By Duncan Wood, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Duncan Wood is the director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The views expressed are his own. This is the latest in the '14 in 2014' series, looking at what the year ahead holds for key countries.
Last year will go down as an extraordinary, historic year in Mexico. A number of structural and political reforms that had been pending for 15 years were approved by the country’s Congress addressing education, labor markets, telecoms competition, financial regulation, fiscal affairs, elections rules and energy. The government of Enrique Peña Nieto remained the darling of international investors throughout the year, and received record levels of foreign direct investment in the first year of its mandate, by following through on his promised reform agenda and delivering the legislation needed to prepare Mexico for a more competitive global economic environment. His ruling PRI (Revolutionary Institutional Party) showed coherence and unity throughout the year, and the other major parties agreed to work closely with the PRI to secure legislative progress.
The crowning achievement of the year was the energy reform bill that was approved by the Congress on December 15. By opening up Mexico’s hydrocarbons sector to foreign investment for the first time since the 1930s, the reform not only marks a paradigm shift in Mexican thinking about oil and gas, but offers the very real prospect that major investment will result in rising production, strengthened reserves and the direct and indirect creation of hundreds of thousands of high quality jobs for Mexican citizens.
By Javier Zúñiga, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Javier Zúñiga is a special adviser for Amnesty International. The views expressed are his own.
When Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto came to power a year ago, he was the new face of the old Partido Revolucionario Institucional, the political machinery that dominated the country for more than 70 years. With his carefully built image of a dynamic young professional, Peña Nieto started his term in office by launching multiple reform initiatives, covering numerous aspects of daily life in the country. He claims that his policies will put Mexico on a promising train to modernity and prosperity. But a year on, what has he really achieved?
One of Peña Nieto’s early commitments was to end the cycle of human rights violations and violence that so characterised former President Felipe Calderon’s administration. Sadly, he has not delivered on that promise: On the Peña Nieto train, human rights have so far had to settle for the third-class carriage.
It’s a story that the Mexican people know all too well. Once again, a new government comes to office making expansive pledges to protect human rights. Once again, it refuses to invest the political capital needed to make a real difference. And once again, the key word in the whole story is impunity.
By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is director of global economic attitudes at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are his own.
Americans now appear ready for a new approach to immigration policy. A CBS News survey last month found that three-quarters of the public favors “a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants in the U.S. if they met certain requirements including a waiting period, paying fines and back taxes, passing criminal background checks, and learning English.”
But even as the debate intensified the past week as hundreds of conservative leaders converged on Washington to press for broad immigration reform, the issue looks like it might be about to take another twist as the sharp decline in the U.S. population of unauthorized immigrants that accompanied the 2007-2009 recession bottoms out. Indeed, the number may be rising again.
As of March 2012, 11.7 million unauthorized immigrants were living in the United States, according to a preliminary Pew Research Center estimate based on U.S. government data. The estimated number of unauthorized immigrants had peaked at 12.2 million in 2007 and then fell to 11.3 million in 2009, breaking a rising trend that had held for decades. Now this trend may be reversing itself.
By Javier Zúñiga, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Javier Zúñiga is a special adviser to Amnesty International. The views expressed are his own.
It was starting to get dark as I was staring into the crowd from an avenue overlooking the square.
“The army! The army!” people began to shout from the nearby buildings. Then we saw small armored vehicles and soldiers with rifles moving into the square. I took my little daughter and my wife out of there and we found shelter in a nearby building. As we were leaving, a helicopter flew overhead and shot a flare. Then the gunfire started.
Early the next morning, we returned to the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Mexico City’s Tlatelolco area, and saw the piles of belts and shoes. Pools of blood remained on the ground and there were bullet holes at eye level on concrete pillars around the square.
A university professor at the time, I had gone there to see my students who were on strike, riding the wave of the protests of ’68. But the aftermath of the protest and the brutal crackdown was to become an education in impunity for all of us.
