Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Also, you know who could have used Gio? Barça, which is wracked by injuries, is lacking in depth (relative to Real anyway), and often shows a surprising lack of attacking spark from the midfield depth when Iniesta is out.
Sunday, January 29, 2012
While both government sources and outside analysts have trumpeted the Zetas as the most powerful and dangerous band in Mexico, the ability of a little-known group, even one with the backing of a larger organization, to move into the Zetas’ turf and fight for control of the region demonstrates that all gangs have become vulnerable to the prevailing chaos.
The spike in killing in Veracruz also exemplifies the fact that the parts of Mexico with the most significant recent rises in violence are not the border towns notorious for wanton killings, such as Juarez or Tijuana. Indeed, the violence has decreased in each of those border cities and in other regions that have long been closely tied to the drug trade. In recent months, however, it is in coastal states like Michoacan, Guerrero, and Jalisco, as well as staging-area cities just a few hours from the border like Monterrey and Torreon, where the most significant increases have been witnessed.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
The location of the clandestine laboratories suggests that the Mexican production of synthetic drugs is dominated by the same group that has long towered over the industry as a whole: the Sinaloa Cartel. The organization led by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, has long been the strongest criminal group along the Pacific coast region, as well as one of the most innovative in producing and smuggling drugs. It’s also noteworthy that the regions under the control of their biggest enemies, the Zetas, have comparatively little synthetic drug production.Also, the always essential Alejandro Hope has a new piece (translated into English) here.
This state of affairs seems unlikely to last. The Sinaloa Cartel has more experience at the production levels of the supply chain than many rival organizations, but the relative simplicity of synthetic drug production suggests that other gangs will inevitably eat into their market share. Furthermore, because there is no inherent geographic benefit to one region or another for producing synthetic drugs -- unlike marijuana and poppy, which are ideally suited to the remote mountain ranges of western Mexico -- a long-term shift toward synthetic drugs could eat into the natural advantages that the Sinaloa-based traffickers enjoy.
While there are a great deal of factors driving the violence in Mexico, it also seems logical that the greater amount of money at stake with synthetic production could encourage more bloodshed. Indeed, it is unlikely to be a coincidence that the rise in synthetic production has occurred alongside the notorious spike in Mexican violence. Insofar as the shift toward synthetic drugs is permanent, it will likely make the recent wave of violence more difficult to rein in.
Also, he says Pemex is not, strictly speaking, a monopoly, because other companies are involved in extraction and other secondary industry activities. That's, in the kindest take, needless hair-splitting; moreover, there are no retail gas merchants in the nation outside of Pemex.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Monday, January 23, 2012
Sunday, January 22, 2012
Dos años antes de morir, su padre le escribió una carta que Jorge Hank lee todas las noches. En ella le dice lo orgulloso que se siente de él, al verlo convertido en todo un padre de familia y en empresario de éxito, y le habla de la gran satisfacción de poder servir a los demás desde la función pública. Sin embargo, el profesor muere sin ver que su hijo tome un día la decisión de dedicarse a la política. Hasta hace menos de un año, Jorge Hank Rhon no hacía vida pública y afirmaba que él nunca se dedicaría a la política. Nunca pasó por una brigada juvenil priista ni coqueteó con alguna candidatura, pues él siempre dijo sentirse más feliz entre sus animales que entre la gente.
