Monday, August 31, 2009
He [Acosta], who kneeled before López Obrador. He, who promised in public to resign the post so that Clara Brugada could take over. He, whom AMLO belittled by telling him not to get a big head, that it wouldn't be on his own merit that he would win, rather because of the electoral machinery that el Peje and his allies in Iztapalapa managed. And it's evident that his victory can only be explained by López Obrador's electoral operation, but legally he is the delegate. And there is no way to make him fulfill his promise because it wasn't made in an institutional manner. That's why the institutions matter. That's why those who make arrangements outside of them later have no way to insure their fulfillment. Those who conduct politics through informal methods must understand that the results are those that Machiavelli predicted: politicians don't live up to their words --and in a strict political logic they don't have to-- precisely because there are no institutional mechanisms to make them do so.Similarly, Ricardo Raphael sees Juanito's appeal as turning the tables on AMLO, painting the ex-PRD candidate's supporters as the elites looking their nose down on the man of the people:
He already tasted the sweetness of popularity and he won't accept missing out on the adrenaline derived from this pleasure. Juanito talks and talks. Ever since they chose him at the voting booths, he carries the truth around in his mouth. He is popular truth incarnate. What the people think and what the powers always disdain.
He is a mixture and reincarnation of Pepe el Toro, Cantinflas' Barrendero [street-sweeper], of the most modest of all of the children of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Juanito represents the triumph --always risky, always miraculous-- of the most screwed over.
Juanito poses on the landing of a stairway. Juanito shows off his silhouette, in a public park. Juanito converses on television with the most popular interviewers. Juanito passes through all of the radio programs. Juanito appears and keeps himself on the front page of the big dailies. Juanito, emblam. Juanito, symbol. Juanito, saint. Juanito, from this moment on: unforgettable.
His popularity is barely getting off the ground. That's how he sees it. Nothing can stop him. The criticism doesn't hurt him, nor do the threats, real or imagined, from his enemies frighten him. When, from Mount Olympus, he is spotlighted for not knowing how to honor his promises, Fuente Ovejuna [a Spanish town featured in a classic play in which poor vassals rise up against a tyrannical master] laughs with him. Since when are politicians here known for honoring their commitments? That's a trait you can demand from other professions, but not from this one.
People have wanted to disqualify him by asserting that he is not prepared to occupy a post so burdened with responsibilities: he doesn't have the education, nor the bureaucratic experience, nor the administrative ability. And he knows it.
From the bottom of the revolutionary and nationalist throat emerges a voice that rescues him: Juanito didn't study at Harvard and that's precisely why he could turn into a great public official. How many times have we heard that the natural wisdom of the people is the best of the tools for governing.
Sinaloa is Chapo Guzmán's territory, and just last week American authorities were mentioning the possible descent into terrorism from Guzmán's gang. At the time, it seemed overblown, and perhaps it was; it also seems more possible now that the warning was prescient.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
I read most of the above with great interest, which is in a way odd, because this issue is simple enough as to not require a great deal of consideration: Obama is both an obvious target to a relatively large swath of would-be assassins and someone whose death would throw the country into disarray and turmoil. The logical conclusion from that state of affairs is that the fewer number of weapons around him (or Bush, or any president), the better. Period. Further argument is superfluous.
Of all the US political issues that have arisen while I've been in Mexico, this is the one that has proved most likely to lead locals to the astonished conclusion that US world-power status is more a matter of luck than merit. Of course, the incredulous reaction of foreigners isn't necessarily a good indicator of whether or not the US is in the right, but it is in this case. It is, as Zengerle says, common sense.
The band playing at a bar where I was hanging out last night had two lead singers, one who was a carbon copy of Morrissey, and another who looked exactly like Joe the Plumber. The music wasn't bad, but a more bizarre, disconcerting combination of countenances would be simply impossible.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Genaro García Luna said that recovering the social base in favor of the state is necessary, now that drug traffickers has succeeded in creating a counterculture that drives the belief that the capos are a model of success.
Friday, August 28, 2009
[E]ventually, the PRI will have to be the first to know that sooner or later it must accept that tax, above all if it wants to govern with a more solid economy in the future.The PRI's opposition has been pretty absolute thus far, so I guess we'll have to see if Fernández's prophecy comes true. But the polling mentioned below and the worsening "fiscal shock" make it seem more likely than it did last month.