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By Global Public Square staff
Elected leaders around the world are struggling. They're down in the polls, their economies are stagnant, their people are protesting, and their oppositions are betting on their failure. There is, however, one leader who has seemingly bucked that trend – and it's not by jailing his opposition or shutting down the press. He's the president of a free, democratic, capitalist country. Is this person Superman?
I'm talking about the young and highly successful president of Mexico: Enrique Peña Nieto. Just compare him with our president.
Obama's approval ratings recently hit their lowest since 2011 – 45 percent. Seven months into the job, Peña Nieto is sitting pretty at 57 percent. And it's not just average Mexicans who have given their president an extended honeymoon…the opposition has, as well. Two major rival parties joined Peña Nieto to form what they called a "Pact for Mexico." Together, they put through a groundbreaking set of reforms in labor, education, telecoms, and TV.
By Cynthia J. Arnson and Eric L. Olson, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Cynthia Arnson is director and Olson the associate director of the Latin American Program, Woodrow Wilson Center, in Washington, D.C. The views expressed are their own.
As President Barack Obama visits Mexico and Costa Rica this weekend, the administration is emphasizing the themes of sustainable economic growth, development, and the cultural ties that bind millions of people in the region to immigrants in the United States. And while the new administration of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto appears determined to shift the bilateral conversation away from security issues, this topic will frame the meetings in Costa Rica; there, in addition to a bilateral meeting with Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla, President Obama will meet will all seven Central American presidents, plus the Dominican Republic.
The United States was slow to realize the ways that Mexico’s crackdown on drug trafficking cartels would impact the Central American isthmus. Today, some 90 percent of the cocaine entering the United States passes through Central America, where criminal organizations exploit porous borders, weak and often corrupt law enforcement institutions, and a lack of employment opportunities for young people. Mexican criminal organizations such as the Zetas and the Sinaloa cartel have expanded their influence, particularly in Guatemala and Honduras, and their violent competition for control of territory has left a trail of death and destruction.
By Juliana Menasce Horowitz, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Juliana Menasce Horowitz is a senior researcher at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are her own.
When U.S. President Barack Obama travels to Mexico this week, he will encounter a Mexican public that has far more positive attitudes about the United States than at any time in the last several years.
America’s image south of the border fell sharply in 2010, when Arizona passed a “show me your papers” law aimed at identifying, prosecuting and deporting immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally. But Mexican views have rebounded since then, and U.S. favorability ratings are now at their highest point since 2009. The prospects for U.S. immigration reform may be, at least in part, the source of renewed Mexican approval of their neighbor to the north.
A new Pew Research Center poll found that 66 percent of Mexicans have a favorable opinion of the U.S., up 10 percentage points from a year ago and up 22 points from May 2010, immediately following the enactment of Arizona’s immigration law. The last time America’s image was as strong among Mexicans was in 2009, when 69 percent said they had a favorable opinion.
By Esmeralda Lopez and Samir Goswami, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Esmeralda Lopez, JD, serves as Amnesty International USA’s Mexico Country Specialist. Samir Goswami is Director of Amnesty International USA’s Individuals and Communities at Risk Program. The views expressed are their own.
If 26 American women filed complaints against authorities for committing horrific sexual assaults, and those police officers remained free and employed seven years later, you would rightly expect that the local political ramifications would be dire, and the official government response would be strong.
But in San Salvador Atenco in the State of Mexico, there is only sickening indignation and impunity.
On May 4, 2006, Bárbara Italia Méndez was one of 47 women arrested during two days of protests in San Salvador Atenco. Like 26 others who filed complaints, she was allegedly subjected to physical, psychological and sexual violence at the hands of the police. Allegedly beaten and detained without explanation, she was then reportedly forced to remove her clothing and lie on top of other detainees while members of the state police beat, threatened, sexually assaulted and raped her as other officers looked on and cheered.
By Rupert Knox, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Rupert Knox is a researcher on Mexico at Amnesty International. The views expressed are his own.
