Wednesday, March 31, 2010
When a writer the size of Jorge Castañeda says, for example, that the war has failed and no one answers him, well the maxim of "I'll take your silence as a sign of agreement" applies. When the rector of the Tec, Rafael Rangel Sostmann, is the one who establishes how two of his students died in a confrontation with the military and the government remains silent, again the same principle applies. When no one, absolutely no one, explains how a drug trafficker arrested by the marines appears the next day dead, well the suspicion lingers that there is a "cleanup operation" where soldiers kill with complete impunity the enemies of the state.
Now, in honor of the post's title, I present to you Led Zeppelin at no extra charge. Cheers!
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
• First, what will Mexico do when it runs out of oil? Oil revenues represent up to 40 percent of Mexico's federal budget, but it's rapidly running out of oil. The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that the country will be forced to start importing oil in 2017.
• Second, what will Mexico do when it runs out of water? Mexico City already has acute water problems, and water shortages are already causing tensions along border states. And global climate change is likely to make Mexico even more arid than it is today, experts say.• Third, what will Mexico do to better compete with China, India and other emerging powers with better education systems and more skilled work forces? A recent World Economic Forum study into Mexico's competitiveness conducted by Harvard University economists concluded that the country's main problem to compete in the world economy is its bad education system, and that it's not doing much about it.• Fourth, what will Mexico do with its new generations of unemployed young people if it can no longer "export'' them to the United States because of stricter immigration procedures? An estimated 1 million young Mexicans enter the labor force every year, and Mexico needs to grow at about 5 percent a year -- much more than it has recently -- to absorb them.• Fifth, what will Mexico do to bring its indigenous people, mostly living in its southern states, to the modern economy? While recent governments have poured billions into southern states since the 1994 Chiapas rebellion, it is not clear that the region is benefiting as much as northern states from Mexico's insertion in the global economy.
Monday, March 29, 2010
There are examples of things being done better: one of them is Tijuana. Of course drug trafficking hasn't been ended in that city. But the simple comparison of life today with what happened several months ago is notable, but it hasn't been registered by society because the authorities haven't wanted to exhibit it. Nothing is simpler than launching a provocation to "demonstrate" that those advances aren't true.What's happened in Tijuana? A few things: the municipal government of Jorge Hank Rhon left office; a thorough project of cleaning up the policy was carried out; the state and municipal government got involved; the federation sent military, police, and federal forces that worked with a unified local command and dealt out extremely tough blows to the organized crime groups in the region. There is no other remedy or exit: the same must happen in Ciudad Juárez and Reynosa, Nuevo Laredo and Matamoros, to change the reality and the perception, break or mitigate the stagnation.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Ordinary citizens feel that this situation barely affects them. Bad things happen to other people ... over there.I suspect that this is just a reflection of northern Mexico as opposed to Mexico City, but this couldn't be further from the truth in Torrón. Four years ago it probably was, but today it's hard to find anyone here who says that organized crime hasn't at some point had an impact on their daily life, much less that it "barely affects them". I don't mean to be overly dramatic or overstate the degree to which I've personally been affected (which is relatively low, thank God; now I shall go knock on wood), and part of this discrepancy surely comes from reading and writing about security in Mexico on a daily basis, but most of it is the fact that violence is in the atmosphere in Torreón, and I imagine most of the North. Ordinary citizens swap stories about extortions and kidnappings and car robberies and murders on a daily basis, the way in a normal city people will bitch about the weather or politics. And the typical number of degrees of separation for such conversations has declined. Just a couple of days ago, I heard about these unfortunate victims from someone who knew one of them. A coworker's brother was murdered in his car earlier this year. A kidnapping victim was released nearly naked in front of my house a few months ago. I could go on. Bad things may happen to other people, but the victims are decidedly not over there, and you worry that they could also happen to you or the people you love.