¿Cómo ha sucedido esa transformación? ¿Cómo ha operado el milagro? Entre las múltiples carreras políticas que el profesor Carlos Hank González apadrinó, destaca la de Roberto Madrazo Pintado, quien quedó huérfano en 1969, cuando la avioneta en la que viajaba su padre, el ex líder nacional priista Carlos Madrazo, se desplomó extrañamente en Nuevo León. Hank González adopta al huérfano adolescente y encauza su carrera, primero en el Departamento del Distrito Federal y después apoyándolo para una diputación a los veinticuatro años de edad. Más tarde le da todo su respaldo para convertirse en gobernador de Tabasco e intenta impulsarlo sin éxito como candidato presidencial en 1999. En 2004, Roberto Madrazo es presidente nacional del PRI, y es él quien le pide como un favor personal a su compadre y amigo Jorge Hank Rhon que acepte la candidatura a la presidencia municipal de Tijuana. Vicente Fox le ha arrebatado al pri la presidencia y su influencia está aún vigente. Baja California pertenece al partido del presidente. Sin embargo, una de las enseñanzas de su padre, repetida hasta el final de sus días, es que un verdadero priista es un soldado de su partido que debe estar listo para entrar en batalla cuando se lo piden, aun cuando todos los factores estén en contra.
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Also, today Schettino notes the unusually wide swings in opinion regarding the economic prospects for 2012.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Update: Thank you, that was just what I was looking for. Pepe's performance was apropos of the Hanson brothers. Between the artillery captain's approach to tackling (which is standard), the element of diving (which was novel!), and the blatantly premeditated hand-stomp on Messi, it was simply insane.
There is much evidence to suggest that the decentralization of violence predicted in "Beyond 2012" is already underway. While Guzman and Lazcano remain big names, the relative power of the capos of their stature has been reduced during the Calderon years, ebbing away thanks in large part to the rise of smaller, more regionally isolated gangs.You can (and should!) buy the book here.
Some of these form from the ashes of larger groups, like the Mano con Ojos (an offshoot of the Beltran Leyvas) and the Caballeros Templarios (a splinter from the Familia Michoacana). Others, like the Zetas, start as simple enforcer groups but evolve into something very different: perhaps the best example of this phenomenon is La Linea, a Chihuahua gang that has essentially subsumed the Juarez Cartel, its initial sponsor.
There are also innumerable local street gangs, which, though they have existed in some form for decades, are now more violent and more connected to the transnational groups than ever before. While the principal driver of violence in Juarez appears to be fighting between the forces of Guzman and Carrillo, local gangs are a significant factor in sustaining the bloodshed: Mexican authorities have estimated that there are up to 1,500 street gangs operating in Juarez alone.
There are even questions of the degree of control that Lazcano and Guzman exercise over the organizations they lead. "Beyond 2012" mentions rumors of a divide between Lazcano and his number two, Miguel Treviño, and as InSight Crime has pointed out, it appears that many of the most spectacular acts of violence perpetrated by the Zetas were not orchestrated by the Lazcano and Treviño, but rather by lower-level members. Guzman’s control over the Sinaloa Cartel appears less frayed, but a wave of violence last year in Durango -- a state long controlled by Guzman where hundreds of bodies were discovered in mass graves last spring -- was attributed to infighting among Sinaloa cliques.
Also, SOPA seems to suck: when Boz, Richard, and Wikipedia are all lined up on the same side of an issue, chances are that's a good place to be.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
I wonder if Televisa could set up a The Decision-style special program to let the world know where Calderón is going to take his talents.
Monday, January 16, 2012
The above is a screen shot of Excélsior's home page, right now. The article precipitating all the attention is here. Can you imagine a scenario in which a foreign report on the US would receive similar attention from the Washington Post? For a variety of reasons, I cannot.
Also, just for fun, here's an old story from the NY Times about allegations about Sáenz while serving in the Zedillo administration, and how it drove a wedge between the US and Mexican governments. The same thing happened with regard to Manlio Fabio Beltrones a couple of years prior, and the subsequent history certainly seems to suggest that the Mexicans were right in dismissing the allegations, while the American officials pushing the stories were overzealous and credulous. I'm not as familiar with the allegations regarding Sáenz, but his recent record and this passage together seem to suggest that a similar dynamic was at play in his case.
