The Week in Review: 10/17/2011

Katie Putnam, The Mexico Institute’s Elections Guide, 10/17/2011

Candidates have begun to specify their policy agendas: Andrés Manuel López Obrador (PRD) unveiled his security, economic, and social philosophy in Washington, DC at the Mexico Institute this week, Enrique Peña Nieto (PRI) released a ten-point economic plan; and President Felipe Calderón (PAN) made controversial statements to the press about security. Josefina Vázquez Mota (PAN) will speak at a Mexico Institute and Inter-American Dialogue event on Friday, October 21st, and several prominent politicians and academics advocated forming a coalition government after the 2012 elections to end Mexico’s political gridlock.

 

The PRD

Speaking to an audience at the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute on October 11, 2011, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) said the United States and Mexico should de-militarize the bilateral agenda and refocus efforts on long-term development aid (watch the speech here). In his first speech in the U.S. capitol, López Obrador called for stepped-up efforts to address poverty and other structural shortcomings, which he suggested force many young people into drug trafficking: “Cooperation for development is more effective and humane than the emphasis on military assistance, intelligence services and armaments.” From Fox News Latino:

“Development and job creation should come first” in the search for solutions to drug violence and illegal immigration, the Mexican said. “It is not with military assistance … nor with more weapons that those problems will be resolved. It is not with a wall that the border will be secured.”

According to The Miami Herald, he “blasted the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexico’s embrace of globalization and Obama administration policies.” He attributed the violence to neoliberal policy, “plus the poor management of the economy plus corruption: without battling corruption there will be no effective development policy.”

 

The PRI

Enrique Peña Nieto, the former governor of the State of Mexico and leading presidential candidate, outlined his ten-point economic plan on October 10th, 2011. He promised to maintain macro-economic stability, modernize the Mexican economy, and promote growth. This includes promoting competition and cracking down on monopolies: “Only in countries that promote competition is there innovation, allowing the population to enjoy more and better quality goods and services, at better prices.”

The Chicago Tribune notes that many Mexican businesses are “family-dominated and wield considerable power in their respective sectors,” such as cement maker Cemex, bread maker Bimbo and telecommunications giant America Movil, owned by Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man.

Peña Nieto also pledged to increase the country’s tax revenues; Mexico, Reuters reports, has the “lowest tax take as a proportion of GDP in the 33-member Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.”

In addition to promising to double infrastructure spending, Peña Nieto also emphasized the need to modernize state-owned oil monopoly Pemex. Reuters is more skeptical:

“Pena Nieto said Mexico needed to overcome its fear of making the ‘necessary transformations within Pemex’ to make the company more competitive. He did not offer details. Since Mexico nationalized its oil industry in the 1930s, Pemex has been a sacred cow. Many presidents have talked of reforming it but changes have been few and far between.”

What will actually happen after the election obviously is subject to conjecture, but at least we are starting to see more policy ideas from likely candidates.

 

The PAN

The New York Times published an extensive interview with President Felipe Calderón on October 15th, as he strives to “lock in the militarized approach to drug cartels that has defined his tenure, pushing aside public doubts and pressing lawmakers to adopt strategies he hopes will outlast him.” These include revamping the state and local police forces, codifying the military’s role, strengthening the federal penal code, and tightening money laundering laws. He did not say whether his approach has made Mexico safer:

“What I can say is Mexico will be safer,” he said, “and to have not acted, it would have deteriorated much more.”

Calderon was asked whether the PRI, which polls highly suggest will win the presidency in 2012, might pursue a corrupt relationship with organized crime. “There are many in the PRI who think the deals of the past would work now. I don’t see what deal could be done, but that is the mentality many of them have,” said Calderon.

PRI leaders decried the accusation that it would consider deals with criminals; PRI President Humberto Moreira suggested Calderon was trying to exploit the issue of public security for political ends. Analysts signal that no matter who wins the election, there will be intense political pressure, including from the United States, to pursue a new course which eases the violence without giving in to the cartels.

“There seems to be a growing consensus that there needs to be a more refined strategy, a more targeted strategy, a more nuanced strategy,” said Eric Olson, a senior associate at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. “It’s anybody’s guess what that will be.”

Secondly, we are pleased to announce that Congresswoman and presidential contender Josefina Vázquez Mota will be speaking at the Inter-American Dialogue in an event co-sponsored with the Mexico Institute on Friday, October 21. RSVP here, or watch the video of the event online shortly after its conclusion.

 

Other news

A high profile-group of 46 Mexican politicians and academics from all corners of Mexico’s ideological spectrum released a proposal to force whoever wins next year’s presidential race to form a coalition government.

Several presidential hopefuls, from Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard (PRD) to Sen. Manlio Fabio Beltrones (PRI) to Santiago Creel (PAN) and Josefina Vázquez Mota (PAN) have signed on, as have writer Carlos Fuentes and other academics. Other politicians (notably Peña Nieto and AMLO) may have their doubts about the proposal, but most agree that Mexico’s three-party political system, in which, as Andrés Oppenheimer notes, “two opposition parties systematically block the ruling party’s legislative proposals,” promotes political deadlock.

It is unclear how far this proposal will go, but it has initiated an important debate about the practical challenge of legislating and governing in Mexico.

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