It’s as if the whole country were made up of people who rent and people who are rented, as if one half of society has contracted the other to carry out the role of mutilated corpse, hit man, corrupt official or missing woman. There are no victims or criminals — just hired men.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
The first and second components are not new, but there’s a change is the allocation of the $310 million requested budget for 2011 away from hardware (much of it will have been delivered by the end of this year, after all), toward institutional strengthening. $207 million of the $310 million budget will support Mexico’s judicial reforms and ‘good governance.’I'd not heard the bolded stat before, and it certainly sounds like an improvement, although without seeing exactly what the programs are, one can't help but succumb to skepticism. But even if we give the governments the benefit of the doubt, in general I don't think we should be too optimistic about the possible impact of any bilateral agreement, however well designed. Overly hopeful proclamations about collaboration and information-sharing have characterized the security relationship for a generation (as Jorge Castañeda and Rubén Aguilar discuss in their book La Guerra Fallida, which is much better than Castañeda's articles supporting it, though still fundamentally wrong in my view), and have plagued the Mérida Initiative throughout its existence. Lots of vital ingredients are missing from an effective Mexican security policy, but I'm not sure why we think a) that American collaboration has been lacking until now, and b) that close American involvement is even a key element in a safer Mexico. After all, in most cases, the gangs terrorizing Mexico are homegrown and operate principally in Mexico. And unless the US is ready to consider legalization of marijuana and perhaps much stricter crackdowns on drug money in American institutions than anything we have ever seen, most everything that can improve the situation in Mexico --the speedy implementation of the 2008 judicial reform, greater attention to dirty money in the Mexican economy, the creation of a more competent, honest police agency-- is going to have to come from Mexicans. The US can support that, but to consider Mexican security through the prism of what the US is contributing like telling the story of World War II exclusively through the North African theater: it's an important part of the whole, but only a part, and not exactly a central part at that.
Pilot projects implemented at the local-level that facilitate policy coordination and information sharing will also be expanded. These include DEA agents, ATF and FBI analysts working together and sharing information with the Mexican military and federal police in Ciudad Juarez and the U.S. Border Patrol working with the Mexican federal police in various localities.
Friday, March 26, 2010
I believe that the climate requires that in the framework of this visit we again revise the schemes of institutional collaboration that there could be between both governments, which will allow us to really spark policies and above all a more effective strategy in the combat of insecurity.That doesn't really mean a whole lot to me, but he did say that US collaboration was "welcome" at one point. Since Peña Nieto is something of an open book on a lot of the biggest national issues facing Mexico, and since he's more likely than anyone to be the president from 2012 to 2018, comments like this are perhaps indicative of the philosophies that will be leading it for six of the next eight years. Or maybe he'll just change his mind in a few months.
Policies aimed at dismantling the so-called cartels can notch success after success, as they have done, but produce no overall reduction in violence. Violence is spinning off from the major syndicates, becoming more decentralized, with varying objectives. Roving gangs solicit hits starting at $20, their violence uncoordinated by a kingpin’s decree. And in resolving this problem Castañeda and Bowden are both right: the Mexican army is ill suited to be a police force.This is a big reason why thinking about public security in Mexico as a war between the government and a handful of super-powerful cartels is unhelpful.
I also learned that Bowden has a new book about Juárez coming out.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
I made a similar argument a few years ago, for similar reasons; to equate the two is to gravely undersell the needlessness and arrogance motivating the Iraq war. And it's also worth mentioning that Mexico can't pull out of Mexico the way the US can from Iraq. Calderón can remove the army from the picture, but the Mexican government is going to have to do something address the insecurity in the nation regardless of whether people are calling it a war or not.
Per my point a couple of days ago, I also think Rosenheck and other analysts make a mistake in conceding that what Mexico is living through is even a war, comparable to other interstate conflicts. (To be sure, policy-makers are the most responsible for this fallacy, since they've been discussing drug policy in primarily bellicose terms for two generations.) Lots of people are certainly being killed, but it's no more a war than Capone in Chicago was in the 1930s, than the Colombians and the Cubans in Miami were in the 1970s and '80s, both of which situations also ended the lives of many people in the United States. The dynamic at play is fundamentally different, and comparing any of the above examples to Iraq or any other invasion of a foreign nation confuses far more than it illuminates. It's apples and oranges, basketball and monopoly.