Mexican officials said the allegations against Mr. Saenz came from half a dozen sources, including several drug traffickers. All offered second-hand information about his activities, or claimed ties to him that they could not prove. At least one failed a lie-detector test, the officials said.It's kind of ridiculous that despite the bolded section, the charges were given sufficient credence to spark a diplomatic row that wound up in the NY Times. For a Mexican drug trafficker, starting a whisper campaign against an honest official would not be a particularly complicated affair, so if officials in a position to act on those rumors are not endowed with much skepticism, this is what happens.
Saturday, January 14, 2012
However, that lack of mandate in and of itself isn't Mexico's foremost problem; the real issue is that weak presidents have a hard time enacting any agenda. But that's not so much a factor of the lack of support for the president as it is a product of a tripartite political landscape existing over top of a presidential system. If Calderón (who had approval ratings brushing up against 70 percent for much of his year, you may remember) had won a second round against AMLO, presumably the PRD would have emerged less intransigent, but he still would have had to deal with a majority-opposition Congress, one in which the incentives for the opposition were still to block or water down any presidential agenda item that comes down the pike. That's the problem that needs to be addressed, and I don't see any easy way to do so.
Friday, January 13, 2012
More on the piece from Leticia Ramírez of México Evalúa here.
Perhaps the piece's most glaring problem is Villalobos’ focus on Mexicans’ supposed cultural aversion to conflict, which he claims prevents them from supporting a robust response to the security problems. In his telling, Mexicans’ longstanding preference for negotiating their way out of problems rather than confronting them directly is responsible for the existence of criminal gangs, and has made it impossible to marshal the collective force of the law-abiding masses.
One problem with this argument is the source; for a member of the administration to publicly blame the population at large for the ill effects of government policy is inappropriate, aside from being politically tone-deaf. Beyond that, cultural critiques from whatever source are particularly unhelpful for a number of reasons: they are unfalsifiable, because they are not based on data but rather on impressions and anecdotes; and they earn acceptance through rote repetition rather than careful analysis (Villalobos, for instance, bases his cultural generalization on a recent book of Jorge Castañeda’s, who in turn borrowed many observations from authors like Octavio Paz and Manuel Gamio). In addition to this, even if the critique is on target, changing a country's culture is difficult to the point of futility, so it’s not clear what the policy implications would be.
Rather than worrying about correcting or overcoming something so amorphous and unidentifiable as culture, officials would do much better to analyze specific institutional bottlenecks, such as the inability of the Mexican justice system to process cases efficiently. Thorough institutional reform is a painstaking process, but it is more likely to work than changing an entire culture via public haranguing.
Villalobos goes on to dismiss the idea that Mexico should consider the security landscape from the criminal’s perspective, which is an odd argument, given that in any conflict it is a useful exercise to put yourself in your adversary’s shoes in order to predict their next move.
He also criticises dissuasive approaches to crime reduction such as that put forward by UCLA criminologist Mark Kleiman in an article in Foreign Affairs last year. In it, Kleiman proposed identifying the most violent of Mexico’s criminal networks through an elaborate scoring system, and then targeting them for extinction by coordinating law-enforcement activities in both the US and Mexico.
There are certainly elements of Kleiman’s strategy that are unconvincing; as Villalobos indicates, he spends very little time on issues of institutional quality and corruption, which are huge obstacles to any security improvement in Mexico. But Kleiman is certainly correct in his belief that the incentives currently driving violence in Mexico need to be reversed, and that smart policy-makers should be thinking about ways to encourage less aggressive modes of conduct. In fact, Villalobos’ call for stronger institutions is, in a broad sense, just the sort of dissuasive tactic that he criticizes: the theory behind it is that if criminals have a greater chance of being imprisoned and less ability to corrupt security agencies, they will naturally respond with more defensive, less violent operations.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Related writing: Aguachile has a great anecdote as to why as a med student Mancera became a lawyer, and Martín Moreno argues that the PRD will come out on top, regardless of their nomination. On that last point, I believe there are a number of polls refuting that claim, but we shall see.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
In any event, this reflects a significant difference between European football and most American sports: in the US, the "act like you've been there before" ethos generally and the Colin Cowherds in particular love to go after players who celebrate individual accomplishments too excitedly, while European fans seen the failure to toot your own horn as, I dunno, a lack of appreciation of the honor of wearing a given team's jersey. The context matters a great deal, but more times than not, I think soccer gets the better of this debate.
Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho has defended star player Cristiano Ronaldo over criticism that he does not celebrate his goals with enough passion.
Some Madrid fans made their feelings known in the 5-1 win over Granada at the weekend, whistling and jeering their own player after he had scored. The abuse caused Ronaldo to make an angry gesture and walk back to the centre circle with his head bowed, but Mourinho insists that the £80 million man is happy at the Bernabeu.
"He seems fine to me," Mourinho told reporters, ahead of their Copa del Rey last-16 second leg away to Malaga on Tuesday night. "I think it is more relevant that he celebrates the goals that win games and not the fifth goal in the 90th minute.
"I saw him celebrate the other four that were the important ones. If there are going to be criticisms of a player for not celebrating goals, then why not criticise me because I didn't celebrate any of the five goals. I didn't even get up."
In the face of unusually strong criticism from the pro-Real Madrid media over the incident, Mourinho was also keen to play down suggestions that the title race was over after Barcelona's 1-1 draw with Espanyol.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) said that he is not an enemy of private investment, and that he has not ever called businessmen "white collar criminals." He went as far as to say that he never used the phrase, and would even resign as presidential candidate if it were ever proven that he had uttered these words.I'm actually kind of surprised at the date of this comment. My memory is that his rhetoric was notably less fiery prior to the election.
Yes, step down from the presidential contest.
La Jornada, Michoacán edition, June 27, 2006:"No son empresarios, son traficantes de influencias los que están impulsando esa campaña, nada más que no tiene ni caso mencionarlos, son los que han hecho jugosos negocios, son delincuentes de cuello blanco, traficantes de influencias, los que no quieren que las cosas cambien verdaderamente en nuestro país."So...
This Tuesday morning, the star of the televsion series La Reina del Sur, wrote through her account @katedelcastillo:The mixture of a 6-year-old's naivety and a crackpot's conspiratorial suspicions is an odd one.
“Today I believe El Chapo Guzmán more than the government that hide painful turths from me, those who hide the cure for cancer, AIDS, et cetera for their own benefit and wealth", wrote the actress who then asked the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel to change, to stop trafficking and live right, and to thus turn himself into the "hero of heroes". In her note she said wouldn't it "be cool" if El Chapo began to traffic for the sake of good, with cures for the sick...
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Regardless of its reasons, the Calderon administration’s decision to block the information represents an unfortunate prioritization of short-term priorities over the long-term interests of the nation. While Calderon’s government has been rightly criticized various elements of its security policy, his team has been admirably open about the number of killings.
Indeed, when Guillermo Valdes, the director of Mexico’s intelligence agency (CISEN), announced in 2010 that some 28,000 murders linked to organized crime had taken place under the Calderon administration, this was significantly higher than most media organizations had counted. Similarly, despite the temptation to take advantage of the semantic murkiness and re-interpret the meaning of “linked to organized crime” in order to arrive at a lower number, Calderon’s team remained open about the data through most of last year.
In 2011, Alejandro Poire, currently the secretary of the interior and previously Valdes’ successor as the director of CISEN, continued the policy with the forthright admission that more than 15,000 of the prior year's murders could be connected to organized crime, a sharp increase from 2009. In short, even as the numbers indicated a worsening climate, the government helped provide a fuller sense of the circumstances around Mexico.
Instead of hiding the stats, Poire’s approach was to dispute their significance. He argued, for instance, that the government’s targeting of capos did not cause the murder rate to spike, and repeatedly emphasized that the violence was concentrated in a relatively limited number of municipalities.
The bad news, however, is that 50 percent of those polled expressed a preference that the PRI win in the coming election, a figure 24 points above that of the PAN and 26 above that of the PRD.