Less than a week ago, six Spanish tourists were allegedly raped in the holiday resort city of Acapulco in southern Mexico. The attack quickly made international headlines, and although local authorities initially appeared keen to downplay the story, spiraling public outrage and pressure from the Spanish authorities prompted a vow for a full investigation.
Sadly, those of us who follow events in this part the world were far from surprised by news of this truly dreadful crime – after all, thousands of women and girls in Mexico suffer sexual violence every year. Indeed, according to information Amnesty International presented to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in 2012, more than 14,000 women are victims of rape each year. The figure, based on data collected in 2009, also shows there were only 2,795 convictions that year. National studies, meanwhile, indicate that just a fifth of women report rape due to distrust in the justice system and fear, meaning the actual scale of sexual violence is likely to be far greater.
By Global Public Square staff
Who are the most positive people in the world? Well, at least according to the responses in a recent Gallup poll, eight of the top 10 countries whose citizens feel happiest are in Latin America – Panama, Paraguay, El Salvador, Venezuela, Trinidad&Tobago, Guatemala, Ecuador, and Costa Rica. Such results could in part be down to a cultural predisposition to looking on the bright side. But if Latin Americans have taken a moment to reflect on their financial situation, they will also see tangible reasons to be positive about the future.
While the rest of the world has become more unequal in recent years, Latin America is the only region in the world to reverse that trend. According to a World Bank report, 50 million people joined the region’s middle class between the years of 2003 and 2009. Poverty rates have plummeted; more women are working; safety nets have become stronger.
For more, watch GPS on Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET.
By Global Public Square staff
A few weeks ago, the president told a newspaper the solution to partisanship is politics and more politics. That’s how you work toward the building of agreements.
Unfortunately, it wasn't Barack Obama. It was Mexico’s Enrique Pena Nieto. As Washington has been mired in gridlock this year, consider what’s happening just across the border. One of the first things Pena Nieto did after assuming office just weeks ago was to announce a pact for Mexico, an ambitious set of reforms to raise taxes, increase competition and take on the teachers’ unions.
Now, it is one thing to announce a plan, quite another to get support for it and President Pena Nieto's pact comes with endorsements from across the spectrum, the conservatives he ousted from office as well as the leftist Democrats.
By Ravi Agrawal, CNN
Editor's note: Ravi Agrawal is senior producer of Fareed Zakaria GPS. The views expressed are his own. This was originally published in September 2012 and re-posted as Mexico's President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto meets with President Obama on Tuesday.
Here’s some trivia. Which of these countries has the highest average income: India, China, Brazil or Mexico? If you guessed Brazil, you’d be wrong. And if you guessed India or China, you’d be way off: even if you combine the incomes of the average Indian and Chinese you wouldn’t reach the $15,000 annual purchasing power of the average Mexican.
These numbers don’t fit with many people’s perception of America’s southern neighbor. Mexico, you see, has a PR problem. A quick Google search for news from Mexico throws up a set of results that usually includes the words violence, drugs, cartels, and migrants (or the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico). But it’s not just the international media that seems to have it in for Mexico’s reputation. Mexicans themselves seem woebegone. A recent Pew survey found that only a third of Mexicans think they have a good national economic situation. Compare that with half of Indians, 65 percent of Brazilians, and 83 percent of Chinese. Or let’s go back to average citizens: 52 percent of Mexicans think they have a good personal economic situation, but for Indians, Chinese, and Brazilians, those numbers rise to 64 percent, 69 percent, and 75 percent respectively – and that’s despite the fact that in purchasing power terms, Mexicans actually earn more per capita than citizens of all three of those countries. And, unlike the others, Mexico’s growth rate is actually rising.
Indeed, Mexico’s economy has a number of strengths. It is the 14th largest in the world. If you take into account purchasing power, it is the 11th largest economy – larger than Canada, Turkey, and Indonesia. It is projected to grow 4 percent this year, and even faster in the coming decade, a rate that the financial services firm Nomura says will lead to Mexico overtaking Brazil as Latin America’s biggest economy within 10 years, despite the fact that Brazil’s economy is currently twice as large.