Update: Forgot to mention before that this came from the Mexico Institute. Also, I found it odd that Newsweek says that Rosenheck "was recently the Mexico City bureau chief of a newsmagazine", evidently afraid to name that magazine as The Economist.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Which brings us round to Mr Messi. I thought it was quite an achievement to manage 1,400 words without mentioning him, but as my friend the barman remarked in midweek, after the Argentine's stratospheric performance against poor Stuttgart, "Le tienen que prohibir. No es justo". (They should ban him. It's not fair). That came on the heels of a hat-trick against Valencia. Then he manages another one against Zaragoza, just in case anyone thought he was slacking.
Sigh--what can one say? Adjectives are beginning to fall short for this little man who seems to require neither space nor time to work his mojo. President Joan Laporta, frothing from every visible orifice, declared Messi the greatest player in history after the game, as if he [Laporta] were somehow qualified to say. He was getting a little carried away, and Messi will need to now prove his qualifications with his national side before any more can be seriously said on the subject. But, yes, the lad's a bit useful.
Were I the producer of a nighttime variety show, I'd try to work clips from Raphael's Escándalo video into the show as often as possible, especially the bizarre hand-punching dance he employs throughout the video. (Check the sequence beginning at around 0:30 for an example.) It's odd how much the motion resembles Kiddo's coffin-busting kung fu skills in Kill Bill 2. Raphael also deserves kudos for the simultaneously maniacal and non-threatening look he wears for most of the video (I think Jim Haslett copied his facial expression). All in all, a brilliant piece of art.
When there were majorities in Mexico, when Congress was faithful to the president, we didn't enjoy the benefit of grand visionary reforms. Today, the states that have majority governments that are noted for their innovative drive. Gifting an addictive majority to the president is a shortcut and could be a trap.Leo Zuckerman disagreed yesterday, pointing out that no one wants to give the president anything, but merely make a majority a more likely proposition than it is today, i.e. the US.
I think Herzog-Silva's point about the shortcut is worth remembering; Mexico's problems don't all come from a lack of majority. Although I'd add that a shortcut isn't necessarily a bad thing; why suffer from 40 years when you can suffer for just four? (The one about state governments is not; governing is completely different at the state level in Mexico.) But I'd say the bigger concern is with regard to reconstructing a strong presidential system that in the past facilitated authoritarianism. Such worries have a long historical precedent to back them up, but at some point Mexico needs to stop being governed by its fears* of a return to authoritarianism. If the first priority of your democracy is preventing the circumstances by which any leader can conceivably make his leadership permanent, then you necessarily shortchange many other worthy goals. Such a priority is understandable in a newly non-authoritarian country, but it can't be a permanent feature of government. Any mature democracy needs a certain measure of trust and acceptance; you accept the legitimacy of the opposing party's government, because you trust that they'll give you the chance to do the same when the time comes. But part of accepting the legitimacy of the winning party is giving it a reasonable chance to implement its agenda. Not a timid facsimile of said agenda, mind you, but the policies upon which it campaigned. In Mexico, all of this is absent, from the trust and acceptance (see López Obrador) to the implementation of an agenda to the campaigning on policies. The results have been manifest for the past decade; the system spins its wheels eternally, but it actually moves forward only in the rarest of fits and starts.
*I would have referred to such fears as "atavistic", but lately I can't use that word without feeling like a boorish showoff.
Under the new strategy, officials said, American and Mexican agencies would work together to refocus border enforcement efforts away from building a better wall to creating systems that would allow goods and people to be screened before they reach the crossing points. The plan would also provide support for Mexican programs intended to strengthen communities where socioeconomic hardships force many young people into crime.
The most striking difference between the old strategy and the new one is the shift away from military assistance. More than half of the $1.3 billion spent under Mérida was used to buy aircraft, inspection equipment and information technology for the Mexican military and police. Next year’s foreign aid budget provides for civilian police training, not equipment.