In the 140-pound title fight, we get to see one of the best one-shot punchers this era against a brutal body puncher with an iron chin. Urango's last time out was at 147 against Andre Berto; fighting the much, much slower Bailey is like boxing's equivalent of taking the metal donut off the bat. If Bailey can put a shot on Urango's chin (like he did at 1:45 here, for instance), the fight will probably end, but I think Urango is going to avoid that one shot and body-punch his way to a late knockout.
Most of Mexico doesn't think that legislative reelection would bring about a big change in Mexican politics: 43 percent said it wouldn't make a difference, while another 31 percent said they would perform even worse. Ouch. As a stalwart believe in the need for legislative (and executive, for that matter) reelection, that wounds me. I can only hope that it is more a reflection of broad-based cynicism toward the pols, rather than a deeply considered and strongly held belief.
Perhaps the most interesting revelation (at least from an American who grew up under the shadow of the Club for Growth) is that most Mexicans are not reflexively tax-phobic: 23 percent say they would be willing to pay more with no strings attached, while another 35 said they would accept higher taxes in exchange for greater transparency and accountability in public spending- While 80 percent rejected a value-added tax on food and medicine, 41 percent said that they would pay it in exchange for greater funding of public works, while 54 percent the VAT would be acceptable in exchange for increased educational and medical service, compared to 51 percent willing to fork over the VAT in exchange for greater support for basic needs.
And, for everyone with an eye on 2012: Enrique Peña Nieto enjoyed the voter preference of a wide segment of the population. In a hypothetical matchup with Marcelo Ebrard and Alonso Lujambio, the Mexico governor takes 61 percent of the votes, compared to 16 for Ebrard and 7 for Lujambio. In a race with AMLO and Creel, Peña Nieto would win 58 percent of the votes, compared to 16 for AMLO and 13 for Creel. Peña Nieto also scored highly (though not quite as high) in questions measuring the friendliest and most trustworthy presidential candidates.
Among the specific parties' possibilities, Creel is the PAN favorite with the support of 30 percent of the respondents, followed by Josefina Vázquez (22 percent), Manuel Espino (14 percent), and Alonso Lujambio (4 percent). In the PRI, Peña Nieto is the favorite for 72 percent, with Beatriz Paredes (14 percent) and Manlio Fabio Beltrones (4 percent) way behind.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Back from vacation, I wanted to inform myself about what had happened in Mexico in recent days. I read from cover to cover the principal sections of two papers published in the capital. I started with Excélsior and continued with Reforma. Before continuing with other newspapers, I realized that there was not a single article directly related to the president in either paper. Not one. Zero presence of Felipe Calderón. I inevitably asked: and where is the president?
Unlike that disappearance in the two above papers, I found various articles about Congress and the parties: 11 in Excélsior and five in Reforma. It seemed evident that those who are defining the national political agenda are the party caucuses of the legislature that is about to open. The president, in contrast, found himself in a sort of banishment in the Monday paper, although there did appear some reports, all of them minor, of cabinet secretaries: four in Excélsior and three in Reforma.
With the absence of the president and the presence of Congress, the following question that I asked myself is if the situation is an omen of what is to come during the second part of Calderón's term: weak president a strong Congress?
It's easy to oversell the irrelevance of a president after his party loses, and I think Zuckermann maybe does so here. (Although he writes the rest of the column as though it was more an open question than a foregone conclusion.) Calderón will definitely be weaker vis-a-vis Congress in the final three years than he was in the first, but that's built into the Mexican system. Whether he ends up like Bush during his final year (a virtual non-entity) or more like Clinton after the Republicans took over (concentrating on small victories rather than grand agenda items, but still relevant) seems like a question of will as much as anything. If I had to bet, I don't imagine that the post-election quiet from Los Pinos will last a whole lot longer.
It also said that the murder rate in Chihuahua and Sinaloa is up above 40 (per 100,000 residents) in 2009, jumping from 28 and 18, respectively. Those two states are Mexico's most violent, followed by Baja California, Mexico City, and Guerrero. As far as the national murder rate, according to the poll, last year was the first time it rose nationally in ten years. Contrary to Eduardo Medina Mora's claim a couple of weeks ago, the figure was at around 12, not 10.7. This year, however, it is up to 18 per 100,000.
