Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A New ‘Pact for Mexico’ on Security

While the much-lauded grand bargain between Mexico’s three main political parties (the PRI, PAN and PRD) known as the “Pact for Mexico” broke down over energy reform, public outrage at Mexico’s security crisis may giving it new life.

Today’s El Universal and Milenio report that President Enrique Peña Nieto has announced that, independently of the Attorney General Office’s investigation into the disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero, he plans to push institutional reforms to ensure that such incidents do not repeat themselves.  “In the coming days, I will call for representatives of the Mexican government, political forces and civil society organizations to make a commitment to undertake fundamental change, strengthen our institutions and, above all, to ensure the full effectiveness of the rule of law in the country,” Peña Nieto said in a speech at the Palacio Nacional yesterday.

The president made the announcement while unveiling the secondary legislation to the country’s energy reform measure. As El Pais notes, this fact immediately led analysts to draw comparisons to the Pact for Mexico, which fell apart late last year due to the PRD’s opposition to reforming the country’s longstanding government monopoly in the oil and gas industry.

While the scope and durability of a new pact remains to be seen, the PRD, PAN and PRI have all released statements with similar expressions of support for reforms to reinforce the rule of law nationwide. Excelsior has a roundup of remarks from congressional leaders from all three parties on the proposal, which generally agree on the importance of ending impunity, prosecuting corruption and reducing violence.

News Briefs
  • Mexican officials say they have arrested Iguala Mayor Jose Luis Abarca and his wife, accused of ordering a harsh police crackdown on student protests in the city in September, which led to the kidnapping and disappearance of 43. Milenio reports that the two were found hiding out in the eastern Mexico City neighborhood of Iztapalapa.
  • Yesterday, the Peña Nieto administration announced the creation of a new civil society commission meant to oversee the investigation into the disappearance of the missing 43 students. EFE reports that authorities say it is made up of eight parents of the victims, four fellow students and five representatives of civil society organizations. But while the commission was launched as a result of the agreement signed by the president in a meeting with the Iguala relatives, Animal Politico claims that relatives of the victims held a press conference yesterday in Guerrero to reject the commission due to the lack of progress in the search.
  • Over at Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights, Rebecca Hanson profiles a potential obstacle to President Nicolas Maduro’s recently announced police reform proposal: the common perception among police in the country that the Maduro government does not support them. According to Hanson, the recent shakeup in response to the killing of five "colectivo" members by police in Caracas will only fuel this attitude and potentially encourage more extrajudicial executions.
  • For the New Yorker, Caracas-based reporter Girish Gupta looks at how the decline in world oil prices -- which have hit their lowest levels in four years -- could exacerbate Venezuela’s mounting economic problems. Ultimas Noticias reports that last night, Maduro announced a 15 percent increase in the minimum wage in order to keep up with inflation.
  • In a bid to increase foreign investment on the island, the Cuban government has released a “menu” of some 240 projects that they hope to be funded by foreign capital, totaling $8.7 billion, according to the Associated Press.
  • Writing for The American Interest, Russell Crandall takes the Obama administration to task for adopting a more flexible approach to drug policy at home while simultaneously supporting the tired old approach to the War on Drugs in Latin America. Part of this, Crandall argues, can be explained by the existence of what he calls an “impregnable military-narcotics-industrial complex, especially on the international side of the drug war,” which makes international anti-drug policy particularly hard to change in Washington.
  • Uruguay’s historic cannabis regulation law took another step forward on October 30, with the Institute for Regulation and Control of Cannabis (IRCCA) announcing that it will begin registering the first “marijuana membership clubs,” which under the law can have a maximum of 45 members and grow up to 99 plants (480 grams per user per year). In order to obtain a license, the clubs must meet a series of security requirements and first register as civil associations with the Ministry of Culture, which at least four have already done.
  • Politico Magazine has an in-depth look at the lack of oversight of the U.S. Border Patrol and the history of abuse among its ranks, painting a picture of “The Green Monster” as a police force run amok. According to Politico: “The United States today spends more money each year on border and immigration enforcement than the combined budgets of the FBI, ATF, DEA, Secret Service and U.S. Marshals—plus the entire NYPD annual budget. Altogether, the country has invested more than $100 billion in border and immigration control since 9/11…[T]he Border Patrol has also become one of the nation’s deadliest law enforcement agencies over that same period, involved in more fatal shootings—at least 46—since 2004 than perhaps any other such agency."
  • According to La Nacion, officials in Argentina have announced that President Cristina Fernandez will remain hospitalized for the next “three or four days,” where she is being treated with antibiotics due to an inflammation of the sigmoid colon.