This revised strategy, officials said, would first go into effect in Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez, the largest cities on Mexico’s border with the United States. Ciudad Juárez, a city of 1.7 million, has become a symbol of the Mexican government’s failed attempts to rein in the drug gangs.
I like the part about focusing on specific cities, because in smaller spaces the relatively limited American contribution can still have a measurable impact on security. That bolded part makes you wonder how much faith to put in any of this, though. They aren't going to spend any money on equipment? All of a sudden the US has $300 for civilian police training? William Booth's Post writeup is rightly a bit more skeptical:
Faced with soaring drug violence that Mexico's military has failed to stem, U.S. and Mexican officials said Tuesday that they will seek to bolster nonmilitary spending on police and courts and look for ways to help ravaged communities, but they offered few concrete proposals for fighting the powerful drug cartels.So all of this might actually represent a genuine, sea-changing shift of focus, or it might be a rather timid shift of actual focus coupled with a substantial change to the nations' rhetoric. I suspect it's the latter. Part of the problem is that spending hundreds of millions a year on helicopters is just a lot easier than spending the same amount on small-bore training and development programs. We have Blackhawks and Bells to spare, but scaring up the expert human resources necessary to implement such a program would be difficult in normal circumstances, all the more so when the US is engaged in two nation-building projects thousands of miles away.
I remain suspicious that the ease of implementation was one of the biggest reasons for Mérida's original focus on hardware. In 2007 as in 2010, Mexico's hardware needs were clearly secondary to the problems in their security agencies, and the idea that Mexico's armament problem was so severe that it had to be addressed first is simply not credible. But Bush and Calderón presumably wanted a big, showy agreement, and $1.4 billion in helicopters was a far better way to grab people's attention than, say, a $200 million training program implemented over five years, even if the latter would have delivered better results.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
[W]e accept our share of the responsibility.
Tangentially relevant: the CNDH will be training soldiers on human rights. I don't remember the CNDH doing anything like this under the previous boss, so insofar as it is indicative of a greater focus on addressing army abuses, this is good news. Although it may well be window dressing, and Mexico could do a lot more to prevent said abuses by, say, prosecuting them consistently.
The Mexican leagues resembles less the parity of the NFL than the randomness of the NCAA tournament. Teams are great until all of a sudden they suck, with little explanation for the change. Take Chivas of Guadalajara, who opened the season with a record-setting eight consecutive wins. They lost their ninth to a team that hadn't won at home in almost a year, comprehensively bested by a score of 4-0. And it wasn't even a shocker; in the majority of the pre-game comments on the matchup, analysts were picking Jaguares to win. Chivas then looked really flat in a goalless draw in their following game, and lost another this past weekend. Most seem to agree that Chivas is a good but flawed team, rather than a potentially great team struggling through a rough patch.
The timing of Chivas's run had consequences for all of Mexican soccer. The revelation of the year for Mexican soccer has been Javier Chicharito Hernández, the previously unheralded 21-year-old striker from Guadalajara who began scoring goals in bunches this season. Called up to the national team for the first time in February, in the midst of Chivas' streak, he has scored four goals (two of them really quality efforts) with the big team in three games, and now seems a lock to be on the South Africa squad. But the emergence of Chicharito on the national team seems as much as anything a question of luck; had Chivas not been on such a hot run, which is to say had they played to their potential, Hernández would have just been one more promising forward off to a good start, and may well never have gotten the look from Mexican coach Javier Aguirre.
Monday, March 22, 2010
"In the struggle against the drug trade and organized crime neither the army nor Mexico can confront the problem alone. International cooperation is required." As a sort of answer to Janet Napolitano --who declared that the army hasn't helped contain the violence in Juárez-- and a vaccine to any future objection from our neighbors, the general establishes that the axis of the problem of drug trafficking: consumption, financial resources, and guns. In each of them, the US is, at the very least, also responsible.
The idea, she said, is that the residents of Ciudad Juárez, who have been burdened and affected by violence from organized crime, specifically by the murders, can witness the process that is carried out against these alleged criminals and can perceive that the state is working to end their impunity.This is, in the scheme of things, a small step, but in that it takes into account the importance of the population's confidence in the government, this is undeniably a move in a positive direction.