[W]e have become aware that local expense also rose for reasons that are simply unacceptable: the rise in salaries and in current expenses that were used in many cities to finance whims and kickbacks for the functionaries that were on their way out or, even, to filter public funds to the electoral authority. No one talked about this "financial hole" before the elections, when it seemed more than likely that governments would have sufficient funds. And nobody knew precisely the magnitude of the problems that were hanging over them until the new governments began to arrive, with the surprise that the bank accounts were already exhausted. It's not a coincidence that the documents that the Hernández and Alvarado [two El Universal reporters] investigation referred to came about only until the end of July, when the electoral party was already over.It seems like this is more of a dystopian fantasy than a reality. I wonder why is everyone looking to the federal government to solve this; wouldn't it be simpler for Mexican cities, who best know the scope of their difficulties, to issue municipal bonds? Do Mexican cities do that? I've never heard of one doing so, but is there any reason that they couldn't?
Nevertheless, the bankruptcy of the municipal or state governments is an impossible supposition. Mexico's local governments can't close (although some have done so during summer vacation, as in Guerrero), because they aren't family businesses or maquiladoras or a publicly traded company. If they come to declare themselves in financial bankruptcy, they'd still have to continue carrying out their basic obligations and paying their debts. It would be a gigantic disaster if, suddenly, the governments in the cities stopped worrying about trash or public lighting; if public transportation shut down; if the service windows for filing administrative forms closed until further notice; if the local police and firefighters when to their houses to look for new jobs, et cetera.
"Without a doubt, there are a lot of cartel members among us," said Robert Almonte, executive director of the Texas Narcotic Officers Association and a retired deputy chief of the El Paso police. "They've been here for a long time. They come for the same reasons as you or me. It's safer here. And if they have wives and kids, this is the place to be."
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Since 2000, when the panistas arrived to the presidency, the PRI and PRD have maintained a position of minimal collaboration with the executive. For their part, neither Fox nor Calderón managed to dismantle the old priísta machinery that still functions in the labor union structure, and impedes the implementation of a deep labor reform. Furthermore, the PAN administrations significantly increased state participation, with the governors then plumping up the money [from the federal government] whose destination they were not obligated to report.I think this is a little pessimistic, in that it implies that Mexico's structure permanently prevents the parties from cooperating, rather than just acts as a disincentive. The thing is, the disincentive is not so overwhelming as to be insurmountable. While the reforms passed in the last three years were almost universally timid, they do mark a major improvement from the first nine years of divided government. As the prevailing political dynamic continues to evolve, as Mexico's political class continues to stumble forward, the conditions will (intermittently, at the very least) become more favorable toward intra-party cooperation.
In this way political change gave way to a weak executive overrun by a corporatist bureaucracy, by governors who run their states like a local viceroy without any counterweight, and finally by a Congress committed in the best of scenarios to minimal and incomplete reforms that don't modify in any way the form in which politics is conducted, nor the financial structure of the government as a whole. It is this paralysis that has left the country in the same place that it was years ago. Dependent on oil, tied irreversibly to the American economy for better or worse, and with very limited room for maneuver in resolving the principal national problems like poverty, marginalization, and educative, technological, and infrastructure gaps.
The result of the election on July 5 reinforced this tendency in a very deep way.
The reality demonstrates that, for the balance of powers in a democracy to work, there has to exist a political class willing to commit itself to the idea that basic task is the creation of parliamentary majorities capable of arriving at agreements beyond the dispute for power. Without this condition, the paralyzing equilibriums lead only to paralysis, citizen disenchantment, and, worst of all, the deterioration of the quality of life in all sectors of society. Governing in a minority in Mexico is to be condemned to failure regardless of the party that holds the presidency.
Nonetheless, a thorough analysis. It's interesting how much recent commentary has focused on the dysfunction and irresponsibility of state and local governments.
The crisis was a shock for the government, a negative surprise. But why, if many of us already knew about it?As Noel Maurer pointed out recently, it's odd how Mexican analysts are very debt-phobic, when borrowing to offset a crisis is standard practice in the US. Ramírez de la O is one of Mexico's most prominent liberal economic voices (he was AMLO's principal economic advisor in the 2006 campaign), and he comes off as something of a fiscal hawk here. I tend to think the discomfort with debt to Mexico's checkered history with borrowing, but maybe there's more to it than that.
First of all, all of the budget plans and, still more, their execution, were always surrounded by a baseless optimism. Its only support were the high oil prices. State governments were infected by this illusion and spent their federal money without building permanent wealth or investing in education, science, or public works.
At the end of last year the government expected a gross domestic product of 13.1 trillion pesos in 2009. With the decline, which took it by surprise, it will be about 15 percent less, and as the budget was based on the first figure, it made a myth out of it. Furthermore, there is no way to compensate what has been lost with more taxes in 2010, especially if the attempt is to collect from those who have lost the most consumptive capacity, the middle class.
