 people were killed by gangsters in 2010.
Complicating the picture in Guerrero is a struggle between two rival teachers’ unions which has delayed the start of the school year. Dissident teachers from the Coordinadora Estatal de Trabajadores de la Educación en Guerrero (Ceteg) claim that they have been asked to pay protection money: they have refused and so 450 Ceteg schools (of the 1,200 schools in Acapulco) have remained closed, despite the deployment of troops and police outside schools.
The Ceteg teachers claim that the national teachers’ union, the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (SNTE), which is headed by Elba Esther Gordillo, a hugely influential figure in Mexican politics, is involved in the protection racket.
Even without the trade union rivalry, the security situation in Guerrero is dire. The state government claims that killing in Acapulco, the state’s main resort, has almost quadrupled this year and that the city is now the second most violent in the country (after Ciudad Juárez, on the US border).
Politicians campaigning in Michoacán, which holds gubernatorial, congressional and municipal elections on 13 November, are starting to complain of gangster intimidation. This election is important for two reasons. The first is that all three parties have a chance of winning, unlike most states where elections are invariably two-horse races. The second is that President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa’s sister, María Luisa, is running as the Partido Acción Nacional’s candidate for governor.
On 12 October President Felipe Calderón; Marcelo Ebrard, the mayor of Mexico City; Carlos Slim Helú, Mexico’s (and perhaps the world’s) richest man; and Cardinal Norberto Rivera met to start a M$600m (US$42m) project at the country’s main religious shrine Guadalupe in Mexico City. Politically the meeting was important because the cardinal publicly thanked the city government for providing the land for the Plaza Mariana project which will be paid for by Slim. Previously the cardinal and Ebrard have had testy relations, particularly over Mexico City’s liberalisation of abortion
Weekly Report - 13 October 2011 (WR-11-41)
MEXICO | Politics. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a left-wing candidate for the presidency next year, started an international tour in Washington on 11 October by calling for a change in the emphasis in the relationship between the US and Mexico. He called for more development cooperation and less emphasis on military aid, intelligence and weapons. López Obrador claimed that neoliberalism, poor economic management and corruption had caused more than 50,000 deaths in Mexico since President Felipe Calderón took office in December 2006. López Obrador, less controversially, pointed out that Mexico was the biggest exporter of labour in the world, yet still had an unemployment rate of 21% (including underemployment) and was a country where two-thirds (67%) of those employed earned less than US$13 a day.
López Obrador’s policy suggestions were: promoting rural development so that Mexico ceased to become a net importer of food; reforesting more than 1m hectares in southern Mexico, and building five new oil refineries. This would alter Mexico’s traditional strategy of exporting crude oil and importing more expensive refined products. Mexico currently has six oil refineries.
MEXICO | California. The Democrat governor of California, Jerry Brown, has ratified a law, AB131, which will allow undocumented migrants to apply for state grants and scholarships to attend university. This proposal is the second part of the California Dream Act to become law. In July undocumented migrants with places at university were allowed to apply for private student loans to continue their studies.
Governor Brown has also outlawed the E-Verify programme, which would have compelled municipalities to check the immigration status of all the people they hired. Governor Brown has also made it more difficult for the authorities to impound vehicles driven by undocumented migrants who do not have a driver’s licence.
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