Of course, the respite from the city's problems was only temporary; the baseball stadium is maybe a mile or so from my house, and for the second straight year, they kicked off the season with fireworks. And for the second straight year, people in my neighborhood hurried inside, think it was gunfire.
But even beyond that questionable landmark, determining whether and when Mexico will win or lose the drug war is just an asinine way of approaching the subject. As long as prohibition is in place, Mexico will never win the drug war, just as Colombia, for all its successes, hasn't under Uribe. Nor will Mexico ever decisively lose the drug war. It'll keep grinding along much the way it is now, trying to reduce the scope of operations for drug gangs as well as the nation's murder rates. Calling the whole thing a "war" is generations-old semantic trick, and if it's merely used as shorthand for "public security policies to confront drug traffickers and organized crime", there's nothing particularly wrong with the term. But when people refer to winning or losing as though this were 1944, as though either were a serious possibility, well, we are tossing sand in our own eyes.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Friday, March 19, 2010
Also, US officials arrested more than a 100 alleged gang-members in El Paso, specifically the Barrio Azteca, which is said to house many of those doing the killing in Juárez, including those of the gang Los Aztecas. I've read in the past about how a lot of the biggest fish fighting it out in Juárez spend almost all their time in El Paso (safety is an issue for them, too, or perhaps for them, especially), and this is an unexplored area in which the US could potentially do a lot to help calm things in Juárez.
Also, Napolitano is now expressing support for the "brave fight" with drug gangs, presumably an attempt to make amends for her comment that the use of the army in Juárez had failed.
This really has been a busy period in US-Mexican bilateral relationship news. Unfortunately, most of the news has consisted of tedious sideshows. I wonder if this happens every spring, a sort of diplomatic flower coming into bloom, and I just haven't paid attention.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
I think Fox is as much of a clown as the next guy, and Napolitano was probably agreeing more with the first part of that final sentence than the second, but agreeing with personal attacks on the former leader of an ally is not good practice.
O'REILLY: OK. Now the — we did a segment the other night on the Mexican drug wars. I think that President Calderon should welcome U.S. federal agents and perhaps military people down to assist. Do you agree?
NAPOLITANO: Yes, and he is. We are working with President Calderon at the federal level, and that includes…
O'REILLY: But this would be a scoop if we can get our military and federal agents armed down there in Mexico because they have not been welcomed up to this point. Do you think they will be welcomed?
NAPOLITANO: Well, they're welcomed in terms of arms. There are different arrangements with different agencies. But here's the thing. There are large cartels in Mexico. They've been allowed to grow for a number of years. I prosecuted some of the cartel members when I was U.S. Attorney. We need to help Mexico any way we can.
O'REILLY: Yes, Mexico needs to let us help.
NAPOLITANO: And they…
O'REILLY: And they have been reluctant to let our federal agents to carry arms down there, and they've been reluctant to use our military. I hope they'll change.
NAPOLITANO: Well, let me tell you, I've been working border crime for a number of years as an attorney general and as a U.S. Attorney. I've never seen the Mexican government more committed to deal with these…
O'REILLY: Calderon's a good man, unlike Fox. Fox was a crook.
As far as the rest of it, a) American agents do operate in Mexico, so all of this recent discussion and denials on both sides of the border are just a weird jaunt into fantasy land, and b) the American military is not the solution to every problem.
A new four-pronged architecture for Merida has been drawn up that adds police and judicial training, border projects, and the promotion of civil society and human rights to the original focus on attacking drug gangs and their leaders. The new programs are to be ratified next week at a bilateral cabinet meeting in Mexico that will be attended by a host of senior U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.The editorial has gotten a lot of attention here.