One problem is that the majority of the expenses fed the federal government scheme of not investing, but rather maintaining PAN and opposition governors content and therefore buying their support. Today you can complain that the governors have "spent the bonanza", but it must be remembered that it was the executive himself that told them on repeated occasions that together they were going to share more income.
The true exit to this shock turned crisis is not within reach of the government nor Congress. Inertia dominates them both. To start, public expenses will have to be cut by 500 billion pesos for there not to be a deficit.
Or government revenue could increase by this amount.
The real solution should be to recalibrate the size of the bureaucracy. Without that there will never be the funds to invest. But doing that requires the best possible political leadership, because it involves states, cities, Congress, and the judicial branch. Only after that can you begin to discuss more taxes and from whom to collect them.
Because that leadership is absent, the "solution" after weeks of discussions in Congress and between public and private bodies, will be the false exit. The only thing they are going to achieve with an investment freeze is sinking the economy even more, which will in turn punish revenue collection even more in the coming years and defund any budget that is made...
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
To summarize, there was a teacher's test last week to see which teachers would earn tenured position at public grade schools. Here's what Excélsior said last Monday:
...[O]f the 123,000 that answered the exam, only 25 percent will earn a post as a government teacher, owing to the fact that only 31,000 positions are available, which is to say that close to 92,000 aspirants will not obtain a position affiliated with the SNTE.And here's what the same paper was saying yesterday:
Of the 123,856 aspirants that presented the National Exam for Teaching Ability and Knowledge, only 25 percent passed; which is to say, only 31,086 passed the test satisfactorily so as to obtain a position.Again, unless I'm missing something, three quarters of the would-be teachers had to fail. And, the situation being what it was, three quarters did exactly that. What was going to happen happened. On top of that, the fact that Mexico is even testing its teachers now (which they weren't doing 18 months ago) is a huge step in the right direction. Why all the fuss, then? (And I should add that much of the coverage was far more breathlessly critical than the preceding passage.)
This wasn't a one-off thing, either; people were talking about it everywhere yesterday, and the narrative about the stupidity of Mexico's teaching core anchored into the Mexican psyche a little more deeply thanks to yesterday's coverage. But even beyond the unfairly maligned teachers, all the hand-wringing is a waste of time and an obfuscator of actual problems. Here is an article about how the Senate's committee on education is worried and looking into the matter. Assuming my understanding of the exam is correct, every minute the Senate (or any other institution) spends worrying about this is a minute that they aren't looking at the educational system's genuine obstacles, which are legion. Which is to say, a waste.
One year from the signing of the National Agreement for Security, Justice, and Legality offers an opportune moment to acknowledge that there have been advances and will in directly confronting organized crime. Nevertheless, said advances are clearly insufficient.
The balance is in general negative, tasks remain incomplete and there are irrefutable indicators that insecurity has worsened instead of improving.
There are at least four aspects that in Mexico SOS we consider to be a failure: first, all that having to do with the strengthening of the penitentiary system. Bands of kidnappers continue to operate with impunity, even from inside the jails, many of the bloodiest criminals that in recent months have been actors in heart-wrenching cases, are ex-convicts, and some even enjoyed the benefit of parole, which they took advantage of to return to the streets to commit crimes and harm society.
Second, the creation of Specialized Anti-kidnapping Units. According to Conago and the National Agreement's System of Information and Follow-up, 26 entities reported the creation of these entities, but only seven operate with the respective official decree of creation. Despite those "advances" a generalized increase in kidnapping and other crimes has been reported in practically the entire national territory.
Additionally, the meager advances in terms of cleaning up and strengthening security and justice institutions stand out. Every time there is a kidnapping we are surprised to see among the criminals one or several persons that are or were a part of the authority. As was recently published in some media, four of every ten agents who have resigned from the AFI --now the Federal Investigative Police-- have gone on to the ranks of organized crime. This the overwhelming proof of the degree of deterioration from which our principal "security" agencies suffer.Lastly, we have everything that has to do with the system of indicators for monitoring crime. Even though we in civil society have made some important efforts and strides in the creation of these mechanisms, commonly called "observatories", we continue to suffer from a lack of solid, up-to-date, and verifiable information from the authorities that supply our systems and help us to evaluate the problem in her proper dimension.
