Thursday, September 27, 2012

Watered-Down Labor Reforms in Mexico Raise Questions over Enrique Peña Nieto's Reformist Credentials

A watered-down version of proposed labor reforms in Mexico received provisional backing from a congressional committee on Wednesday while unionists, workers and leftists took to the streets of Mexico City to protest against the legislation.

In it’s original form, the bill had two objectives; introducing more flexibility to the labor market by allowing part-time work, hourly wages and outsourcing and increasing transparency and democracy in Mexico’s unions by making external financial audits and secret ballot elections for union leaders a legal requirement.

The reform has been touted as a litmus test for incoming president Enrique Peña Nieto’s claims to be breaking from the PRI party’s corrupt and authoritarian past as the PRI has traditionally had a close relationship with the “antiquated, autocratic” unions that dominate Mexican labor relations.

According to Jose Antonio Alvarez, a veteran PRI politician and political commentator, “"If this new law modernizes the nation's labor and union life, then it shows that Peña and his group of reformers are in charge. But if this is a deceitful and decaffeinated legislative fiasco, it will be clear that the Congress and the PRI remain property of the old dinosaurs."

Negotiations over the legislation have also been seen as a test of the incoming PRI government’s ability to work with the outgoing PAN party - something it will need to do to pass its own legislation when Peña Nieto takes power in December as the party failed to secure a majority in Congress, reports Reuters.

The draft bill eventually passed with the two parties reaching consensus but only after the legislation was stripped of plans for union reform after encountering fierce resistance from members of the PRI, giving rise to speculation that lawmakers capitulated to the PRI old guard, according to Reuters.

Protests are being led by leftist party the PRD, who say they will “use any means necessary” to block the bill, according to the AP.

The proposal is expected to go before the full chamber in the coming days.

News Briefs

  • A UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report claims coca cultivation in Peru has risen for the 6th consecutive year, reports the BBC. According to the report, 62,5000 hectares were planted last year - a 2% increase on 20120.

  • The father of Aleph Jimenez Rodriguez, the missing activist from Mexico’s Yo Soy 132 movement, has announced his son is alive and well but went into hiding out of fear for his life, reports the L.A. Times. Jimenez travelled to Mexico City on Tuesday night to seek the protection of Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission, according to his father.

  • Inter Press Service feature an interview with Guatemalan Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz Bailey. Listed among “the 150 most fearless women in the world” by Newsweek and described by Forbes as one of “the most powerful women changing the world in politics and public policy,” Paz y Paz Bailey has led a restructuring of the Guatemalan public prosecutors office in an attempt to reduce rampant impunity and to bring civil war era human rights abusers to justice.

  • The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has told Peru to annul a Supreme Court ruling that could have paved the way for an early release of imprisoned former President Alberto Fujimori, reports Merco Press. Fujimori is currently serving a 25-year sentence for Human Rights abuses.

  • The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) has released a new report examining the economic sustainability of Venezuela’s recovery. The report challenges conventional “gloomy” economic analyses and suggests Venezuela’s recovery from its 2009 recession together with the government’s popular social programs will play a key role in the likely re-election of President Hugo Chavez.   


  • Colombia Reports takes a look at the links between organized crime and the country’s soccer teams in the wake of the announcement by the President of Bogota based Millonarios that the club may return two titles won when the club was partly controlled by infamous drug lord Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha, alias “El Mexicano.” According to Insight Crime, drug traffickers continued to use soccer teams to launder money, at least until an investigation last year. 


  • Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos addressed the 67th United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York to champion his government’s peace talks with the FARC guerrilla insurgency, reports the Miami Herald