The broadening of the Merida program is logical. Mr. Calderón has recognized that military force alone will not save Juarez, and in any case the Mexican army and Congress remain cautious about further expanding such collaboration with the United States. Still, given that the level of violence is still rising, the sharp reduction in U.S. assistance makes little sense. The United States should be doing everything that Mexico will allow it to do to aid its security forces. It also should be doing more on the U.S. side of the border. While the Obama administration has taken some steps to crack down on the trafficking of guns to Mexico, most of the guns of the drug gangs still come from the United States.
Here's another immigration proposal I came across yesterday:
That's an interesting idea, but a few problems remain: first, some of the anti-immigration fervor is based on a rejection of illegal immigration only, but much of it also stems from the desire to limit immigration in general. The auction is only better than the status quo if it means increasing the number of immigrants to something approximating what the labor market requires. I suspect that the latter group, which I'd say constitutes the most vocal opposition to immigration, isn't going to be placated by going from 500,000 desert-crossing illegal immigrants to 500,000 auction-winning legal immigrants.
Each year, Congress would set the number of visas available for auction. They would then go up for bid by anybody. With a visa in hand, anybody who passed some form of security check to make sure you’re not a criminal, spy, terrorist, etc. would be permitted to reside in the U.S.A. for the duration of the visa, and work, study – whatever.
NGOs could purchase visas for political or economic refugees. Employers could purchase visas for desired employees. Universities could purchase visas for desired students. Individuals could purchase their own visas to do whatever.
Work here without a valid visa? Somebody’s defrauded the government; you should have purchased that visa at auction. There’s really no good excuse for not having one. Sanctions could be split between the individual and the employer according to some formula. Take the whole question out of the hands of the INS and give it to the IRS, who seem to get better results generally.
Second, presumably this means skewing the immigration flow away from Mexicans, and away from the poor. There's certainly a reasonable argument to be made for doing that, but I wonder how successful that would be addressing the drivers of Latin American immigration today. And supposing we replace 100,000 busboys with 100,000 IT experts; is the idea that the Americans displaced by the influx of foreign IT experts would then work in restaurants? If so, that could mean a fairly significant quality-of-life downgrade as a result of our new immigration policies, which would make it politically unfeasible. If not, there's still going to be a powerful magnet pulling people toward the States. All this makes me wonder if, despite the obvious ugliness of our present immigration situation, the US isn't collectively rather invested in having a semi-permanent imported underclass.
Also, when it comes to restricting immigration flows, two points can't be made often enough: first, roughly half of the undocumented immigrants living in the US entered legally and overstayed their visa. Even a fence more successful than any we could have imagined won't come close to ending illegal immigration. Second, the aging of Mexico's population (hopefully coupled with a more dynamic local labor market) will likely eliminate most illegal immigration in the next generation.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Mexicans and Americans both should pause to think about what it means for the US to be the biggest dude in Juárez. If that means that the US will impose a certain amount of pressure on Mexican officials to arrest not only the triggermen but also take down the gangs they are a part of, well that would be a powerful incentive for other criminals to avoid killing Americans. But the specific goal of reminding the criminals that there is a greater power even in anarchic Juárez just seems misguided, for both countries. First, there's the question of how. The aftermath of the Camarena affair wound up causing deep rifts that both countries would hope to avoid this time around, hence the quick denials that American agents would be operating in Mexico this time around. So if the US isn't going to be adopting a greater presence, well we're back where we started: relying on Mexican security officials to improve security.
The problem is when citizens neither fear nor respect the authorities. It's what, it would seem, is happening with organized crime groups and gangs in Ciudad Juárez. The state and municipal police make them laugh. Or they are corrupted or threatened: "Silver pieces or bullets: either you cooperate, and take home some cash, or we kill you because we have better weapons that you". Maybe the Federal Police were a bit more feared and respected, but not much. It would seem that they already had them figured out, too.All that was left, then, was the army. It was said that the criminals did in fact hold "the greens" in awe. After all, the soldiers were well trained, they had powerful firearms and were less corruptible due to their loyalty to country. President Calderón decided to utilize the armed forces as the last resort of the Mexican state to inspire respect and fear in the criminals.