Of course, drawing attention (and consequent disapproval) to this generosity toward the nation's ruling class has not endeared Priego to said ruling class. Indeed, one of his fellow panistas said he lacked the moral authority to make a significant gesture of this type, because he basically demanded a kickback in exchange for running for governor of Tabasco in 2000. Indeed, his own party has been Priego's harshest critic. Bajo Reserva:
Somehow it was understood that the PRI, PRD, and Green blocs would remain silent last week before the condemnation of Deputy Gerardo Priego about the way federal legislators have illegally extracted, for years, money from taxpayers. But for the PAN to not only turn their back on him, but also to scold him for being brave and a good citizen (at least in this episode), says a lot about what that party think of honesty. It also tells us how far the issue of transparency foes in the nation: until it touches the personal interests of certain characters. It would have been enormously sensible had the new leader of the party, César Nava, offered to address the complaint. The same for Josefina Vázquez Mota, the coordinator in the Chamber of Deputies. But that wasn't the case: Priego has been isolated in his party, as other political forces will surely isolated him. And the problem is that, if we are honest, it was very uncomfortable to acknowledge that for decades deputies have diverted funds. They would have had to wound up in the accounts of President Felipe Calderón, and of many other high-level panista, perredista, and priísta politicians that have bragged of clean hands, and that were legislators at some point in their careers.Indeed.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Who governs Mexico then? I repeat what I said at the beginning: I don't know. It looks like those who govern are a chaotic group of federal authorities, parties, governors, and special interests, which, until now, haven't been capable of substituting that authoritarian presidential setup with another in which intelligence and democratic cooperation prevail.That seems right. I'd also add that in even the most developed democracies, intelligence and cooperation often aren't the driving factors. (See also: health care debate, United States.) And whatever its shortcomings, today's system is an unquestionable improvement over the years of Echeverría or Díaz Ordaz.
I don't think there's a huge functional difference between 500 and 400 representatives (likewise for the 200 versus 100 plurinominal deputies from whom the reduction would be drawn), but there's a couple of reasons that this is hard to take too seriously. Among them, the chances of a political body effectively reducing its size are comparable to a boxer punching himself; not impossible, but contrary to the mindset and interests of elected officials and therefore very unlikely.
And while I don't think the cut would be a bad thing, I also don't think it provide any particular benefit. The tax-payer savings would be a drop in the bucket, it wouldn't make a tri-partisan congress any less unwieldy, and there is some value in avoiding vast reorganizations to vital institutions, just to avoid the inevitable upheaval it causes.
Putting that aside and digging a little deeper, the results are still nonetheless worrying. Four percent of the test-takers answered less than 30 percent of the 80 questions correctly, while the national average was only 54 percent of the questions correctly answered. And all but the four percent are eligible for future positions as they become available. As the maitre d' says in Ferris Bueller (incidentally not a bad movie for the kids today), I weep for the future.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
First, the government still maintains control over its territory and has not ceded ground to narcotraffickers at any time. Second, although the fight against the cartels has resulted in higher rates of violence, the hostility remains largely contained in a few states and among narcotraffickers vying for improved positions within the cartels or between them. Third, Mexico's drug trafficking violence on a per capital basis remains significantly lower than Colombia's. Even after years of President Alvaro Uribe's successful hard-line security policy against Colombia's narcotraffickers, violence in this country remains quite high: There were a total of 16,000 reported homicides in 2008 in a country of 45 million people. In Mexico, in contrast, narcotrafficking related violence is expected to cause about 6,000 casualties in 2009, in a country of more than 100 million. Fourth, Mexico's narcotraffickers have not targeted civilians in order to support a campaign of fear against the government, even if they do continue to target public officials specifically involved in the fight against them.They conclude with the following:
In Colombia, in contrast, the nation's narcotraffickers embarked on a public fear campaign that targeted civilians and political elites, even if they had little to do with narcotrafficking or the fight against it. Finally, and most important, Mexico's narcotraffickers have no unifying political agenda.
As long as President Calderon stays firm in his stance against organized crime, investors will continue to base their judgments about Mexico on the government's capacity to push through badly needed fiscal and economic reforms rather than the level of narcotrafficking violence.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Many people in Mexico believe in the hypothesis that the country is a failed state.That's because they've never lived in a failed state, like Somalia, Afghanistan, or Haiti, to name a few.
Friday, August 21, 2009
Rice's appearance was part of a promotion by Allstate Insurance Co. He got a standing ovation from players and coaches, though some of the 11- to 13-year-old players were yawning or had their heads in their arms on the table about 15 minutes into the talk.
