Monday, April 1, 2013

Mexico’s ‘Grand Bargain’ Starts to Crack

In early December 2012, the leaders of Mexico’s three largest parties (the PRI, PAN and PRD) signed an accord in which they promised to work together on 95 general points, known as the “Pact for Mexico.” Although the pact’s language was broad, it has proven surprisingly effective at forging consensus among all three parties on a legislative agenda, and has been hailed as a model for overcoming political stalemates. On Saturday, the Washington Post editorial board argued that Washington “should be cheering Mexico’s gridlock busting — and taking it as an example.”

But while the agreement has been credited with easing the passage of recent education and labor laws, its biggest test begins today, when the pact’s Advisory Board -- consisting of leaders from all three parties -- will present Congress with a schedule for debate on a number of reforms, including ending the monopoly of Mexican state-owned oil company Pemex.

The move, a stated goal of President Enrique Peña Nieto, is controversial in Mexico.  Peña Nieto’s own Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) only altered its platform last month to allow for private investment in oil industry, a historic shift for the party. For decades its role in Mexico’s nationalization of oil and the founding of Pemex has been a source of pride for the PRI.

The change is also opposed by many in the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), who see it as the first step in a crusade to end Pemex’s state-owned status. According to PRD Senator Dolores Padierna, tackling energy sector reform will be the death of the Pact for Mexico. As the senator told El Economista: "On energy [reform] there will not be any compromise, because either my colleagues will follow the party line or they will betray it and go with the PRI, and they’ll be cast out of the party. I do not think the latter is going to happen; instead I think this is going to break the pact.”

If the pact falls apart, it will have implications for more than just Mexico’s energy sector. Peña Nieto has been building a reputation as a bold reformist, but much of the country’s recent progress would have been impossible without the lawmakers’ accord. Its dissolution would make it far more difficult for him to push his agenda, likely taking a toll on his growing approval rating.

News Briefs
  • In The Guardian, Mark Weisbrot argues that the U.S. government’s continued funding of Honduran police despite evidence of human rights abuses mirrors President Reagan's support for governments employing death squads in Central America in the 1980s. The U.S. has maintained that none of its security aid goes to law enforcement units under controversial national police chief Juan Carlos Bonilla, despite allegations that, under Honduran law, every police officer in the country falls under his command.
  • The Associated Press has published an investigation which claims that Mexican drug trafficking organizations are becoming increasingly involved across the border, “dispatching some of their most trusted agents to live and work deep inside the United States.” According to the AP, the country’s most powerful cartels are believed to oversee drug-running operations in at least nine non-border states, often in middle-class suburban areas.
  • The Miami Herald reports that Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez begins a full day of meetings in Miami today, beginning with an early morning meeting with the paper’s reporters and editors. Sanchez is expected to leave Miami on Thursday, when she will travel to Europe and return home to Cuba in May.
  • The Argentine government on Friday presented a payment plan after a U.S. court ordered the country to specify how it would repay $1.4 billion to lenders who lost money after the country’s 2002 default. The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times note that the court is unlikely to accept the proposal, which has heightened fears that the country could plunge into a technical default.
  • The Los Angeles Times profiles Francisco Everardo Oliveira Silva, a Brazilian clown who ran for Congress in a 2010 satirical campaign, but who has made a name for himself as a staunch opponent of corruption and bureaucracy upon reaching office.
  • After being criticized for “promoting violence” for announcing that he would officially kick off his presidential campaign this Tuesday in the same state as interim President Nicolas Maduro, opposition candidate Henrique Capriles has apparently changed his mind.
  • CNN Español gives a blow-by-blow account of a high-profile clash between Maduro and former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe via their respective Twitter accounts, which began on Saturday after Uribe criticized the Venezuelan leader for comparing Capriles to Hitler. While the incident has mostly served as headline fodder for local media, Professor Greg Weeks of UNC Charlotte makes the interesting point that the incident reflects on Twitter’s importance to IR theory, as it provides leaders with an opportunity to “express raw views without the same backlash as a formal media event.”
  • In a communique released via their website on Sunday, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) again denied any link to drug trafficking after the Colombian government claimed to have seized 1.6 tons of marijuana trafficked by the group.

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