It's awful to say it but it would seem that the criminals also have the army ion Juárez figured out. The intervention of the armed forces in that city, far from calming the situation, has made it worse. And along the way, there occurred a disgrace for the Mexican state: the criminals lost their fear and respect of the armed forces. The last card failed. The cartels and the gangs in Juárez demonstrated that they don't hold in awe any institution of the Mexican state.
And now they've started to murder authorities from the most powerful state on Earth, the United States of America. With complete tranquility, they killed three functionaries of the American government. The question is what will the Americans do to demonstrate that it's better not to mess with them. What will be the reaction of the American authorities to instill fear and respect in Mexican criminals?
I think we'll see the response soon. And if we go by the reaction of the Americans for the murder in 1985 of the DEA agent Enrique Camarena, they will apply all of the power of the superpotency to instill that awe in the criminals who dare to confront them.
Furthermore, Zuckermann's desire for the murderous criminals to fear and respect something, anything, is understandable and natural. Anyone who lives in Mexico has a side of them that just wants the bad guys to start losing, and it's better if the criminals in any town operate with the understanding that they are weaker than the government. But using the instillation of fear as the starting point for policy prescriptions is a recipe for less security, more abuse, and continued disaster.
In any event, I do think this points to the fact that the Calderón government, either because of lack of imagination or will, has not done a good job drawing a line in the sand as to which behavior simply won't be tolerated. Even at its most powerful, the Italian mob in the US didn't run around killing FBI agents or foreign nationals. It is a horrible mistake to turn security concerns into a simple test of strength (a war of attrition might be the surest way to gut the gangs, but it wouldn't be a happy development), but a prerequisite for a comprehensive strategy that tilts the playing field in the government's favor is the capacity to take down a gang should it cross that line.
The state in a democratic system needs majorities to be effective. Without majorities, the capacity to decide and transform is lost, which ends up eroding the capacity to govern. Without definitions, the democratic system of government itself is vulnerable, because it becomes incapable of meeting the needs and expectations of the population.He goes on to suggest mandatory majorities for the party with a congressional plurality, the elimination of the plurinominals, and the increase in the minimum vote total to maintain registration. As a matter of making Mexico's politics more productive, the importance of majorities is hard to deny. So the options are letting things stand as they are and hoping that the PRI slides leftward and the PRD shrinks into insignificance, or to take more proactive measures like those that Peña Nieto mentions.
Mexico has lived more than a decade without big reforms because our institutional system makes it hard to build majorities. Today, the Mexican state is ineffective because it hasn't been transformed. In this year of the Bicentennial of Independence and the Centennial of the Revolution, we must generate the will to create the cement of an effective state, where the population enjoys the practice of the fundamental rights that the Constitution establishes and the country grows to its true economic potential. The first step to achieve this objective is pushing a political reform that helps to generate congressional majorities.
There are three concrete political reform proposals. All make valuable contributions and share certain elements. Nevertheless, in none of the three is the formation of majorities the principal objective.
The piece is also politically smart in that it subtly addresses Peña Nieto's PRI-ness, and the lingering fear that the PRI of today might be no different than the PRI of 40 years ago. He doesn't deny the PRI's authoritarian past, but he emphasizes that times have changed. This sentence, about the automatic majority clause, is typical:
In our present democratic context, the three big parties have the possibility of reaching this vote total, so the rule wouldn't be, as it could have in the past, unjust.I mentioned months ago that I think the basic path for Peña Nieto is to slowly take the air out of his celebrity while building a profile as a sharp thinker on policy issues. This is a good step in that direction. And even if he falls flat in 2012, he (or someone on his staff) would seem to have a bright future as a columnist.
Also, just so I don't go overboard in flattering him, here's a couple of posts where he's been rightfully criticized.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Evidently, the mayor is planning to fire 80 of the striking officers, which may be the correct move but is worrying because some of them will likely find their way into illicit occupations.
Berumen has evidently been asking these questions for most of the decade, but there's an odd five-year gap since the last time a similar poll has been published. With that grain of salt, the disappointed 70 percent is higher than ever before, although the 56 percent labeling the country very or slightly unstable is less than in April of 2005.