On the undercard, Robert Guerrero, at 130 pounds, shoots for a belt in his second division against Malcolm Klassen. Guerrero reminds me of one of those writers who put together perfect sentences and have entertaining characters and vivid sequences, but their novels always leave you flat. He does everything well, but there's something about him that feels somehow lacking. And this isn't about him bailing on the Yordan fight. Nevertheless, I think he'll find a way to a scrappy decision win here, making him a two-division champ without ever having beaten a significant foe, without ever having earned a signature win. Hopefully he'll step up the opposition should he win this one.
Lastly, I like Daniel Jacobs over Ishe Smith, but I'm not expecting a particularly interesting bout.
Update: Another example: Thanks to favorable forecasts from Banxico, the peso today hit its best level of the year.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Having made a law that affected the broadcasters has cost you a great deal. I remember a pathetic scene on TV when they covered your face during a news piece on Televisa. And despite it all you continue at the top of the list of electoral possibilities among PAN candidates. Why is that?
The man at the front of the government comes from the most doctrinaire wing of the PAN, and the man who was until a few days ago the president of the PAN also comes from that wing and is a driver of PAN doctrine. In contrast you have been singled out as neo-panista. Now you are remaking PAN doctrine.
The Secretary of Finance has recognized the historic magnitude of the fiscal problem. But he wasn’t sufficiently clear: it’s not a temporary problem, resulting from the global financial crisis. It’s a permanent phenomenon: the source of funds with which we lived for 30 years is gone; that which paid the external debt and allowed us to grow, although it was at very moderate levels, for three decades. Without counting the present year of crisis, Cantarell contributed more to the GDP in these three decades than the total growth of the economy.
The idea that the model has failed has become commonplace. Of course it failed, it has since the 1970s. The model is a political regime of distributing rents to maintain power. It’s not an economic problem, but a political one, and it always has been. It has nothing to do with neoliberalism or a mixed economy, neither of which ever existed. It has to do with a system constructed to extract resources from those who aren’t organized so as to hand it over to those who are and are therefore part of the political regime. And this didn’t come to an end with the arrival of the PAN to the presidency, because divided governments haven’t been able to confront the old regime.
The revolutionary regime constructed an economic system whose principal objective was the distribution of rent, and not growth. That’s why we didn’t grow. The defenders of revolutionary nationalism continue to insist that Mexico had a great post-war era, when we grew for 25 years. That’s false. We grew the same as the world grew, nothing spectacular, we did so because in those years there was available territory and scarce population. The 30 previous years Mexico hadn’t grown at all, and only slightly in the post-war era were we able to begin to catch up.
We didn’t grow so as to produce better, but rather because we went along occupying idle territory. When we ran out of territory, in 1965, the only form of maintaining fictitious growth was to put the country in debt, and later to base growth on oil…
But that is irreversibly over with. In the coming years oil production will continue to fall, to such a degree that we won’t have money with which to support the refinery that we haven’t begun to build. It’s a small temporary inconvenience, but a historic crisis.
To respond to that we have only two options. One is to do the same as always, which we know how to do: fake change and place the country in debt. It’s a direct and, unlike on other occasions, short path off the cliff. Remember: we haven’t had an economic crisis in Mexico without having oil behind; in every case, oil has provided us a way out.
The other path is more complicated. It implies recognizing the secular failure of a political project and making decisions of the same size as the crisis: historic. The changes necessary to resolve the fiscal problem aren’t otherworldly: in this space we have this week presented a proposal that was integrated, liberal, redistributive, and revenue-increasing all at the same time. That’s not the complicated part, which is the acceptance of failure that is required before the decisions. Which aren’t merely fiscal, let’s be clear.
Jorge Fernández Menéndez devotes today's column to laying out five objectives that are both urgently needed and achievable. They are paraphrased below:
1) The creation of a comprehensive national security system, which would lay out the relationships and mechanisms for coordination between the various security agencies. I imagine this would be something along the lines of the 1947 National Security Act in the US.
2) Give more investigative and prosecutorial powers to prosecutors at every level of government.
3) Centralize police command, if not through one central police, then through greater coordination between 32 different state police agencies and their federal counterparts.
4) Focus efforts primarily on the crimes that most affect the public: extortion and kidnapping.
5) Reform the penal system, through limiting contact with the convicts and the outside world, and by separating the most dangerous criminals from the general population.