Monday, January 9, 2012
In a bit more than a year, the PRI's Miguel Alonso Reyes, governor of Zacatecas, multiplied the state's debt by a factor of almost eight.Wasn't the younger generation of the PRI supposed to be different? I don't ask that to be a smartass, I find it genuinely odd that the exceedingly conservative management of debt and the generally responsible conduct of the economy in general over the past 15 years would not have rubbed off more on the 40-something set, and turned into something like the default approach to the political economy. I guess the lesson is that as the early 1980s and the mid-1990s fade from memory, younger politicians are growing more comfortable with risky fiscal policies.
The preceding administration, headed by the PRD's Amalia García, left the state with a debt of 718 million pesos, in September of 2010. In December of 2011, the total was 5.261 billion. This figure surpasses, by more than 200 million, what was approved by the local Congress. Additionally, the governor sought to issue another 372 million in debt.
The current administration no longer has enough to pay its suppliers nor the second part of its aguinaldo [the annual Christmas bonus].
Part of this is due to the fact that while Mexicans are generally displeased by Calderon's results, polls suggest they are in surprising agreement with the basic outline of his strategy. Only a small minority of the public wants to see a pact with the criminals at one extreme or an even more violent military campaign at the other. So the candidates end up dancing around the issue, offering modest alterations to Calderon's framework.Good question.
What will be interesting is whether in the final months of the campaign as one candidate is down in the polls if he or she throws that Hail Mary pass and offers something completely different to try to distinguish their policies and draw media attention and votes.
I also feel compelled to add that no sooner was that piece published than half the slate of candidates began to prove me wrong. Here's AMLO and Creel returning to the familiar terrain of Calderón-knocking, and here's Vázquez Mota proposing life in prison for dirty politicians. More on that second part in a bit.
Sunday, January 8, 2012
Of course, if I was called a mafia leader time and time again, I might want to respond with a serpentine epithet too. Anyway, it's an interesting interview.
Xavi is, in my view, the greatest Spanish footballer ever. He is a serial trophy winner and has matured into a fantastic leader for club and country. Cristiano Ronaldo has scored some utterly unbelievable figure like 111 goals in 112 games for Real Madrid, produces feats of athleticism and power that have rarely been seen and, were it not for Messi, would probably stand unchallenged as the most remarkable footballer of our times. Yet they and everyone else are significantly, and I mean significantly, behind Messi in terms of his utter, divine brilliance. We live in extraordinary football times. Cherish them.
Friday, January 6, 2012
Santos had been the most electric offensive team in the tournament, but their one goal was the only shot they put on goal in the entire second leg.Also, the Christmas break from fútbol seemed thankfully short, this year.
In contests of even strength, Tigres, in contrast, preferred to play with some 17 men behind the ball at every moment. Their semifinal win over Querétaro was a miserable 180 minutes, with the lone score for either team coming on a horrific own goal. Only one of the eight playoff teams scored fewer goals over the course of the regular season than Tigres. Nonetheless, overcoming that natural inclination toward dreadful soccer, the Tigres attackers came at the net in waves in the second half of the vuelta. They scored their first goal of the night in the 51st minute, netted another 12 minutes later, and added a final dagger in the game’s waning minutes. Another two or three goals would not have outstripped the run of play.As if intent on proving that his initial game-changer was not a one-off spasm of bad judgment, Rodríguez continued to seek the spotlight in a series of bizarre interventions. Like a two-pistoled gunmen in a Western—picture Kevin Costner’s move at the end of Silverado—he whipped out the double yellow card in the 56th minute, simultaneously warning Carlos Morales and Héctor Mancilla. (What ref carries around two yellow cards waiting for that moment?) He later awarded Santos’ defensive anchor, Felipe Baloy, a straight red card for a tackle in which the Panamanian actually clipped the ball first.