The PAN deputy María Elena Pérez de Tajada mentioned in the halls of San Lázaro the death of the wife of Governor Enrique Peña Nieto, Mónica Pretelini, and even said that some media outlets have blamed the governor for said death.Truly ugly stuff. I really hope that such ugly implication as this doesn't become a part of a broader whisper campaign (or, in this case, a public declaration campaign) in 2012. If Peña Nieto's opponents don't aggressively nip this kind of thing in the bud (say, by banishing Pérez de Tajada from the party or by denouncing her comments), it could take on a life of its own.
"I'm not saying, they say it in many media outlets, he is accused of killing his wife and they should file a complaint and investigate," she said to discomfort and rejection from the PRI caucus.
Monday, March 15, 2010
In her new job, [Gloria] Guevara will have to sell Mexico as a tourist destination, which is going to be difficult in the present climate. Not so much for the economic recession of the past year (which is already fading) nor for the A H1N1 influenza epidemic that started in Mexico and scared off foreign tourism. The most important problem, that which is scaring off tourists from other countries, above all Americans, is the growing perception that Mexico is a violent country where a tourist can die from gunshots at any moment.
First, the ministers removed the ability of human rights commissions to go before international tribunals when there charges need it or deserve it; they want to be the only judges to make decisions regarding violations. That's what is confirmed by the second decision from the Court, made just yesterday. It turns out that for the justices the PGR is correct in requesting to be the only agency to define, without any control, when it grants or denies the CNDH an initial request.[Break]Where does this tendency from the members of the highest court in the country come from? The Court gives the impression that the it prefers those in government more than the regular citizens, even when the power granted to the former goes overboard, as in this case.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Friday, March 12, 2010
Also, in typical Mexican daily fashion, the front-page story from Excélsior with the above information appears to one side of a full-length shot of a shirtless Bar Refaeli. Maybe it's part of a nefarious plan to distract readers from the US's outsized influence in Mexico.
So why isn't Nava, supposedly a Calderón loyalist who was essentially appointed to the PAN presidency by the president, heeding his wishes? Nothing could be less dignified than a public polygraph test as a way to settle a he-said, she-said political dispute. (Random historical note that is kinda relevant: according to Reagan biographer Lou Cannon, George Bush threatened to resign when it was suggested he take a polygraph while serving as vice president.) It's hard to imagine a more distracting sideshow to the legislative priorities than a debate between Nava and Beatriz Paredes. Rather than advocating for Calderón's legislative agenda, Nava dedicated his column space in El Universal to clarifying and defending his actions regarding his spat with Paredes and Peña Nieto.
Furthermore, beyond the uselessness of it all, is there anyone outside of the principals who's not completely bored by this story? It's more tedious than painting window trim.
However, as ugly as this last month has been, of the last two PAN bosses, somehow Nava is the more dignified of the two.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Also, the telenovela Corazón Salvaje (as you can tell, I have been really up on the high culture lately) has a big, climactic trial scene this week, and in typical novela fashion, what could take ten minutes has been stretched out over the course of two hours. (And I'm not sure it's over, since I didn't watch the end last night.) It's a rather absurd version of a scene you've seen millions of times before in Law and Order and My Cousin Vinnie and other such productions, with the judge trying in vain to control order amid alternatively damning and revelatory testimony, et cetera, et cetera. Which is to say, it resembles in no way the actual trials that an accused Mexican actually faces, given that Mexico's trials (outside of a few pilot programs initiated in the last few years) are almost all written and closed to the public. It's odd how the archetypal trial scene is Mexico has bypassed the reality of the Mexican legal system to anchor itself in Mexico's pop culture.
For the record, I support their cause, but this propensity to march at the least provocation demands parody. I'd like to read a novel set in Mexico City where street marches were a constant feature of the background, with the absurdity of the cause steadily increasing. Chapter one: a march to protest delays in pension payments. Chapter five: a demonstration to protest the lack of bathroom breaks at city construction sites. Chapter twelve: a march against tolerance of flatulence in office spaces. Or something like that.