According to the ATF, Mexican authorities submitted over 7,500 firearms for tracing in fiscal year 2008. That means that the ATF uses serial numbers stamped on the weapons to determine where they were sold and to whom they were sold. Of those 7,500+ firearms that were actually traced by the ATF, approximately 90 percent of them were sold to individuals in Texas, Arizona, and California.This isn't something I've thought or read about too much, but the above seems logical to me. The idea that the 12,500 guns not submitted for testing are much less likely to have come from the US relies on many in the Mexican government working together to manipulate the sample, and in so doing shame American authorities. I suppose that's possible, but it doesn't seem too likely.
This seems pretty cut and dried, but in reality, it’s not so simple. According to the Mexican government, over 20,000 guns were seized by Mexican authorities in drug-related crimes during the same time period. One has to ask why so many guns were not submitted to the ATF for tracing, and more importantly, where did those guns come from.
This is where it gets easy to fudge statistics because there is no easy answer. My sources within the ATF have been kind enough to explain to me some of the many reasons why those thousands of guns were never submitted by Mexican authorities for tracing.
Many of those untraced guns have serial numbers that have been filed off. Until recently, only a small percentage of U.S.-origin guns in Mexico had the serial numbers filed off, and that number has increased significantly—from roughly five to 20 percent. This renders those guns untraceable. Other guns are stolen or “misplaced” by corrupt law enforcement officials, either for personal use or for passing on to Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs). Some are never submitted because corrupt officials are attempting to protect the DTO-sponsored purchasers. And finally, some are simply destroyed without being traced.
Is it possible that less than 90 percent of those untraced guns came from U.S. sources? Yes. It’s also possible that more than 90 percent came from U.S. sources, but we will never know. This problem can be approached from a purely statistical standpoint, meaning the 7,500 guns submitted for tracing would represent a sample of the total gun “population.” If 90 percent of traced guns were sold in the U.S., then statistically speaking, there’s a good chance that somewhere in the neighborhood of 90 percent of untraced guns also came from the U.S. This is because 7,500 is a large sample from a “population” of 20,000.
Peña Nieto already has one foot in Los Pinos, Andrés Manuel is dead, Ebrard is the only one in position on the left, the PAN has no one and it is lost, Paredes this, Beltrones that, Josefina or Creel maybe.And Jorge Chabat explains one of the disadvantages facing Peña Nieto:
One look at the recent history of Mexican presidents mocks any premature conclusion when there are three long, intense years left in which anything can happen:
Vicente Fox in 1997 was a loquacious governor of Guanajuato that without the approval at the national level of his party celebrated his birthday by announcing his presidential aspirations with a head start never before seen in the history of Mexican politics, 1095 days.
Felipe Calderón in 2003 was working discreetly at the head of the development bank Banobras where he was being questioned for a mortage self-loan. And that's to say nothing of Ernesto Zedillo, who in 1991 didn't figure in any of the long lists of the "veiled" from his anodyne post as the secretary pf public education.
In less than three years Colosio was assassinated, Labastido feel apart and López Obrador watched his electoral advantage plummet. They were the leaders and many assumed that they were the future presidents.
If the elections in 2009 are an indicator --and it's true that mid-term elections rarely are-- the final matchup will be between candidates from the PRI and the PAN. And then, as in any final, anything can happen. It's true that the PRI already has at least three visible pre-candidates for the big one and in the PAN it's muddier. Nevertheless, the lack of clarity of one candidate is a double-edged sword: although it helps to have one or various figures positioned among public opinion, it also makes possible candidates more vulnerable. And if you don't agree, look at the attacks received by Peña Nieto --many of them probably with reason-- while in the PAN there is no one to attack, except President Calderón himself, who won't be a candidate in 2012.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Sadly, there’s no such thing as a private affair anymore.Well, sure that's true if you focus exclusively on the affairs that are public. Of course, by nature of being secret, the surely existent affairs that would refute Dowd's thesis are hidden from all except the principals. During every political scandal you hear people who ask, "How could he be so stupid to do something like that in this day and age, everyone gets caught." But they don't, we just don't know who the people are who get away with it, because their affairs remain private. I mean, the reason Spitzer was so casual was probably because he had been doing stuff like that for years without a whiff of scandal.
*I'd like to add that I don't find Dowd awful in a Bob's Big Boy sort of way, but, as with the breakfast bar at Bob's, I suffer from regular consumption of 800-word doses of Dowd.