Peña Nieto’s approach serves as a microcosm for insecurity’s role in the campaign in general: rather than taking center stage, public security has drifted into the background. As the campaign continues, this may change -- it’s hard to imagine the presidential debates passing without more substantive discussion of organized crime -- but there’s little question that the candidates’ reticence reflects a disinclination to engage the issue. As a result, there is a misalignment between the significance of the issue and the amount of attention it has received.
What this tells us is that for all of the dissatisfaction with the current state of security, there are no alternatives that slip easily into a campaign sound bite. While it’s easy to lament the spike in violent deaths under Calderon, it’s comparatively difficult to envision a reliable, short-term path out of the current morass. And any candidate who capitalizes on the security woes in order to win himself (or herself) the presidency would soon face the unenviable task of having to live up to his promises.
Thursday, January 5, 2012
Also, Mexico's biggest bookseller Gandhi has launched a new e-reader. Hopefully, this will be part of a broader shift toward Mexican books becoming available digitally. Physical books from Mexico are hard to track down in the US, and are shockingly expensive wherever you are.
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Por eso hemos visto un discurso notablemente tranquilo hasta el momento. No le ha dicho “chachalaca” a nadie ni ha callado a ni un rival. La palabra “mafia” —anteriormente una de sus etiquetas favoritas para sus adversarios—no ha aparecido en los comunicados de su campaña desde Septiembre. Anunció que tres figuras con reputaciones muy buenas aún afuera de las filas de la izquierda—Rogelio Ramírez de la O, Juan Ramón de la Fuente, y Marcelo Ebrard—tomarían puestos claves en una administración suya.
Y, más curiosamente, el ex gobernador del DF ha hecho hincapié en la importancia del amor en la vida pública. Apostar por el amor como parte clave en una campaña presidencial puede o no resultar una decisión acertada, pero sí es extraña, ya que el amor es probablemente la emoción menos vista en la política.
La jugada, pues, es clara: hacerse el moderado por siete seis meses más, lograr que desvanezcan las memorias de López Obrador mandando las instituciones al diablo, y ofrecer un programa centrista. Esta estrategia demuestra una buena comprensión de los deseos del electorado, y puede tener un efecto en la percepción popular del candidato de la izquierda. Según el mismo reporte de Mitofsky, las opiniones negativas de López Obrador bajaron nueve puntos de febrero a noviembre del año pasado.
Sin embargo, ahora la pregunta más importante no es si tomó la decisión correcta en diseñar su estrategia, sino si será suficiente un simple cambio en su discurso. Es decir, López Obrador está haciendo lo más que puede con las cartas que tiene, pero los obstáculos que le impiden están muy fuertes.
Particularly problematic is his reasoning that if criminal activities are conducted openly, that means a particular group now controls the local government. While blatant examples of impunity suggest some degree of official collusion, there is a great deal of distance between some corrupt interaction and a gang’s total control of a city.
The reality is, of course, much more complicated. The interplay between any city’s underworld with its legitimate political leadership is a tangled mess consisting of ever-evolving alliances, corrupt officials working alongside their honest colleagues, and certain gangs colluding with the authorities while their competitors confront them. To offer but one possible scenario, a gang of pirate merchandisers may be making payoffs to the local beat officers and the director of the municipal unit in charge of investigating the crime, while simultaneously having no relationship with the mayor’s office or the federal police deployed locally.
In such a context, any notion of criminal control is a fleeting. The criminal group may feel comfortable conducting their business out in the open, but that doesn’t mean they have purchased the loyalty of the local government wholesale, much less that they are pulling the strings at city hall.
Another problem with Buscaglia’s analysis comes from the fact that he is drawing broad conclusions regarding a shadowy industry based only on activities carried out in the light of day. A smart criminal group, especially one dedicated to hidden activities like drug smuggling, may well exert its control behind the scenes, without leaving any indication of their influence. Such a circumstance is likely not uncommon, which means that Buscaglia’s analysis is unable to account for much of the influence exerted by Mexico’s criminal gangs.