MEXICO NEWS AND ANALYSIS: NOV 12 - DEC 9, 2012

206

1 - PRI CLAIMS PRESIDENCY, AND FIRST VICTIMS
2 - FEDERAL POLICE IN CUSTODY FOR ATTACK ON CIA AGENTS
3 - LABOR REFORM PASSES
4 - CARTEL LEADER ACCUSES CALDERON ADMIN OF CORRUPTION

On December 1, Enrique Peña Nieto claimed Mexico's Presidency for the PRI, after the party was out of power for twelve years. The July election was marred by vote-buying and campaign spending that may have exceeded legal limits by five-fold. The PRI, known for its long history of corruption and institutional violence, also claimed its first victims during the swearing in ceremony when police severely wounded at least two protesters with rubber-covered metal bullets. Police also severely beat one senior citizen who minutes earlier was distributing free books to a line of officers. More than 100 people were arrested, many who were simply walking near the demonstration when police attacked. It appears that much of the property damage, broadcast amply over the mainstream media, was carried out by provocateurs working with police in an effort to discredit the massive demonstration. It was an auspicious start to a six year reign. 

 

The youthful and photogenic Peña Nieto claims to lead a modern PRI, but most Mexicans are not convinced. He won the presidency with 38% of the vote, hardly a mandate in a country where more than half the population lives in poverty. Peña Nieto inherits, and is likely to continue, economic policies that reflect worldwide declines during the neoliberal era, with 3.5% annual growth under former PRI president Ernesto Zedillo, followed by 2.2% growth under Vicente Fox, and 1.9% under Felipe Calderon.

 

Following in the footsteps of Zedillo, who currently lives in New Haven, Connecticut and works at Yale University, retiring President Felipe Calderon is expected to leave Mexico and assume ateaching post at Harvard. After Calderon's unsuccessful six year "war on drugs" claimed over 100,000 victims, one wonders why Harvard would want him.

 

Peña Nieto sent early political messages that he would downplay Calderon's "war on drugs" in favor of job creation, a policy that is already irritating the Obama administration. The State Department fired a warning shot only ten days before the exchange of power, re-issuing a travel advisory for US citizens in Mexico, despite the fact that cartel-related violence is down over the past couple of months. This is likely attributable to PRI functionaries negotiating with cartels that are fighting for control of lucrative transport corridors and markets. Obama wants a hard line toward drug traffickers, but many Mexicans question this strategy, given that most of the drug sales are in US markets and most of the weapons that fuel the violent disputes come from the US. In this context, the recent State Department missive sends a clear message - maintain the violent "war on drugs" or the US will hurt Mexico's burgeoning tourist industry.

 

2 - FEDERAL POLICE IN CUSTODY FOR ATTACK ON CIA AGENTS

Mexico's federal Attorney General arrested 15 members of the Federal Police, including two high-ranking officers, for an August attack on two CIA agents working near Cuernavaca. Federal Police Inspector General Juan Manuel Pacheco Morales was the latest arrestee, an indication of just how corrupt the Federal Police have become. Initiated under the Calderon administration as an antidote to local and state police corruption, the highly trained and vetted Federal Police were supposed to assume increasingly important roles in the "war on drugs," but instead find themselves infiltrated by cartel money at all levels. Only two months ago, the entire Federal Police force at the Mexico City airport was fired for cartel ties.

 

In related news, the newly elected Mayor of Monterrey, Mexico's third largest city, replaced the entire local police force with Marines this week. Monterrey police are widely despised for their curbside "bribes" for common, and often invented, traffic infractions, and their widely recognized alliances with local cartels and kidnapping rings.

 

3 - LABOR REFORM PASSES

Mexico's Senate gave final approval to a labor reform law that allows probationary hires, part time employment and outsourcing, but does not include clauses in the original draft intended to democratize unions. The bill, originally proposed by President Felipe Calderon on a fast-track schedule, is part of a series of last minute initiatives apparently designed to consolidate a ruling PRI-PAN majority under the Peña Nieto administration. The last minute proposals run from the ludicrous - an effort to change the name of Mexico - to the horrendous - a labor reform that lowers wages and decreases job security for a working class that is already living in poverty.

 

4 - CARTEL LEADER ACCUSES CALDERON ADMINISTRATION OF CORRUPTION

In an apparent effort to escape extradition to the US, drug kingpin Edgar "La Barbie" Valdez Villareal is spilling the beans about personal meetings with high ranking members of the Calderon administration involving bribes totaling millions of dollars. The US-born La Barbie sent a public letter to La Reforma, Mexico's rough equivalent of USA Today, claiming Genaro Garcia Luna, head of the Ministry of Public Security which oversees the Federal Police, and eight other top officials have been accepting bribes since 2002. A Federal Police spokesman accused La Barbie of trying to discredit officials. La Barbie threatened to release detailed information on the Calderon administration if he is extradited to the US. The drug lord claims his 2010 arrest and subsequent jailing was due to his refusal to participate "in an agreement that Mr. Calderon Hinojosa wanted to make with all organized crime groups..." The allegations came just days before Enrique Peña Nieto assumed Mexico's Presidency. Peña Nieto wants to disband the Federal Police, a security force initiated by preceding PAN administrations, and place it under the control of the Ministry of Security. Garcia Luna has long been suspected of corruption and ties to drug cartels, and his Federal Police have come under increasing scrutiny in recent months.