That struck me as a questionable move on the government's part, especially as I read this:
High-level sources in the PGR said that until now they don't have any documents or testimony proving the direct involvement of the relatives of La Tuta with organized criminal activities or any other illicit act.This is wrong both for moral and practical reasons. The moral reason is, of course, that someone shouldn't be arrested for a crime for which you have no evidence that he or she committed. The practical reason is two-fold: first, La Familia has shown the willingness to respond to arrests with terror. That's not an argument for ignoring the mafia, but why risk a wave of terror by arresting someone who may not have anything directly to with them? Especially if in so doing the government must arrest an old lady. Michoacán is one of the areas of Mexico that most resembles an insurgency, where local support for the government is said to be most lacking. All this does is make the eternal battle for hearts and minds a little harder to win.
Second, rather than taking down small fish, wouldn't it make a little more sense to try to monitor the relatives, so that they lead the government to La Tuta?
Alejandro Martí also declared himself unsatisfied with the progress. Although he appeared animated about the idea of organizing opposition to the most change-resistant politicians in their races 2012.
Another voice associated with the National Agreement, Ernesto López Portillo, points to the System of Indices and Indicators of Public Security as a success:
The System was conceived by a technical board of the highest specialization, integrated by representatives of academia and civil organizations. The exercise was possible thanks to the donation of funds coming from business leaders. This episode implies what I call the professionalization of civil society, which is to say, the expropriation, by independent actors, of recognition and instruments that allow them to approach authorities with technical and highly proactive language. Look at the relevance of the formula: we are passing from the growing self-isolation and sporadic marches, to organized, technical, and permanent vigilance of the authorities.
How was it possible for the Brazilians to make this qualitative and quantitative leap in their oil industry? They limited themselves to adopting other successful experiences from other countries: among other measures, they provided Petrobras with a flexible legal framework that allows shared contracts of association and production with other business; they authorized it to place a part of its social capital on the market, without ceding control of the Brazilian business and its subsidiaries; and they created a corporate governing structure that guarantees transparency and accountability to the society.This of course dovetails with Calderón's (and Nava's, for the matter) trip to Brazil, in which the president called for an energy pact and a free trade agreement between the two nations.
Do I suggest that we do the same? Not necessarily. There are formulas that we could adapt to the Mexican model that would be compatible with our constitutional regime, while there are others that possibly wouldn't be. True, we shouldn't blindly apply prescriptions. But maybe would start to gaze southward.
No way it happens, but Greg Lalas has a column at Sports Illustrated in which he ponders all the reasons why Donovan makes sense on the Águilas. Again, given the several tons of liquid and invective hurled at Donovan every time he sets foot on a Mexican field, it's all but inconceivable, but I would looooooovvvvveee to see him wearing yellow. And based on the comments I scanned below an article on the column in El Universal, lots of Mexican fans are receptive to the idea as well.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Then again, London's cameras caught the tube bombers in 2005, and they probably provide some psychological benefit to residents of high-crime areas, and as I said my knowledge here is pretty limited, so I supposed I could be convinced that the above paragraph is mistaken.
That last figure is the slippery one. I'm not sure where Medina Mora's numbers come from, but the UN figure of 10.8 is the lowest I'd seen. The problem is, the UN figure is from 2007. There were almost 4,000 more drug murders in 2008 than 2007, which would work out to about 3.5 more per 100,000 residents than in 2007. In other words, assuming the non-drug murders remained constant, and using the UN figure from 2007 as your baseline, you should come up with about 14 murders per 100,000 residents in 2008. That is still significantly less than 18 (not to mention the 75 in Colombia in the 1990s, or the 40-plus in El Salvador today), and it doesn't make Medina Mora's point any less valid, so why monkey with the stats?
It's a bit off topic, but this stat is impressive (in a bad way): Mexico has seized more than 52,000 firearms in the past two years, and more than 10,000 AR-15 or AK-47 assault rifles, or enough for a small infantry division, in 2009 alone.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Also, for fans of Simmons' uniquely exuberant brand of hyperbole, this piece has a doozy:
But if you don't think the next five years of Jozy's career could potentially swing the future of soccer, you're insane.
I received orders from two people. They managed me. I never knew which cartel I worked for. In those days Vicente Carrillo was at war with El Chapo Guzmán. But I never met any boss, so when the war started in 2006, I didn't know who I was killing for. And the orders could be from one or the other. I lived in a cell and simply took orders. In Juárez 30 minutes are enough for 60 armed and trained guys to gather in 30 cars and drive out in the streets to show their power.No one should ever accuse Mexico's drug problem of being simple.
Later, we began to receive orders to kill people among our own group.